After making pulses race with their late-summer banger “HIT” last month, Seventeen are back with “Fear,” a simmering single that ups the dramatic ante — both sonically and lyrically. The stylish release signals the official arrival of what their fans affectionately call “Darkteen,” a concept that finds the 13-member Korean group experimenting with more mature themes, moodier visuals, and diversifying their signature bright, effusive sound with a distorted bass line, haunting falsettos, and a hard-hitting hook.
Produced by member Woozi and the group’s frequent collaborator, Bumzu, “Fear” is a track that also keeps you guessing with subtle flourishes — like the startling use of silence on the second verse; Jeonghan’s airy whispers are a contrast to the sudden emptiness of the production. For a single, it’s yet another evolution for Seventeen — a transition into the dark intensity of the unknown. (Though, admirers of the group’s playful “Freshteen” sound can listen to “Snap Shoot,” a lively B-side off their latest album, An Ode, out now.)
According to the official description of the song on YouTube, the single “explores fear as an emotion they face during their creative process. As the members search within for insight, the agony they endure help them develop one step further as artists.” The lyrics speak of the poisonous feeling of fear. Rapper Wonwoo kicks off the song with a blistering statement: “I’m poison.” The striking choreography finds the members drinking drinking from a chalice made from their hands. As the song goes on, the poison consumes them.
As a visual, “Fear” is similarly intoxicating. Rich hues and a variety of textures give the video a dark, cinematic feel. The mood matches the intensity of the song, as each member exists in their own dramatic setting, alone and detached from the others. They only come together for the mesmerizing performance sequences.
“Fear” isn’t what we’ve come to expect from Seventeen, a group known for their engaging performances and boyish charms. The last time the group delivered such a sonic switch-up was 2017’s EDM-heavy “Don’t Wanna Cry.” But “Fear” is even heavier; it’s more potent, more brutally honest. But boys eventually become men, and “Fear” is the manifestation of such growing pains. “As we’ve made each album, we’ve come to realize the music we want to make and what we want to say to our fans have started to converge,” Woozi told MTV News in July. “The stories we want to tell are the same stories we want to tell our fans.”
And as long as Seventeen keep pouring themselves into their music — the highs, the lows, and all of the ugly emotions in-between — then their fans will keep listening.