The Untold Story of K-Pop Group Seventeen’s ‘Ode To You’ World Tour

Courtesy of Pledis Entertainment


Billboard Korea has been featuring internationally acclaimed K-pop artists in its bi-monthly magazine, and following GOT7 in the previous issue, Seventeen has been selected to be on the March cover of Billboard Korea Magazine.

The boy band of 13 members was formed in 2015, with a unique concept of a "self-producing" idol group, where all members actively take part in songwriting and choreographing. It was a huge success; their mini album 17 Carat debuted in the top 10 on Billboard’s World Albums chart and charted for three months.

Their second mini album Boys Be topped at No. 1 on the World Albums chart upon its release. In 2019, their third studio album An Ode became the second Korean album to be the best-selling album following BTS's Map of the Soul: Persona, while
domestically, it recorded the top first week album sales for the final two quarters in Korea.

It’s obvious Seventeen is getting bigger and better. They had to add five more cities in North America on their Ode to You World Tour, making for a total of eight cities in North America alone. For the past five months, Seventeen has successfully toured in fifteen different cities, all while meeting their international fans.

Now, they’re ready to meet with Billboard Korea, with each member (S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Woozi, DK, Mingyu, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon and Dino) sharing exclusive behind-the-scenes stories for their fans, known as Carats.

Now that tour is over, how do you feel about it, looking back?

Jeonghan: It was fun to meet all the Carats in many regions after such a long time. It felt both long and short, but it was still a very meaningful time.

Joshua: I grew up in L.A., so it felt special to be able to tour the United States.

Seungkwan: There were places that I went to for the first time, and those that I visited after a long time on the world tour. I was touched by the Carats that filled the venues and gained a lot of confidence.

Compared to the Diamond Edge tour in 2017, the number of cities you visited in North America increased from three to eight. How did that make a difference?

Joshua: It was sad that we couldn't go to many places before. So I was excited and looking forward to it. I’ve lived in the United States for a long time, but I haven't been to other areas besides L.A.

Mingyu: The more love you get, the more pressure you feel to do better. But it made me feel like I need to reciprocate [that love] even more. That made me prepare for the stages harder than ever.

Were the members' opinions taken into consideration when preparing for each concert? Which ideas came to life?

Jeonghan: The cue sheet is determined through discussions between our staff and the members. This time, I wanted to embody the message to the fans according to the tour title, “Ode to You.” So I said I definitely wanted to sing “Don't Wanna Cry” and added it to the setlist.

Dino: Even the smallest details about the stage tend to reflect many of our ideas. After the performance team's stage was dubbed “13th Month's Dance,” I put a lot of care on my wardrobe so that more elegant dance moves would stand out. Also, to maximize the atmosphere of the song, the intro part was choreographed using a modern dance style as much as possible.

Do you have any songs that you regret not including in the setlist?

Wonwoo: It’s always difficult to come up with a setlist. We tried to sing as many songs as possible this time, but there were a lot still missing. If I had to pick one of them, it’s “Check-In” from the hip-hop team.

Woozi: At the end of the performance, we go to the stage and take a group photo with the Carats, and “Snap Shoot” played in the background. Every time, everyone responded so well and sang along, so I thought it would be nice to actually perform "Snap Shoot," too...

DK: That's right. I also regret not performing "Snap Shoot" the most. The song is so exciting that I think fans will like it a lot. If there’s a chance, I hope we could enjoy it together!

Which element did you dedicate the most care and attention to during this tour?

Jeonghan: Every time we go on a tour, I always think about how to make all the Carats have fun. Watching the fans enjoying the show is a great healing process for me, too. It makes me pledge to become a better artist in the future.

The8: I think I was trying to understand and approach different cultures as we went to various places. I would also study the local language to say simple greetings and communicate with the fans. As Jeonghan said, I really want to give back the love I've received so far and will receive in the future. We also seem to grow a lot in the process.

Hoshi had a surprise moment in Newark, N.J. -- you danced to “Clap” with fans outside the venue. How was that?

Hoshi: I had a lot of discussions with the staff about the tour because I wanted to make it an unforgettable performance. I had never had a surprise event, so I was both anxious and excited. I had a renewed sense of determination as I watched up close the fans outside having fun waiting for the show to start.

There are three stages for the individual units (hip-hop, vocal and performance). How was the song for each team selected?

Woozi: It depended on the content of the show. We always want to show a different look, something new that doesn’t overlap with what we’ve shown at recent concerts.

Hoshi: I'm most concerned about which performance, vocal, and hip-hop performance can best express us at the time.

Vernon: The hip-hop unit’s song selections were “Trauma” and “Chilli.” We wanted the audience to appreciate the two songs differently, so “Trauma” was arranged with a more powerful, rock style different from the original. “Chilli” tried to show an uplifting performance that’s different from the usual stages by the hip-hop team. We added choreography that fans could follow along, because we wanted to show something new while maintaining the style of the hip-hop team.

You also had an epic sing-along moment during “Very Nice" at one show.

Hoshi: I love that “Very Nice” has become a signature song of Seventeen, a song that is beloved not only in Korea but also in many other regions. We had so much fun, too. Those who were at the concert, and those who are reading this interview, I hope you have a “very nice” day!

DK: That encore stage was where we could feel the happiness, warmth, passion, and love of our fans. I felt as if we were rocking and enjoying on the stage together -- everyone felt like we were united.

What are the biggest changes that Seventeen underwent with this tour?

Joshua: I think my skills have improved a lot in all aspects, such as how to properly express the songs to suit the stage. The responsibility has also become greater.

Mingyu: Compared to the first solo concert tour, the size is bigger, the number of cities also increased, and the number of songs has also become more extensive. To be honest, I am still excited about our first concert, and I also get excited before every performance. I guess the mindset on the stage has grown and become more mature [laughs].

Where would you love to tour next?

The8: I want to go wherever the Carats are.

Vernon: I hope we can perform in Europe.

Which song from the group's discography do you think best expresses the style of Seventeen?

Jun: I’d say all of Seventeen's songs -- we have a wide range of styles.

Dino: I think every album best expresses us at that time. So in this case, the most recent track, “Fear."

Hoshi: I’d say the title track of the An Ode album [released in 2019] best expresses the Seventeen of that time. Also, please look forward to the upcoming great album we will be releasing.

You are known as the “self-producing” idols, because the members are in charge of everything, from lyrics to songwriting and choreography. I am curious about the album preparation process.

Wonwoo: Before we prepare for an album, we discuss a lot of themes. With the theme selected by most members, we make the frame -- the structure of the album -- and start making each song. All members participate in the overall music process.

Woozi: The members and the staff have regular meetings about the album. Until right before the album is completed, we discuss so many things.

How do you mediate disagreements in the group?

Jeonghan: We try to find a midpoint as we have a lot of conversations.

Jun: The moment we understood the differences between each other, it became easier to talk.

Does each member make music that they want for each album? What style of music would you like to try in the future?

Woozi: Although I make songs for Seventeen’s albums, I'm not always making the music I want to make. Because Seventeen makes Seventeen's music, everyone is free to discuss and comment on the direction of our music. That's when we put on the color that best suits us. We have endless styles to show you in the future, and it will also be the most representative of Seventeen.

Woozi, you've been working with songwriter and producer Bumzu for a long time. What's your process of collaborating like?

Woozi: Based on the direction decided through meetings with the other members, I also discuss with Bumzu, actively expressing my thoughts and ideas. When we go into a full-fledged process, we almost live in the studio and constantly communicate about the draft track, the top line, lyrics, arrangement, mixing, and mastering, right up to the album’s completion. We’re always together and have such a good relationship, so our collaboration couldn't be smoother.

Jeonghan, you also mentioned Woozi is your dream artist collaboration.

Woozi: Jeonghan says that often. Even if I tell him not to joke about it, he says it's true. It's funny.

Jeonghan: I'm serious! I think there are so many things to learn from the members who are the closest to me. As soon as I heard the question, my team members came to mind, and among them, I would like to collaborate with Woozi, who knows a lot about music and is good at it.

“Back It Up,” where all the hip-hop team members participated in the writing, overflows with ambition and pride. The process of writing that one must have been fun.

Wonwoo: When the theme is decided, each person writes the lyrics of their part and we gather them together to come up with a hook. This song was written habitually when the hip-hop team was together and started writing words that came out of our mouths. We have a pride of our own, which is projected in the lyrics.

Mingyu: When I listened to this song with a loudspeaker in the studio, it made me so excited, and it was fun to write the lyrics as I imagined how we would perform it on stage. It was really interesting when I first listened to the track, and I liked it because it was a new style we tried.

The vocal team is also amazing -- the five of you have such nice harmony and timbre. What’s the secret to your teamwork and the style you pursue?

Joshua: Since we have been with each other for a long time and we have a lot of conversations, we know each other very well. The accumulated time together makes it easy for us to collaborate on and off the stage.

Woozi: Our unit seems to just pursue freedom. The five vocals are too unique and attractive on their own to be defined by one thing. We’re also very harmonious when we are together. It's a little awkward to say that it's the secret to our harmony, but I think it's just about having a good relationship.

DK: I think the vocal team communicates our minds, thoughts, and strengths to many people through our voices. To do this, we try to make our voices more harmonious. It also helps that we have a good relationship. [Laughs] We hope to show a wider variety of styles in the future!

If you were to associate your style with a color, how would you describe it?

Jeonghan: When I listen to the music of our unit, light pastel colors come to my mind. It's soft, calm, and has radiant colors.

Seungkwan: Thank you very much for putting it nicely. We just go along with one another very well. For instance, we click when we talk about what we share in common and what’s fun. We also go to each other often in everyday life. It naturally shows in our music. There is no particular color we pursue, but if I had to use the metaphor, I’d say rainbow! [Laughs]

A lot of fans seem to love “13th Month Dance.” For the performance team, is it one of your favorite songs?

Hoshi: “13th Month Dance” is also the song most favored by the performance team. I think the team grew the most when working on it. It is colorful, natural, surprising, powerful, and sophisticated. More than anything, the 13 members’ coordination is crucial.

The8: Personally, I like “13th Month Dance” and “24/7” among the performance team’s songs.

Dino: I love “13th Month Dance,” but I also like the recent release, “24/7,” as The8 said. Although our performance styles often seem the same, each one’s expression is different. Each one exudes a unique energy.

Jun: We, the performance team, can show various colors because we are working hard for not only performance but also singing and rapping. Apart from "13th Month Dance" by performance team, we have many tracks and performances. So we hope to have opportunities to show the performances.

What is Seventeen’s collective goal?

Seungkwan: There was a time when we had a goal and tried to reach that goal. Today's Seventeen tries not to limit ourselves by setting a particular goal. We want to keep going until the unknown ending as Seventeen and the Carats.

Vernon: Simply: let’s stay healthy, work hard, have fun, and be happy.

This article originally appeared on Billboard Korea.