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Seventeen’s “Don’t Wanna Cry” barely avoids becoming a The Chainsmokers retread

I was prepared to hate this. I could go on and on about how American/Western trends need to stay far away from K-pop, and how the tropical house sound in particular has felt stale for over a year, but I feel like I bring that up every few days anyway. Even when other K-pop artists were succumbing to lowest-common-denominator gimmicks, Seventeen were always an oasis of classic pop smarts. Based on the previews and descriptions, I was terrified that “Don’t Wanna Cry” would see them lose that creative spark. But while the song represents a drastic (westernized) shift in sound that isn’t my preferred direction for the group, the songwriting and arrangement remains strong.

Up until now, Seventeen’s title tracks have burst at the seams, presenting a bombastic brew of funk-influenced pop right from the start. But “Don’t Wanna Cry” takes its time to build, opening with an atmospheric blend of bubbling synths and pitched vocals. It’s an extremely trendy sound, but does a nice job rising to the song’s eventual drop. The cascade of drums that hit just before the pre-chorus are the instrumental’s most potent moment, injecting a sense of live-band drama to an otherwise formulaic structure. And though I’ll never be a fan of synth-driven choruses, The Chainsmokers-esque beat drop works well within the context of the track’s stronger moments.

Melodically, “Don’t Wanna Cry” lacks the punch of Seventeen’s best work, relying heavily on one repeated refrain rather than a more complex chorus. Thankfully, the group adds their trademark, layered ad-libs to either side of this hook, pulling in just enough of their unique flavor to keep things from sounding too generic. The song is gorgeously performed, from its cresting build to its more subdued, pensive moments. When it comes down to it, Seventeen have proven that they can pull off a wide range of concepts. And now that that’s out of the way, I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Very Nice.

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