Seventeen effectively meld their core identity with harder edge in energetic “Clap”

Though the emotional EDM of May’s Don’t Wanna Cry was far from Seventeen‘s usual sound, it ended up being one of the year’s biggest growers. And as the group led up to their second full album with a string of sub-unit releases, fans were promised an evolving, newly matured style. But this is Seventeen, who made their name on a raucous blend of free-wheeling funk and bubblegum pop. How much do we really want them to “mature”?

New single “Clap” draws a pretty savvy line down the middle, melding the group’s punchy debut sound with a harder edge. The song’s most instant, overriding element is the crunchy electric guitar stomp that drives the instrumental. I’m a huge fan of rock influences being brought into K-pop, which used to be a far more common approach than it has been recently. And while “Clap” could have done with an even more memorable riff, the one we get is still pretty killer. Better yet, it gives the guys an insistent momentum that powers even the song’s less interesting moments.

If I’m going to be tough on “Clap”, the one criticism I have is that it doesn’t feel as fully fleshed out as the group’s best work. The song might have soared with an additional post-chorus hook, or a stronger sense of melody during the verses. But I do appreciate the focus on an edgier rap style throughout, and the staccato, almost militaristic chorus is a treat. Even though its simplicity might limit its longevity, there’s no denying that “Clap” is the kind of effortless energy burst that Seventeen delivers so well. They’re pulling off the difficult trick of maintaining their core musical identity while branching out to more and more interesting directions — all the while remaining one of modern K-pop’s most consistent purveyors of high quality comebacks.

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