Seventeen: The K-pop Band Poised to Make History at UK Festival

DaftTaengk, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are the biggest-selling act globally, and they’re about to grace the Pyramid Stage. The headline act on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage this yea is a K-pop boy band boasting 13 members, who sold over 10 million albums last year.

Despite K-pop’s global success, the UK has been slow to embrace the genre. Bands like BTS, Blackpink, Stray Kids, and Aespa have gained traction, often through collaborations with Western artists like Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, or Coldplay. However, Seventeen stands out as they don’t do collaborations and uniquely write and produce their own material. Now, they are set to make history as the first K-pop act on Glastonbury’s main stage.

The significance of this milestone is not lost on them. “There’s a great sense of responsibility,” says Choi Seungcheol, also known as the band leader S Coups. “We’ll keep coming back to that feeling and do our best to prepare, so that we can blow everybody away… Not just our fans, but every other member of the audience.”

This year, Glastonbury is moving further from its rock roots, reflecting evolving audience tastes. The Pyramid Stage will also feature Afrobeat icons Burna Boy and Ayra Starr, while pop star Dua Lipa and R&B sensation SZA will headline. Seventeen’s performance is scheduled for Friday afternoon, a stark contrast to their usual late-night sets in Asia, but S Coups remains unfazed. “The time of day doesn’t really matter to us,” he says. “It’s actually even better that we’ll be performing in the afternoon because the audience can see us better under sunlight.”

Their music, known for its upbeat and positive vibes, includes hits like “Shining Diamond” and “Very Nice,” reminding fans that pop can be fun. Seventeen’s journey began in the basement of South Korean entertainment company Pledis, where members endured a long and grueling apprenticeship lasting four to five years. Rapper Jeon Won-woo, known to fans as Wonwoo, was one of the first recruits in 2013, surviving multiple rounds of auditions documented in the online series Seventeen TV.

The band faced a significant turning point during an eight-month hiatus when three members were replaced. S Coups recalls, “Our deal was pushed back a little and Woozi, one of our members, thought we could debut earlier than planned if we made our own music.” Woozi, a classically-trained musician, co-wrote and produced most of their songs, inspiring other members to learn songwriting and lyric-making. “Being engaged in our creative process goes a long way towards making our music more authentic. We take great pride in it,” says S Coups.

Despite the intense training and initial struggles, Seventeen’s debut EP, “17 Carat,” was released in May 2016. The group, consisting of S Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Woozi, DK, Mingyu, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon, and Dino, is divided into vocal, hip-hop, and dance teams. Their name represents this tripartite setup: 13 people + 3 units + 1 band = 17.

S Coups, the oldest member and leader, approaches his role with humility. “I try to listen to what every member has to say and have everybody aligned on the same path,” he says. “My goal is to make sure we can last as long as possible, so we can make as much music as possible.” Woozi oversees music production, and Hoshi leads choreography, while each member contributes uniquely to the band’s dynamic.

Seventeen’s hard work and dedication have paid off. Their sound has evolved from the pop of “Adore U” to the broody EDM of “Don’t Wanna Cry” and the genre-hopping exuberance of “Left & Right.” Their recent mini-album “FML” includes the introspective title track and the upbeat celebration “Super.” “I’m getting so numb to this life that it feels like I’m shrinking away,” sang The8, reflecting on the band’s mindset during its creation. “But when we honestly, openly talk about our feelings, it really helps to get rid of the negativity,” says Wonwoo.

Seventeen’s success is evident with “FML” being the biggest-selling record of 2023, selling over 6.3 million copies. To introduce new fans to their music, they have released a 33-track compilation, “17 Is Right Here,” featuring all their singles and a new track, “Maestro.”

Looking ahead, Seventeen aims to expand their audience further with a world tour planned for the end of the year. “We’d like to reach fans in as many countries as possible because we don’t really get to see them that often in person,” says S Coups. “I still believe that we have a long way to go and we want to become even more successful.”


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