When it comes to fandoms, we can say that a good number of them were subjected to an intense emotional rollercoaster this year. BLINKs had to deal with the ups and downs of finally getting a comeback after close to two years while being treated to some poorly executed concerts. ARMY had to deal with the BTS Festa of June 14 where several announcements were made that were misinterpreted and downright sent them into a tailspin and Jin started his mandatory military duty. Both BLINKs and ARMY had to deal with the seemingly eternal rumors of Jennie and V dating, Orbits were held hostage of whether Chuu is in or out of LOONA, FEARNOTs had to say goodbye to Garam after only meeting her weeks before, and SUMITs have been in limbo since the departure of two LIGHTSUM members. 

As for CARAT, the fandom of Seventeen, 2022 can be considered a year that they got spoiled, big time. So much content, so many new releases, and the group just going non-stop in their continuous stay at the top of K-pop royalty!  What more can CARATs ask for? Well, let’s take a trip back the entire year and count the ways S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, The8, DK, Mingyu, Jun, Woozi, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Vernon, Seungkwan, and Dino managed to keep the CARAT fandom wanting nothing. 

The new music 

When it comes to releasing new music, it’s pretty obvious that SVT has maintained that “rookie mentality,” which is a rare thing among groups that are their contemporaries. You see, once a K-pop group reaches seven years, the quantity of their new releases starts to noticeably decline for a number of reasons. One, most, if not all idols starting in the second generation, are party to 7-year contracts, which means once this initial contract expires, the idols can either keep the being a part of their company, their group, both or altogether leave their company and group to sign up in another company. Thus, both the groups and the companies deem it impractical and financially unsound (let’s not forget that k-pop is still a business, guys) to plan a full year of activities for a 7-year group when there is a huge possibility that a member (or two, or three, or in iKON’s case, all member) might end up not renewing their contracts.       

Two, and this is particularly true for boy groups, it’s usually also in a group’s seventh year that members start to push for their individual or sub-unit releases since a member or two will already start going on hiatus to start their mandatory military service. Especially when the most popular members go on leave, the scale of a group’s releases may not be as grand as before and expect that to be true with the number of releases as well. Finally, the third reason benefits both the company and the idols, as groups that have lasted for seven years may usually have established fandoms that will continue to support them whether or not they get new music or not. As seen in groups like Girls’ Generation, Kara, Apink, Shinhwa, Super Junior, TVXQ, and 2PM, they can already afford to take long breaks without releasing new music and still have impactful comebacks once they do reunite. A solid fandom can bring out that confidence that “legacy” groups need to pace their releases down to one new song/EP/album a year. For idols, this allows them to keep their solid relationship with the group’s fans while giving them a lot of time to also pursue their individual career goals and maintain a good degree of physical and mental health. This also works for the company, because they don’t need to funnel too much effort into the “aging” group in terms of marketing and executing huge-scale activities while allowing them to be more focused on younger and new groups. 

But throw all of those justifications out the window for Seventeen, because they are releasing music like they just debuted recently. After the wildly successful Attaca, their first EP to sell more than 2 million (yes, 2 and six zeros) copies in late October 2021, they presented not one, not two, but three albums to Carats in 2022. That’s one full-length album in May entitled Face the Sun, one re-issue of Face the Sun entitled Sector 17 in July, and Dream, a Japanese EP in November. All three releases went straight to numero uno on both the Korean Gaon/Circle and Japanese Oricon charts (yes, the two Korean albums managed to top the Oricon charts as well), not to mention Face the Sun and Sector 17 peaked at numbers 7 and 4 respectively, in the US Billboard Hot 200 charts.     

And let’s not forget the singles! Hot, the title track of Face the Sun, peaked at number 7 in Gaon/Circle, while _World took spot number 4. In the US Billboard World charts, the two peaked at number 3 and 12, respectively. The group’s first all-English title track, Darl+ing, peaked at #15 on the US Billboard World charts, while Dream ended up in 27th place on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart.   

So, the group renewed their contracts before Attaca was released, so that’s way before their contracts were set to expire this year. Moreover, leader S.Coups and Jeonghan, who also happen to be the oldest members, won’t be anywhere near the dreaded h-word (h*atus due to military enlistment) for another three to four years. Alas, it is yet unknown whether Korean-American Joshua, the third oldest member, will do an Ok Taecyeon and perform his patriotic duty of finishing his military duty. The group basically assuaged everybody’s (including Pledis’/HYBE’s) fears by renewing their contracts early and still being far from any hiatus. The nearest thing the group has ever been on hiatus was The8 and Jun going home to China after a gazillion years in December 2021, which exempted them from doing some Attaca promotion-related activities. To top things off, with the prolific Bumzu-Woozi team that seems to have a penchant for producing songs like a well-oiled machine, we seriously don’t see Seventeen slowing down on their song-releasing speed like a “legacy” group even as they enter their first decade and “senior” group era.     

The solo and unit releases

With most groups, it takes years for a member to release solo music. In most cases, it does take around 7 years for an idol to release solo material, and this is usually presented to them by their companies as a way to make them stay. After all, there’s nothing more idols would want more than to be recognized as very capable soloists aside from their reputation in the groups they are part of. Moreover, it can be speculated that companies want to establish the popularity of the groups first before giving individual members solo music projects. Finally, these companies may also want to avoid moves that can be misconstrued as favoring a certain member who is given a solo song. Thus, solo releases from Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung from Super Junior, all SHINee members, Suho, D.O, Chen, and Kai from EXO, everyone from BIGBANG, and Mino and Yoon from Winner only came after years of their groups’ debut.

Seventeen members didn’t have to wait that long to release solo material. Fans of Woozi, Seungkwan, and DK have heard their contributions to some popular OSTs, and last year, we had Jeonghan, Hoshi, The8, and the pillar hip-hop pair of Mingyu and Wonwoo release singles, racking millions of music video views and Spotify listens. This year, The8 started the year with Hai Cheng, a single that may be more expected of a vocal team member rather than a performance team member. A full-fledged ballad compared to his 2021 mid-tempo hit Side by Side, the single proved that the boy from Haicheng (yes, the title of his 2022 song is his hometown) can also successfully sing slow-tempo songs as his teammate from Shenzhen, Jun. But then, you can still see glimpses of Minghao the performer as he dances with his partner ala Gene Kelly and Lalaland choreography in front of the beach and in some park benches while wearing trench coats. How’s that for performing team supremacy? 

Speaking of Jun, after releasing a string of ballads for the past few years, it was his turn to go mid-tempo in the dark and very sexy Limbo. This is definitely not your sweet, pure, and innocent       fake maknae singing one of his ballads. What a dramatic turn as Jun wears shiny black leather outfits and performs some really slinky moves while welcoming us to his limbo. And based on the music video and stages, more than the costumes and the song itself, it’s really the choreography that shines bright, which is perfect for our Prince of China to showcase his undeniable performance skills. 

While Jun used red as one of the color themes for his Limbo music video, our genius PD Woozi went all the way to use the color for his 2022 song, Ruby. The release surprised lot of fans, pleasantly at that, because the song has more of an edge with its alternative rock sound. Based on experience, we did expect Woozi to come up with a ballad for his solo project, so this very energetic rock song is a very welcome surprise. The music video also didn’t disappoint, as our small but terrible vocal team leader sported some very fashionable sleek looks. 

And towards the year’s end, our Leo DiCaprio lookalike gifted us with a pre-Holiday mixtape entitled Black Eye. And just like Woozi’s edgy turn in Ruby way back in January, Vernon also presents us with a not-so-surprised-but-not-entirely-expected pop-punk sound with Black Eye, an all-English language track. Keen Carats will of course observe that this is not the first time our hip-hop team member has dabbled in this kind of sound, as his duet with Joshua on the Attaca album, 2 Minus 1, has a similar vibe. Black Eye might not be a full-on emo track, but it does harken to an early-2000s rock band or an Avril Lavigne semi-angsty emotional rollercoaster song. Imagine that, one of our reliable rappers can sing an entire song without going into a burst of rap rhymes!

Lest we forget our main vocalists shining in their craft – singing the hell out of tear-jerking OSTs! Our musical King DK released the wildly successful Go! (not to be confused with Go, Seungkwan’s contribution to the Record of Youth Soundtrack in 2020) for the Twenty Five Twenty One OST. On the other hand, Mr. Sassy main vocal Boo released Pit a Pat for the Link: Eat, Love, Kill OST. And did we say that our K-pop Ph.D. also released a Spotify single of his version of Harry Styles’ As It Was?  

Going strong with GoSe

It is without question and not up for discussion that Going Seventeen, the boys’ web series readily available on YouTube, is the most engaging variety program in the world of K-pop? Make someone who doesn’t have a single clue of who Seventeen is watch an episode of GoSe and chances are, that viewer will simply fall in love, or at the very least, laugh at the boys’ antics in the show. 

This year, the world was again blessed with 29+1 episodes of the groups’ antics, and it would take a separate article to name our favorites for just this season. Here are three rather memorable episodes:

How to Eat Rice the Perfect Way (Part 1 and 2), GoSe’s first episodes of Part 2 of the 5th season. The appearances of Hoshi’s mom and Dino’s grandma were simply precious and obviously tugged at the Carat’s heartstrings. Woozi won the game, but a familiar character returned: supreme cheater and schemer Jeonghan, who used his wish coupon to take possession of Woozi’s prize for winning the game, which was a snack privilege. This episode also gave birth to a legendary character that is destined to make several comebacks in future GoSe episodes: The Hungry Monster whose only line is “beh goopa” (I’m hungry) and play to exaggerated perfection by musical theater actor Dokyeom.   

Runner-Up Sports Day, an episode that was an absolute treat to Jun-stans. Members of Seventeen play various games but should only aim for second place. In reality, the entire production plays a prank on Jun: the members should furtively play the games in a way that will lead to Jun’s victory. If Jun wins the games (by finishing second place overall) without noticing what’s up, all members will receive a Children’s Day present whereas only Jun will win a gift if he wins and realizes he is the center of the ruse. But if Jun loses (by not finishing second overall), no one receives a gift. The members succeed in secretly making Jun the overall winner of the intramurals. Too bad S.Coups, Hoshi, and The8 were not in the episode because of COVID-19. Otherwise, Jun’s innocence and purity, the expected antics of the boys (usually involving Dino having to fetch a dodgeball from far away), and the return of the Hungry Monster in a game that involved flipping the blankets of the members are what made this episode one for the books. 

Going Seventeen Special: Going SVT X MMTG, an episode that featured the unbeatable K-pop doctorate degree holders Seungkwan and Jaejae. Have you watched MMTG episodes where Seungkwan was a guest and the two can discuss the history of K-pop for hours and not run out of things to talk about? Well, this collab episode may not have featured the two gabbing the episode away, but it still featured the undeniable chemistry between the two, as well as Jaejae going along with the antics of the other members. In this episode, Jaejae was introduced to three of their best Going Seventeen contents (“Insomnia-Zero“, “Debate Night” and “Don’t Lie“) and competed on which of these contents raises her heart rate the most. 

That truly global tour

The running joke for “global” tours in the K-pop world is that they include a number of shows in Seoul, a couple of concerts in Japan, and an appearance at a KCON event in the US. Obviously, fans in Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and the Americas argue that Korea, Japan, and a single US show do not a world tour make. 

Good thing the group’s Be The Sun tour included two shows in Seoul before going on multiple stops across the US and even in Vancouver before going back to Asia for stops in Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, and Manila. The tour was mostly sold out and additional two dates were added in the Philippines (at the Philippine Arena, aka the largest indoor arena in the world) Jakarta for December 17 and 28 shows, respectively. 

This brings us to the rather unfortunate plight of European CARATs. Seventeen has never been to Europe and the Ode to You Tour of 2019-2020 was supposed to change this. Alas, COVID-19 dropped its viral impact on the world, which caused the cancelation of the tour’s stops in Berlin, London, Madrid, and Paris. Alas, when the Be The Sun tour dates were released, there were still no European dates and Hoshi even held a V-Live apologizing to the group’s European fans for Europe’s exclusion from their tour schedule anew. 

Anyhow, it’s not like they’re unknown in Europe. On the contrary, there was outrage over the continent’s exclusion in the BtS tour, not to mention the group won a number of awards in the 2022 MTV Europe Music Awards.  Next tour, perhaps?

As 2023 has started, we can only wish for CARATs to be as spoiled this year as they were in 2022 and for European CARATs to finally get some love from the group.

Featured Image: Seventeen Official Twitter