"Stealing Hearts, Stealing The Scene" Clash Meets The Boyz
“Heist at the MET Gala.” That’s how Kevin, one of The Boyz’s main vocalists, defines the group’s latest single, ‘The Stealer’ over a Zoom call. His melodic intonation makes everything he says sound straight out of a nostalgic coming-of-age movie. “Stealing hearts, stealing the scene,” he continues. It’s a late Friday night in Seoul, and the Vancouver-raised singer is huddled along his teammates Eric, Jacob, New, Ju Haknyeon, Hyunjae, Younghoon, Sangyeon, Sunwoo, Q, and Juyeon in a conference room.
Cool and composed leader Sangyeon reveals they haven’t yet seen the final MV for ‘The Stealer’ — it dropped today, September 21st as part of their fifth EP, 'Chase' — but Kevin tries to explain the overall concept. “We went with a James Bond, [2001 comedy heist movie] Ocean’s Eleven vibe, but it’s not just that. There’s a certain glam pop to it. I think it will be a fresh, never-seen-before kind of concept.”
‘The Stealer’ MV shows The Boyz as impossibly attractive thieves, clad in high fashion and latex, subtly employing their tricks to steal a giant heart sculpture. “When you think about thieves, you think of something very dark. Since we wanted to show a different side of what they could be, we added that confidence and attitude [through our styling],” says New, whose ethereal features contrast with a sassy personality.
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Formed by Cre.ker Entertainment, The Boyz’s skills and versatility have been on display since their debut single ‘Boy,’ released in December 2017. With dynamic pop anthems like ‘Right Here’ and ‘Giddy Up’ and darker, mystifying tracks such as ‘No Air’ and ‘Reveal,’ they slowly built a prolific discography and a growing fandom. However, it was their recent first-place win in Mnet’s survival show Road to Kingdom that boosted their popularity and gave them a well-deserved spotlight in the K-pop scene. The shy and princely Younghoon, who is currently recording the drama Love Revolution, raises his hand to talk. “I noticed that a lot of people have recognized me [while filming], all thanks to Road to Kingdom.”
Through sharp choreographies, mind-blowing stunts, and a continuous narrative, The Boyz not only stole Road to Kingdom’s crown, but also the audience’s hearts. ‘The Stealer,’ their first comeback since the end of the show in June, draws parallels to that theme, recalling moments and props from their past performances while also giving them a campy glow. But like all great crime stories, ‘The Stealer’ has an underlying plot twist. “The song is about two people who are trying to steal each other’s hearts, and once one of them finally does, they feel they got everything they needed,” says Juyeon, a smoldering dancer with striking features. “But the flip side is that their heart was stolen, instead of the other person’s.”
Talking about the other tracks in Chase, fiery rapper Sunwoo mentions the passionate “Insanity” as his favorite. “It’s the first time we sing about love in a deeper way, about someone who is so in love that they go crazy,” he says. Kevin compliments him. “I really like the way Sunwoo sings [the verse] ‘I can’t stop…’ More than the lyrics itself, I like the way he expressed it.”
For the sweet vocalist Jacob, “Make or Break” is his top pick. “It’s a continuation of [previous album Reveal b-side] ‘Break Your Rules’, and Sunwoo wrote the lyrics, so that made me like it two times more.” Jacob says that Sunwoo was inspired by their ongoing storyline in Road to Kingdom. “He came to me for help with the English lyrics and explained his vision of creating a sequel to our song. I thought it was a very good idea.”
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Honesty and communication are the main pillars of The Boyz, as can be seen in their impeccable series ‘Generation Z’ Identity Films, released just as Road to Kingdom started in May. Comprising a stunning video introducing each of the members and a series of short but deep individual interviews, it displayed The Boyz’s unique appeal in a sincere, original way. “[Members of] Generation Z are very honest, they express themselves freely, without feeling embarrassed,” says Juyeon. “Because we were born in this generation, we felt that it was important to represent it to our fans.” Navy-haired Haknyeon complements that statement with a keen remark. “It’s important to be honest when you’re communicating from one person to another, so that’s why we wanted to show this side of us” — an affirmation to which the self-proclaimed “honest to a fault” Hyunjae, quietly playing with an empty water bottle, agrees.
In the videos, the members disclose feeling inferior, angry, and even depressed at times. “[These are things] that everybody feels, the only difference is that we said it out loud,” affirms Juyeon. 19-year-old Eric, who is sometimes called “EnergEric” because of his unrelenting enthusiasm, believes that being hard on himself is “necessary for improvements to be made. Not always, but sometimes.” Sunwoo agrees, and completes Eric’s thoughts with words of wisdom. “If you aren’t hard on yourself, then it’s hard to succeed.”
After nearly three years in the cutthroat K-pop industry, hard work is no stranger to The Boyz. Haknyeon says that their experience so far has also taught him “patience,” while Younghoon says he learned what “challenges” truly mean. For Eric, it has been an opportunity to develop “social skills” — a comment that leads Kevin to applaud him, jokingly. Sangyeon shares that he discovered “the love from [our fandom] The B,” and charming dancer Q says that he became more self-aware. “I’m still learning about what kind of person I am, but I don’t really understand myself either,” he says, a dimpled smile appearing across his face.
There’s plenty of time for The Boyz to discover themselves, but for now, like the title of their EP, they keep the chase alive. And what are they pursuing these days? Yonghoon says he’s interested in interior design and buying furniture. Q mentions that he recently got two goldfishes — names yet to be announced. Jacob deepens his love for League of Legends, and Haknyeon, for cooking. “And eating!” Hyunjae chimes in. Eric, in his classic candor, points to Q across the table and exclaims “Waffles!” making everyone in the room burst in laughter. Unaware that I have watched their many VLive streams devouring the sweet, golden treat, Juyeon — completely serious and in perfect English — tries to explain. “We’re chasing waffles. We fell in love with waffles.”
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These bright, carefree moments reveal The Boyz’s deepest strength: unity. Their ease in navigating highs and lows, shadow and light, both in their music and in themselves, is made possible because they have one another — just like their jumps and falls in Road to Kingdom required complete trust to be successful. “We spend so much time together that we see our different sides more than anyone else,” says Juyeon. When talking about their ‘Generation Z’ videos, Hyunjae mentions that they “felt like a review, because we know each other so well.”
“Any profession, any job, any society, requires a certain level of masking yourself, and the idol world obviously requires a high level of prudence,” reflects Kevin. “But we took the ‘Generation Z’ Identity Films as an opportunity to be more relatable humans, instead of just idols that people go crazy over. We want to tell our feelings and desires more truthfully than we have in the past.”
The Boyz now face their biggest comeback to date. As their artistry and popularity grow, so do they as young adults. Sangyeon, the oldest, is only 23, but the thought of aging under the name “The Boyz” doesn’t bother them. “Even when we turn 30, 40, 50 years old, we’ll still be boys, that doesn’t change,” says Juyeon.
When asked what it means to be a man, Sunwoo — a true Aries, always up for some fun — takes it as a joke. He rolls up his sleeves and flexes his arms while laughing, “muscles, muscles!” Younghoon and Hyunjae immediately follow, flexing and grunting to the ensuing chaos. It takes New to restore the world order with a graceful finger-wag. “We don’t think that just because you grow, you become a man,” he says. “For us, the identity of The Boyz is just ‘boy,’ and there are so many different aspects to a boy that we can show.” The thoughtful Pisces Haknyeon, who was carefully observing the room, adds in. “It’s not about physical growth, but rather growing musically as artists.”
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'The Stealer' is out now.
Words: Tássia Assis
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