Fresh off their win from Road to Kingdom, The Boyz are stealing hearts in a powerful noir-esque caper and may even be caught themselves. Honestly, this is a really interesting concept: part thief, part spy, and part prisoner, the whole album screams sensuality and allure. If there was ever a question that the precious flower boys from songs like “Boy” and “Bloom Bloom” had matured, Chase solidifies the members certainly as men on a mission.
All the songs on the album tell the story of a complex caper of epic proportions. With songs like “The Stealer,” “Insanity,” “Whiplash,” and “Checkmate,” it seems in The Boyz’ attempts to steal hearts they become prisoners of their own desire in the process, even teetering on the bounds of sanity itself. While all the songs center around this intense saga, there isn’t a clear storyline necessarily, but the variety, theatrics, and musicianship of the tracks are exactly what can be expected from The Boyz.
Thematically, the tracks are directly in order with a caper that could be imagined from track to track. The first track, “Shine Shine” is a sweeping, hubris-soaked invitation to throw away inhibitions and step into their world. The song is erotic with a slow jam style. The sound samples are mostly digital (the clapping sounds especially fake), but have a thick texture of timbres that sound heavy and expectant. While the structure is fairly simple, with a simple, club-like feel, the incorporation of so many different musical timbres, doubled digital strings, and half-time bass construct an atmospheric soundscape that actually effectively accompanies the concept of the song and lyrics.
“The Stealer” is the title track and in true theatrical style, The Boyz find themselves both protagonist and antagonist in an arresting (sorry) story of lost love and hopeless attraction. There are a few things that are especially interesting about this song’s role in the album story and the dual roles the members play. Certainly a powerful, domineering concept overall, The Boyz still manage to find themselves out of control and imprisoned as a result of their own efforts (poor New). The loss of the subject, instead of their subjugation, adds a unique twist to their sexy prowess and simultaneously lays the groundwork for later tracks thematically. And let’s be honest, it’s hot too. The Boyz admitting their own demise and succumbing to their primal craving hits differently than a man who risks nothing at all.
The set of the MV and the theatrics are on another scale. One of my favorite things about The Boyz even before Road to Kingdom was the way that they craft elaborate stories both explicitly and implicitly. The production teams always manage to insert keen, tiny details that give the messages they convey multiple meanings and depth. For instance, if you focus on the set designer’s use of lights as both spotlights and gridlines (reminiscent of prison bars or the sides of a cage), it simultaneously communicates the themes of infiltration and imprisonment. These little details give their productions allure that sates the eyes alongside the ears.
With the listener having slipped through The Boyz’ grasp, what follows are “Insanity” and “Whiplash”, which further document the decline and helplessness of The Boyz. These are my favorite songs on the whole album sonically. Both songs share similar structures and sound samples, but they are diverse and fresh in their use of these sounds. The beginning of “Insanity” itself is different from almost anything else I’ve heard in recent months, and it’s almost hard to tease out the individual voices melded together with the double voiced bass. Similarly, “Whiplash” leans into a catchy and persistent guitar groove introduced at the beginning before dissolving into an acoustic, harmonious pre-chorus and an equally infectious chorus. While it has similar samples and thematic functions as the rest of the album, the way that the sounds are utilized opposite the members’ vocals make the track fresh and addictive.
If The Boyz have been slowly slipping away into a romance they cannot possess, “Make or Break” is the last ditch effort to sway the would-be lover. This song is pure pop candy. It is fun, repetitive, but with little surprises or anything that makes it stand out aside from the key highlight of the song in the ad-lib-sounding vocals and shouted group exclamations. Not to say that the song is not good; in fact, I quite like it, and I think it rounds out the album well. Fun and light, “Make or Break” is simple and enjoyable.
The last song, “Checkmate”, is a stage version of their final performance on Road to Kingdom. Chess, swords, acrobatics: the whole track is a full production musically and visually. As as a song released prior to this album, it appears to usher in a new concept, but interestingly, it is placed last as the conclusion to the story, rather than serving as an introduction. The bass, the piano, and the members’ harmonies are the stars in this song, while the extra addition of multitudes of strings make the song regal and mysterious. With lyrics like “never satisfied” and “keep the tension”, it seems that The Boyz not only have their eyes on the prize, but they cannot be satisfied until they do so. In relation to the rest of the tracks, it seems the members’ decent into hopelessness and insanity are all but forgotten, and they have instead opted for a more extreme approach. The angle of a suspenseful chess match is a fascinating and effective pull as well. Chess is often used as a metaphor for playing the game of life in a winner-takes-all endeavor, with checkmate being the final nail of the proverbial coffin as it were–whether that is success or utter defeat.
With a stunning spectacle of a title track, a diverse and ear-catching selection of B-sides, and thematic cohesion throughout, I think it may be safe to say that The Boyz came out swinging for this comeback. Well known for their performance prowess and daring choreography, the boys turned men are back again with a winner of an album.
Did The Boyz succeed in stealing your heart? Let us know in the comments bellow