The Boyz have recently garnered more attention thanks to their captivating performances and ultimate win on Mnet’s Road to Kingdom. From the very first performance to the finale, they showed off their creativity, precision, and great skills on every challenge given. Now, with a rapidly growing fandom and a win under their belt, expectations for their latest comeback are high.
The teaser for their latest EP Chase presented us with a breaking newscast — narrated by Kevin — of a group of thieves on the loose stealing hearts. The clip consisted of each member taking us along the robbery operation, passing the case along to each other as they pose, smoulder, and smirk playfully at the camera.
Similarly, the teaser for the title track “The Stealer” hinted towards a hearts heist plot line with flashes of tight leather costumes, thick red velvet curtains, and laser beams! It’s safe to say that with the name of the title track and the content of teasers, the fans can conjure up an idea of how the plot will unfold.
The opening scenes of “The Stealer” are of the boys positioned in a container-like set, with a backdrop of multitoned neon red light tubes. The track begins with augmented siren sound effects and soft piano easing us in.
The song goes straight into full swing with the chorus — relatively toned down in tempo with a beautiful vocal arrangement that gives off an R&B groove, against the contrast of a loud flood of instrumentals. Once the chorus ends, the track switches abruptly to a change in tempo and a throbbing synth beat. Equally, the choreography picks up speed with an acrobatic dance sequence featuring Q jumping into — what they allude to be — the crime scene.
Lyrically, “The Stealer”, as the title suggests, makes proclamations about The Boyz’ heart-stealing identity. They boast about the ways in which they will carry out their mission, only to be fooled by a love interest.
I’m the Stealer (Yah)
I’ll go into the deepest place of your heart (that’s right)
When I have you in my hands
Pull the trigger (Yah)
But you cruelly made me fall
And then disappeared
With a sustained momentum things builds further with Sunwoo’s rap verses, and smoothly push forward to another layer of percussions with softer vocals on the pre-chorus. The track experiments with the conventions of a song structure with equal measure of hits and misses. It works out when isolating each part and considering them as sole entities.
The verses vary between energetic rap parts and softer vocal segments. The bridge does well building up the energy for the up-tempo verses. The pre-chorus is melodic and smoothly transitions from any part that precedes it. Vocally, it offers many sweet falsetto moments and harmonies, which carries some SM Entertainment characteristics; Exo’s “Tempo” meets an NCT 127 quality. Yet, the way in which the production is arranged seems awkward and choppy at times.
The constant shift in tempo and change up in instrumentation can lose the momentum generated for both the track and MV. Though the song works in parts, it’s difficult to get used to in the first few listens.
The MV follows a loose plotline of a heist of hearts. Think the Ocean’s trilogy meets Now You See Me, with theatrical elements of Moulin Rouge (bear with me). Though its not explicit, the MV takes the performative elements of misdirection, drawing your attention to their hypnotic performances before they steal your heart.
The MV serves up the fundamentals of a heist plot line as each member plays a role — although it is not clear what some are. Q is the nimble acrobat sneaking in, with Jacob and Juyeon on the lookout. Sunwoo and Eric are the heart extractors and awaiting them is Sangyeon, Hyunjae and Haknyeon, respectively, for pack up and delivery.
The MV’s strength lies in its performance moments. The Boyz alternate between dancing in an all red set with a large reticule symbol imprinted on the dance floor and the neon light container. Despite the oscillating song structure, the choreography is sharp, detailed and impressive. It does not miss any chance at being sexy with its semi-body rolls and magnetic facial expressions.
Another strength to “The Stealer” is its styling concepts that fuel the choreography’s sexy and seductive attitude. Each member is styled in variation of black designer outfits, patent leather pants enhanced with spots of red and gold details.
For the bridge, it is a quick return to fast paced switch ups and acrobatic tricks to illustrate the details of their mission. Knowing what they are capable of, it makes sense for the MV to focus on the performance and amplify their techniques. Yet, the individual sets feel bare and under utilised. Yes, the plot progresses with the help of lighting, costumes and props, but they fall short from the intended impact.With that said, where the MV lacks details on set, the choreography more than makes up for it.
For anyone following their progression as a group since their debut, this comeback is a good step towards a promising new direction for both their music and their image. It draws elements of their strengths forward and highlights them without the riffraff.
However, after buying into the teasers’ misleading promises, it feels a little lacklustre. It is difficult not to compare this comeback to expectations, especially after seeing what they have accomplished on RTK.
Their performances of “Danger”, “Reveal”, and “Checkmate” set the bar high for this comeback. Their concepts were well executed, gutsy, dramatic and everything in between. Objectivly speaking, “The Stealer” is solid with huge room for potential to go beyond.
The intention, it seems, is to put the boys on the spotlight and focus on them, but it renders the MV almost one-dimensional. Unfortunately, the way the MV ends up fails to meet up to the track’s ambitions or do The Boyz justice. The track tries its hand at a few changes and pushes the expectations for a different direction. And by contrast, the MV is polished yet restrained and plays quite safe in most aspects.
Nonetheless, the group’s idea is fitting for The Boyz’ new chapter. They continue to explore the concepts of maturity by embracing darker and sleeker themes. It has plenty of potential to be a defining era for The Boyz.
(YouTube, Images via Cre.Ker Entertainment, Lyrics via ColorCodedLyrics)