THE BOYZ have, without a doubt, been one of the most consistent boybands in the K-pop sphere since their debut in 2017. With each release, the group continue to outdo themselves in production, execution and experimentation. But despite the group’s unwavering pursuit of pop perfection since the very beginning, it was their participation in the Mnet reality TV programme Kingdom: Legendary War earlier this year that finally helped them to turn the tides of their oft-overlooked career.
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“Previously, we focused a lot on trying to decipher a certain message on stage,” rapper Sunwoo told Teen Vogue of their more recent endeavours, which largely featured edgier sounds and darker material. “This time around we’re more into, ‘let’s be chill, let’s relax on stage, let’s really enjoy the vibe of the music’.” This sentiment toward their latest release is indisputably the core driving force for their sixth mini-album ‘Thrill-ing’, a six-song ode to the youthful effervescence of summer.
Title track ‘Thrill Ride’ unites hip-hop influences and laid-back pop merrymaking to create a vibrant piece that encapsulates the essence of summer. It’s reminiscent of the infectiously playful sound that the 11-piece act also employed for their older lead singles like 2018’s ‘Giddy Up’ and 2019’s ‘Bloom Bloom’. While the song does maintain a level of catchiness that’s to be expected of K-pop summer anthems, its repetitive chorus melody tiptoes on the edge of being overbearing at times.
But once you delve deeper into the other offerings that ‘Thrill-ing’ boasts, ‘Thrill Ride’ almost completely blends into the background. One such stand-out track, which would have been a much more obvious choice for the title track, is ‘Merry Bad Ending’. A confessional pop song full of yearning, it feels rich and smooth, its soulful lyrics (“That blinding moonlight / That only shines upon us / A kiss that is bestowed softly / Dimly when the morning comes”) paired with a dreamy slow tempo instrumentation.
THE BOYZ are nothing if not experimental, injecting horror vibes on the creepy ‘Nightmares’, something that others might shy away from on similar summer releases. The contrast the song presents is also a prime example of the turbulent, rollercoaster-like journey this mini-album takes listeners on. . A callback to their more intense work like ‘The Stealer’ and ‘Reveal’, it’s the most novel offering on the mini-album, courtesy of spine-chilling, airy falsettos and harmonisation that make for a hauntingly elegant piece.
The rest of ‘Thrill-ing’ is equally as, well, thrilling. Most songs are exceptional, but string them together and the record teeters on the edge of disjointed recklessness. The siren-like instrumentals, hints of EDM and booming vocals that come together on ‘Out Of Control’ makes it a dynamic show of sheer power, though it falls short due to its standard boy group pop melodies. Meanwhile, the buoyant ‘Dancing Till We Drop’ is an instant mood-maker thanks to its theatrical tune, recreating the familiar boyish energy the group are best known for, alongside gleeful lyricism: “Just like this, music on / When the darkness deepens / Kiss under the fireworks / My heart is dancing”.
‘Thrill-ing’ comes to a close in the same way most memorable summers do – in bittersweet sunsets. ‘B.O.Y (Bet On You)’ feels like an aural representation of this nostalgic feeling, making full use of evocative lyrics penned by members Sunwoo and Eric (“Under the shimmering moonlight / The shadow that greeted us brightly / The deepening season of you”) and steady electro-pop beats that drive the mini-album to a glistening conclusion. Although, this track may also feel nostalgic for a different reason – it bears a slight resemblance to the 2018 Ellie Goulding hit single ‘Close To Me’.
‘Thrill-ing’ is a homecoming for THE BOYZ in more than one way; it being both their first Korean release in nearly a year as well as their first since being crowned the runners-up on Kingdom. Above all, and in spite of the few missteps along the way, it’s a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions that not only pays tribute to their earlier sounds of fresh-faced wonder, but also takes unexpected twists in an ambitious showcase of versatility and experimentation.
- Release date: August 9
- Record label: Cre.ker Entertainment