THE BOYZ’s ‘Maverick’ is a dark and dangerous, but not always dynamite, gear-shift

The boyband swap summer anthems for shadowy sexiness, but are let down by a title track that’s divisive and disjointed

Only three months ago, THE BOYZ were serving us up a mini-album of playful, bright summer anthems in ‘Thrill-ing’. But now, as winter begins to creep into view, the 11-piece group are shifting gear. There’s little brightness to ‘Maverick’, their third single album – even the over-saturated flowers on the release’s artwork look like they’re dying, keeling over towards the ground and their petals’ extreme vividness making it appear as if they’ve had just a little bit too much fun in the sun.

There’s no danger of that this time around. ‘Maverick’ relishes the darkness it submerges itself in, getting its kicks from life lived in the shadows rather than soaking up rays. Each of the three songs here deploy instrumentals that sound like they’re pulling from the jet black end of the palette and lyrics that explore experiences that are more unpredictable and risky. The results vary wildly across the tracks, sometimes ushering us into slinky, sexy territory, but other times misstepping into something far more disjointed.

The title track is where the latter comes into play and is the weakest – and perhaps most divisive – effort present here. Rapper Sunwoo recently told South China Morning Post the group “make everything we do fit, no matter how diverse it is, which in our own way is being like a maverick”, but this song makes that bold assertion come undone.

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Its chorus is a jarring clamour of grating chanted lyrics yelled over thundering, metallic bass wobbles. What’s worse is the words themselves – “I’m a, I’m a maverick” and “Back in the game, son” – that veer from plain annoying to cringe-worthy. The band have said preparations for this single album were “rushed” and it’s easy to believe that listening to ‘Maverick’.

Luckily, the rest of the record comes to the rescue and saves THE BOYZ from dropping their usually high standard of quality too low. ‘Hypnotized’ is cooler and smoother than the title track, a dark sexiness gliding through its undercurrent and distant similarities to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me A River’ peeking through the instrumental. The raps here are lowkey but more effective for it, the members drawing you in with their muttered delivery.

“What’s your purpose? / You are the destination,” Eric declares in a muted voice at one point. “You’re the destination / In front of you, I’m out of control.” He might not be able to keep himself in check, but his slick intonation will have anyone who listens under his spell.

While THE BOYZ might want to break free of expectations, on ‘Maverick’ they’re sticking to at least one well-known notion – that of saving the best until last. ‘Russian Roulette’ is the single album’s stand-out track, a song that is both slinky and sexy, and manages to pack in variety and dynamism without losing any cohesion.

At first, it creeps along staccato bass notes and marimba plinks and plonks like a nimble predator stalking its prey. When Sunwoo raps, “Say what you like / Don’t stop the shot / You got the fire, huh” midway through, you can practically feel the curl of his top lip and his eyes light up like a lion about to pounce. But moments later, the shadows dissipate and shining guitar melodies – at least momentarily – bathe everything in light.

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‘Maverick’ might not be a flawless release, but over its three tracks THE BOYZ remind us that, as well as being experts at cute and colourful, they’re not half bad at the dangerous bad boy concept either. If they lean into that with confidence rather than the hollow proclamations of the title track’s chorus, then future releases in this vein won’t show us any mercy.

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