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K-pop group The Boyz talk new single Maverick, Squid Game and who would win at it (it’s not Eric), and showing their darker, sexier side

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 2/11/2021
K-pop group The Boyz released their new single Maverick this week, continuing a hectic year that shows no sign of slowing down. Photo: Twitter / @Creker_TheBoyz K-pop group The Boyz released their new single Maverick this week, continuing a hectic year that shows no sign of slowing down. Photo: Twitter / @Creker_TheBoyz

The Boyz have been busy in 2021, and they're still not done: on Monday, the K-pop group released their new song Maverick, the latest addition in a year full of new music and promotions for the 11-member boy band.

"This has been quite a fast and furious 'thrill ride'," Kevin said, referring to the lead single from their August EP Thrill-ing, which followed January's Japanese LP, Breaking Dawn. "It's been only three months since Thrill Ride so it's been a bit of a rushed process, but I think we're all excited to try this new kind of dystopian, powerful vibe (with Maverick) after the bright, cheery summery vibes of Thrill-ing."

The close releases reminded the team of their fast-paced prep for performances on this year's K-pop boy band competition show Kingdom: The Legendary War, where they came in second place, and its precursor, 2020's Road to Kingdom, which they won to gain a spot on the later show.

The Boyz rapidly grew in popularity between the two shows, something that has continued almost unhindered by the pandemic thanks to this year's releases.

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Maverick trended worldwide on Twitter ahead of its release as fans eagerly anticipated something new from The Boyz.

"Sadly, a lot of opportunities shut down (because of the pandemic)," Jacob said. "Of course, it's not always going to be easy, but we're just trying to go forward and hang in there. We did 14 new concepts for the Kingdom programmes. People got to see sides to us they had never seen before, so we're grateful and excited to show a new side of us again through Maverick."

Employing completely opposite musical and conceptual styles with Thrill Ride and Maverick was something The Boyz had planned since before beginning work on their summer release, in the hope of showing more of what they had to offer.

"We're known as a group that's able to show off a boyish charm, but we realised we were able to bring in a lot of fans when we did darker, moodier concepts, so we aimed to do that with the sexier, more intense Maverick," said New. "We wanted to show that contrast, and show off this ability of ours to transition between different styles."

"It's not that we have two distinctly different sides that we're emphasising through these releases," added Eric. "Rather, The Boyz can show anything off, which we showed through Road to Kingdom, where we didn't really perform many of our own songs but rather covers of other artists. We want to become a group that is able to pull off a variety of music and styles, and handle any style of music that's thrown at us."

The Boyz celebrate Halloween. Photo: Twitter / @Creker_TheBoyz © Provided by South China Morning Post The Boyz celebrate Halloween. Photo: Twitter / @Creker_TheBoyz

Regarding Maverick's inspiration, Sunwoo says that they spent a lot of time contemplating what it means to be a maverick, which helped them determine how to relay the concept in the song and music video.

"Everyone knows what the definition of 'maverick' is, right?" Sunwoo said. "For us, it's going beyond the boundaries set for us, and the message we wanted to sing about was about finding what makes you special. It doesn't matter what people think of you or what the dictionary definition is, it's about finding your own colour and what fits you. As The Boyz, we make everything we do fit, no matter how diverse it is, which in our own way is being like a maverick."

"We want people to listen to the song and think of it as an anthem of independence," Kevin added.

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As for who the true maverick is in The Boyz, the band unanimously picked Sunwoo. "Yea, I'm a rulebreaker," he declared with a grin.

"He's a really free spirit, and whenever we get a talking to from our management, it's always his fault," explained Hyunjae. "We actually got a talking to today because of him," added Eric wryly, though all the members insist there are no hard feelings among them.

It seems unrealistic for 11 men in their 20s to all get along without any friction, but The Boyz have grown into adulthood together since debuting in 2017; the eldest, Sangyeon, was born in 1996, while 2000 baby Eric will turn 21 in December.

"Because we've lived together for so long, we know each member is a certain way and acts the way they do," Q explained. "We're not surprised by anyone's behaviour any more, and we've all learned how to respond as best as we can to each person's actions and feelings."

The Boyz's Maverick was released along with two other songs, Russian Roulette and Hypnotized. Photo: Facebook / @officialTheBoyz © Provided by South China Morning Post The Boyz's Maverick was released along with two other songs, Russian Roulette and Hypnotized. Photo: Facebook / @officialTheBoyz

"We don't really fight," added Kevin. "We communicate with words. Respectfully disagree. We try to have a healthy group relationship, and have conversations and frequent temperature checks to see if anything can be better or if there's anything we need from others."

They decided to go fully conceptual for Maverick's music video, which features a dark theme against which they have to compete with one another. If it sounds like Squid Game, they assure they had been thinking of the storyline before the Netflix show's success and had been brainstorming ideas since the release of Thrill Ride, saying they had been looking more towards Battle Royale for inspiration.

"It's more schoolboys finding their own way," explained Kevin. They didn't let the trending opportunity pass by, however. "We did ultimately end up playing around a bit with Squid Game (such as for some promotional content)."

"It's a new challenge for us, and the music video is full of emotional acting," said Eric. "We want people to watch it and realise we're attempting something new."

But how did they decide who the winner would be in the music video? Before its release, fans online theorised Eric would come out on top, since his name is in the word "mavERICk".

They got the winner right but not why - The Boyz revealed they played games of chance to determine who would win the music video's violent competition, with Eric coming out on top. "I'm honoured," he said with a big grin.

The Boyz have enjoyed a busy and successful 2021. Photo: Twitter / @Creker_TheBoyz © Provided by South China Morning Post The Boyz have enjoyed a busy and successful 2021. Photo: Twitter / @Creker_TheBoyz

The rest of The Boyz comically assure that Eric would be the first out in an actual survival competition. "Eric will die first because he's not careful," said Juyeon. "He needs to be quiet," said Hyunjae.

"I'll take them (all) with me when I die," assured Eric.

Q, however, would likely survive, according to the other members, because he's good at hiding in small spaces other members can't fit in. He's like "a little mouse", according to Haknyeon, and Q admits he is "chameleon-like", while Juyeon adds that the dancer is especially fast and agile.

The way the band chose the music video's winner reflects The Boyz's general approach: they put in a lot of effort when it matters, but when there's a simpler way forward - don't overthink it and just go in that direction.

"Simple is best," said Hyunjae. "To be honest, this was our first time ever making a decision like this, and we were wondering if it was OK."

"But it was easier and more fun that we were able to do it this way," said Juyeon.

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Maverick was released alongside two other songs, Russian Roulette and Hypnotized. Sunwoo says they decided to release the trio together because they "all sound very hip and trendy. Before this release, we've always put songs of varied genres and styles on the same album, but this is the first time we decided to put out a group of music that fits together."

"For me, I think that listeners who hear it will feel like they're the main character in a video game, with the songs acting like a dramatic, action-packed soundtrack," said Hyunjae.

"We actually recorded Russian Roulette a while back," said Juyeon, "but we decided it went with these other two songs because all three sound like they're the soundtrack to a survival game. They keep you on your toes."

"They're all very intense," said Kevin.

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The Boyz celebrate their fourth anniversary in December and plan to keep going at full speed in their fifth year and beyond.

"We're a team that has done well for ourselves up until now," said Haknyeon. "We're still doing well, and we are looking optimistically towards the future because we believe our future is really bright."

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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