If there’s one important lesson that Eunkwang, leader of boy group BTOB, learned in the nine years that he and his members have been active in the K-pop industry, it’s to keep dreaming “an endless dream.” A dream, after all, motivates one to persevere and strive for growth.
“When you have a dream, you become humble, you become passionate. It makes us continuously run forward in this industry,” Eunkwang said in an interview with ABS-CBN News ahead of the release of the group’s latest album, “4U: Outside.”
The six-track record, released last Aug. 30, is a testament to BTOB members’ commitment to expanding their artistry in the fast-paced and ever-changing K-pop scene.
Since debuting in 2012, BTOB has established itself as one of the most vocally skilled idol acts through hit sentimental ballads and R&B tracks like “Pray (I’ll Be Your Man),” “Missing You,” and “Beautiful Pain.”
But with “Outsider,” the new album’s title track, the group’s active members Eunkwang, Minhyuk, Changsub and Peniel veer off from their usual sound to take on a genre that they have not tackled before: neo soul.
“Outsider” sees BTOB’s soulful singing backed by an instrumental with influences of funk, jazz and hip-hop. Lyrically, the song talks about one’s desire to break away from the dull routine of everyday life.
“You are bound to get tired of your repetitive daily life and we feel the same too. So we tried to be witty through the lyrics of our title track,” said Minhyuk, who co-wrote lyrics to all of the songs on the new album with Peniel.
Both members admitted to going through a “slump” while writing for the album.
“We’ve been writing lyrics for a long time so it was kind of a slump,” Peniel said.
“But I just pretend like I’m in the situation of the lyrics and then I try to relate to whoever wrote the song and what they were trying to think,” he said.
“Like Peniel, I also go through a slump, so I try to have indirect experiences. I write lyrics from the experience of watching movies, dramas and listening to the stories of my friends,” Minhyuk added.
Eunkwang said the latest comeback was also inspired by the group’s experiences in “Kingdom: Legendary War,” a popular K-pop competition that aired from April to June this year.
“[The album is] a new challenge for us. Based on what we’ve experienced while performing in ‘Kingdom,’ we’ll be able to show you BTOB’s new sides,” he said.
The program saw BTOB go against five younger groups — iKON, SF9, The Boyz, Stray Kids and Ateez — in a battle of stage performances to see which act was worthy of the title “kings of K-pop.”
While BTOB failed to take the crown, the program helped the members realize that they had more potential as K-pop artists, said Changsub.
“We realized that BTOB is a group with a wider spectrum and that nothing is impossible... We learned to be humble. We learned a lot,” he said.
The members said they also became closer with the other idols in the program.
“We became close to all of them evenly. Since we all experienced the same challenges, we built stronger bonds despite the competition,” Minhyuk said.
“We learned from each other regardless of [seniority] and it was great that we have improved as K-pop artists,” said Eunkwang, who gave a special “I love you” shout-out to Stray Kids’ Seungmin.
Despite being veteran idols who have built a global fan base and won multiple awards, Minhyuk said he still aspired to see BTOB perform at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), one of the major year-end K-pop award shows.
The group has received several MAMA nominations but has yet to win or perform at the award ceremonies.
“The first time I thought that I wanted to be a singer was after I watched an award show named MKMF during my first year of senior high,” Minhyuk said, referring to MAMA’s previous title, the Mnet Km Music Video Festival.
“We haven’t had a chance to attend MAMA until now so it's my personal dream to perform at MAMA once,” he added.
The boys also shared that Hyunsik and Sungjae, members currently serving in the South Korean military, are excited to continue making music with the group. The two are expected to be discharged in November.
“They are very much looking forward to working as BTOB and they are also ready to do many things after their discharge,” Minhyuk said.
Ilhoon, who debuted with the group, left BTOB in 2020 after figuring in a drug controversy.
While BTOB has been around for nearly a decade, its members are positive that they would still be together for the next 10 years.
“We’ll still look great,” Minhyuk said before Peniel interjected to say, “Maybe with more wrinkles.”
“BTOB with wrinkles. BTOB the veterans,” Minhyuk added.
“Please provide us with more bright lighting after 10 years,” Eunkwang said, addressing BTOB’s fans called MELODY.
Video editing by Reya Buenaventura, ABS-CBN News
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