Written in collaboration with LemonLassie
On November 7th, Cube Entertainment’s lead boy group, BTOB (비투비), returned to the Korean music scene with their 9th mini-album, NEW MEN. For the past two years, the group redirected their focus from upbeat releases to a trilogy of ballads, spread out over three albums. These releases earned the group widespread success they hadn’t previously experienced. With the release of NEW MEN and the title track, I’ll Be Your Man (기도), the group, once again, drastically changed musical directions with a dramatic dance track.
When the music video dropped, it had formidable competition from much more successful groups such as B.A.P and Mamamoo, who released highly anticipated music videos the same day; yet the talk of the industry was BTOB. In less than an hour, I’ll Be Your Man reached #1 on the MelOn real-time chart. Not to mention, they achieved first place rankings on five of the six Korean charts in a matter of hours. The music video reached 1 million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours, increasing to 2 million views in just three days. These accomplishments may seem small in comparison to groups like BTS and TWICE, who have broken records for overall YouTube views in a 24 hour period. However, all of these accomplishments are firsts for BTOB.
So, why is it that BTOB is causing so much commotion with this comeback? To find the answers, we must dive deep into the world of NEW MEN.
기도 (I`ll Be Your Man)
Lyrics: Lim Hyunsik, Lee Minhyuk, Peniel, Jung Ilhoon
Composition: Lim Hyunsik, Eden, Nathan
Arrangement: Lim Hyunsik, Eden, Nathan
First up is the music video for I’ll Be Your Man. The video proves as intense as the song it represents, with the opening scenes showcasing a grand church interior and each member covered in bruises. Could the roughed up nature of the members represent the heartbreak detailed in the song’s lyrics? The religious theme continues as Minhyuk is seen praying with the film’s leading lady (Elkie of labelmate CLC), while the members take turns in the confessional chamber. Adding to the mystery, the members are seen running through a war zone, wielding guns, and evading capture. The choreography provides the opportunity for the members to body roll during an explosion, which sounds strange but somehow works. *SPOILER ALERT* The plot culminates with the red-haired Minhyuk dangling upside down, tied, and hung from his ankles. His body is beaten as the woman he loves is seen conspiring with his captors.
The MV provides us with many questions and very few answers. I am hoping that this means BTOB will release a continuation some time in the near future.
Lead vocalist Changsub starts off with a soft and stirring opening line before handing over the vocal duties to the main vocalist and leader, Eunkwang. The epic nature of the track builds slowly as both the instrumentals and vocals intensify before main rapper Ilhoon ups the tempo and emotional impact with his lyrical expertise. Hyunsik and Sungjae round out the vocal line, pouring raw emotion into every note.
While I’ll Be Your Man showcases the superior talent of the group’s vocalists, it’s the perfectly-timed, hard hitting rap verses that tie the piece together. As the bridge comes to a close, the pace again quickens into a vibrant crescendo as the four vocalists passionately weave their harmonies together while Ilhoon and Minhyuk spit in a rapid-fire trade off.
Hyunsik took the creative lead on both the arrangement and composition of the song, while also collaborating with rap line members Peniel, Minhyuk, and Ilhoon in writing the lyrics. During the filming of the music video, Hyunsik revealed the meaning behind the song: “There is a trap element with a combination of a dance song. Because there was a girl I couldn’t forget... It’s a song that expresses the idea of I’ll be your man again.” The fact that these members are largely responsible for the creation of such an emotional, heart-wrenching and epic piece of music proves BTOB is truly a force to be reckoned with.
The song and music video alone would have been enough to delight fans and sway casual listeners, but the boys of BTOB did not stop there. On November 10th, BTOB executed their comeback stage on MCountdown with performances of NEW MEN and I’ll Be Your Man. Our writer, LemonLassie and I watched it live and were rendered speechless. From the set pieces to the lighting, the choreography, the wardrobe, and the styling—the visual components painted a striking landscape. The performance elements, both vocal and emotive, heightened the experience beyond every expectation I had. Upon recovering my ability to string a sentence together, my exact words to LemonLassie were, “I think that’s one of the most dynamic live stages I’ve ever seen.”
Lyrics: Lim Hyunsik
Composition: Lim Hyunsik
Arrangement: Lim Hyunsik
The opening track, NEW MEN, sets the tone of the album with a clear distinction between the BTOB of the past and the newer, edgier, and more mature BTOB of today. Layered within the intense, grungy, and almost industrial feel are lyrics that, on the surface, appear to be laden with sexual innuendo. However, any Melody (as the fandom is called) can tell you the true meaning of the song. From the English line, “We’re new men now and we’re going to make you feel things, new things you’ve never felt before,” Peniel is alluding to the group’s new sound. During Ilhoon’s rap, he says, “It’s new men, it’s new generation,” again emphasizing the transformation of the group. He continues with, “...above thousands, ten thousands of hands, it becomes a wave, blue lights on.” This is a direct reference to the stadiums filled with fans holding the blue trumpet-shaped light stick exclusive to the group. Minhyuk then invites the listener to join the fandom with, “...the in thing is Melody. Anyone, you can be one of them.” As the song reaches its climax Hyunsik’s voice croons the words, “I can make you feel brand new,” before Changsub compares the group’s evolution to a religious experience with the final line, “I was born again for you.”
취해 (Drunk) *LemonLassie’s Staff Pick*
Lyrics: Jung Ilhoon, IL
Composition: Jung Ilhoon, IL
Arrangement: Jung Ilhoon, IL
The title of the third song on the album is a little misleading. Though the track has a mellow, groovy feel comparable to the relaxed state one feels when under the influence, the song is really about the intoxicated feeling produced by love. The members reflect on the freedom attained by the ending of a relationship which, over time, turned into longing for what once was. There is a line that details the experience of falling for someone new though they can never compare to the memory of the person they can no longer have.
The rap line trades their fast tempo rhymes for a considerably more relaxed pace, accentuating the chill vibe of the song. The falsetto notes of Hyunsik’s vocals weave through the chorus and add to the groovy feel.
무료해 (콕 To Me)
Lyrics: 손영진, 조성호, 강동하, Jung Ilhoon, Lee Minhyuk, Peniel
Composition: 손영진, 조성호, 강동하
Arrangement: 손영진, 조성호, 강동하
In 콕 to Me, the boys are stuck in the doldrums of a boring day; they simply can’t find a single thing to do. We’ve all had those days where the hands on the clock tick by painfully slow; nothing but reruns are on TV, food doesn’t seem to satisfy, and everyone around you is busy with things to do but you simply can’t seem to find something to capture your attention or occupy your time. BTOB is asking for someone to send them a “poke” and snap them out of it.
With a mild bluesy groove and simplistic percussive element, 콕 to Me is ironically the perfect song to listen to when you’re suffering a severe cause of “the blahs”. The line, “I’m going down, going down,” has never been more relatable.
Yes I Am *Helixx’s Staff Pick*
Lyrics: 조성호, Ferdy, Minhyuk, Peniel, Ilhoon
Composition: 조성호, Ferdy
Arrangement: 조성호, Ferdy
YES I AM is definitely the track on the album that gives the listener a sense of hope. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics, the song’s uplifting and inspirational nature doesn’t require translation.
The song begins with the simple plucking of guitar strings and an airy ensemble of background vocals. One by one, the members add their soft vocal stylings, elevating the piece as the chorus nears. The addition of subtle hand drums and chant-like clapping create an anthem-esque quality.
The lyrics tell the story of a man ready to give up when he meets the one person who can give him hope and change his whole world. Throughout the song, he expresses his gratitude and conveys his desire to spend his life returning the favor. American-born member Peniel demonstrates this with the line, “When I was down, you helped me up. When I was about to give up you gave me hope,” before treating the listener to a rare example of his ability to rap in Korean.
Lyrics: Jung Ilhoon, IL, Lee Minhyuk, Peniel
Composition: Jung Ilhoon, IL, BLACK
Arrangement: Jung Ilhoon, IL
Main rapper Ilhoon excels when it comes to writing feel-good songs that make you want to get off your butt and have a good time. For a great example of this, I recommend checking out Shake It off the Move mini-album from 2014. This time around, 놀러와 is no exception.
This mid-tempo offering is propelled by a hopping beat that is sure to get your toes tapping. Ilhoon leads the catchy chorus with, “Everybody welcome to my zone. Don’t be scared and come to play. From your head to your toes, don’t hold back and play,” inviting listeners to join the party with his unique tone and inflection.
Towards the middle, Peniel gives us the comical line, “Don’t be a Kevin and stay home alone,” a reference folks from the 80’s and 90’s should easily get. I recommend you take his advice and have yourself a great time!
Lyrics: Seo Eunkwang, Lee Minhyuk, Lee Changsub, Lim Hyunsik, Peniel, Jung Ilhoon, Yook Sungjae
Composition: KAIROS, JESPER BORGEN
Arrangement: KAIROS, JESPER BORGEN, WES KOZ
BTOB closes out the album with a special love song dedicated to their fans. The title of the track is a code phrase the group often use as a tribute to their beloved fans and is also an abbreviation of, "예전에도 지금도 앞으로도 사랑해," which means, "Since before, to now, and in the future, I'll love you." With a similar R&B vibe as Drunk, the members detail the hardships they’ve had to overcome in their journey to stardom and how Melodies have been there with them throughout.
In the chorus, the vocal line asks fans to, “Be the blue wave that shines on me,” the “blue wave” is in reference, again, to the lightsticks Melodies hold up in support of the group during live stages. Another artistic reference to the trumpet-shaped lightsticks is the line, “In your two soft hands, there’s a blue morning glory.” During the rap verse, Ilhoon compares the uncertainty of their debut and the rookie period that followed, to the beginning stages of a romantic relationship, “At first, the both of us worried a lot.” Then, follows with, “Sometimes guys that bothered you and tried to start a fight”, a direct correlation to the vulgar nature of fanwars.
The soft articulation of harmonies between vocalists during the poignant, final line, “Melody, Melody forever you and me,” serves to reassure the audience that the special bond the group shares with their fans will always remain.
NEW MEN clearly demonstrates what this talented group is capable of and aims to catapult BTOB from the ranks of underrated groups into mainstream success. At press time, the music video for I’ll Be Your Man has surpassed 5 million views, proving that these boys were truly Born To Beat.