For BoyNextDoor, ‘HOW?’ is a ‘perfect kitsch-core’ display of first love

For BoyNextDoor, ‘HOW?’ is a ‘perfect kitsch-core’ display of first love. Image: Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

BoyNextDoor members (from left) Taesan, Woonhak, Sungho, Riwoo, Leehan, and Jaehyun. Image: Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

As BoyNextDoor will celebrate their first debut anniversary in May, Sungho, Riwoo, Jaehyun, Taesan, Leehan, and Woonhak vowed to remain faithful to their goal of telling “very relatable stories” through their songs and keep growing not only as a group but also as individuals.

The KOZ Entertainment-helmed group, who dropped their second EP “HOW?” in April, took on the persona of campus crushes in their oversized shirts, denim jackets, and baggy jeans at a media showcase in Seoul, South Korea. Beyond their casual ensembles, BoyNextDoor was all business as they expressed their “kitsch-core” concept in the record and their excitement over their debut anniversary.

“‘Kitsch-core’ is actually a term we came up with that perfectly describes our album. It’s a combination of kitsch and norm-core, which means effortlessly cool. As BoyNextDoor, we’re known to be approachable and relatable,” said Leehan.

BoyNextDoor during a showcase for their second EP “HOW?” Image: Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

Meanwhile, Woonhak defined “kitsch” as “hip or extra,” as the group wanted to redefine the term into something more “approachable” in hopes of attracting more listeners.

“A lot of people might feel it’s not for them. But we want kitschy-ness to come across as approachable, grounded, and witty,” he added.

“HOW?” was created as a bridge between the group’s debut single album “WHO!” and their first EP “WHY…” as it’s meant to be a trilogy of youthful first love. The record contains the tracks “Our,” “Amnesia,” “So let’s go see the stars,” “l i f e i s c o o l,” “Dear. My Darling,” title track “Earth, Wind & Fire,” and an English version of the lead single.

Bringing the album to life

One of the key elements in the group’s album was telling the story of first love. An often overused theme in K-pop, Taesan said the group wanted to focus on the “frustration” and “heart-fluttering feelings” at the same time, instead of relying on one central topic.

“If you think about first love, you think about the heart-fluttering feelings and someone you can’t stop thinking about. That is exactly what we want to infuse with this album,” he said. At some point in the showcase, he clarified the album’s title track had nothing to do with the R&B, jazz band Earth, Wind & Fire, which gained a cult following in the 1970s.

“We want to liken the frustration of how people deal with their feelings on first love, and that’s why we thought of the uncontrollable nature of earth, wind, and fire,” he added.

One of the highlights of “Earth, Wind & Fire” was the sped-up melody somewhere in the chorus, wherein Taesan looked back at the time when they sang the particular part wherever they went. Jaehyun also noted that the song is meant to tell the story of a “protagonist” who’s confident but who “strangely struggles” with romance.

“We pictured someone as confident, but who strangely struggles with romance, and is a little bit flustered. Each member has their take on this attractive person. So for me, when I wrote the lyrics, I was inspired by the movie ‘Kingsman’ to infuse the song with a touch of gentlemanly charm,” he continued.

BoyNextDoor in a concept teaser for “HOW?” Image: Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

On the other hand, Sungho said their second EP is meant to be placed in the middle of the trilogy. “All of the members put so much thought into this album. We genuinely feel this fits us perfectly.”

“It’s at the center of a [first love] journey but we want to talk about the feelings of a breakup first because we wanted to tease people about what happened in between,” Sungho continued.

Touching on their upcoming releases, Taesan hinted their “next installment” will be another “relatable story” that is faithful to what the group stands for.

“‘HOW?’ could be a sad ending, but it could also be a letter to a lower. Sometimes, [love] could [make you feel] sad or mad. Sometimes, you would not know what love is. We want to provide diverse stories on how love can be,” he said.

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On their first debut anniversary

BoyNextDoor is the epitome of innocence through the stories and persona they share with the public. But a moment of vulnerability can be seen where they admitted that they want to remain focused on their goals as the group and their careers are “precious to them.”

“We always tried to remain focused on our music and every single stage. We will try to never lose sight of this feeling and keep on growing. We’re always talking about this amongst our members,” said Riwoo. “As we’re preparing this album, one of our major focuses is to stay healthy and last longer. During our past eras, I was reminded of how precious the members are and how precious our music is.”

BoyNextDoor performs at a media showcase in Seoul, South Korea. Image: Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

Taesan seconded his bandmate’s remarks, saying it doesn’t matter what kind of stages they would perform in the next chapter of their careers. Showing their personalities through music is what matters the most to them.

“We are so thankful to OneDoor to celebrate our first anniversary,” Jaehyun told reporters at the showcase while referring to their dedicated legion of fans. “For me, the most memorable day was our debut because I was able to meet my beloved members and beloved OneDoor.”

BoyNextDoor performs at a media showcase in Seoul, South Korea. Image: Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment

Jaehyun, who’s currently one of the emcees of the Korean music show MCountdown, admitted that one of his goals is to hand a trophy to his members as they embark on promotions.

“ It’s a blessing that I have all of these memories. I have one goal that I recently came to have because I’m one of the emcees of ‘MCountdown.’ I’d love for us to rank number one, and I would love to hand the trophy personally to the members,” he said.