February 8, 2024
BEIJING – Officially debuting in 2018, BOY STORY was launched by JYP Entertainment and Tencent Music Entertainment Group. The six members, aged 16 to 19, are Jia Hanyu, Li Zihao, He Xinlong, Yu Zeyu, Gou Mingrui, and Ren Shuyang.
“BOY STORY is undefined, and its potential is unlimited,” said Jia Hanyu, 19, the leader of the hip-hop boy band. “Our slogan is to keep it real and always showcase and express our true selves.”
Although they are so young, they’ve known each other for almost nine years, having met during auditions.
Yu Zeyu, 18, was the first to be recruited into the company. He still vividly remembers his first encounters. “I first met Zihao in a park. He was already a great dancer at that time, and I was impressed. When I first saw Hanyu, he was dressed like a Christmas tree, wearing a green T-shirt, black shorts, and red shoes. As for Mingrui, I saw him in Chongqing’s audition and he was the only contestant who performed sitting in a chair, which left an impression on me. Xinlong was the first to take the initiative to approach me among all the trainees, and it was touching. Shuyang was the youngest contestant but was full of confidence while doing a locking piece, and I really liked the harem pants he was wearing.”
For Ren Shuyang, 16, he recalls some “painful” yet joyous memories. “When I was 9 years old, the older trainees often joked around with me. However, I was too little to understand and I felt like falling prey to the tigers,” he said. But they were all kids after all. “When we caused trouble or made mistakes, we had to do push-ups. And whenever our eyes met, we would start giggling immediately,” Ren added.
Over the years, the six have developed strong and deep bonds with one another. “We wouldn’t say cheesy words like ‘we’re family’, but we, indeed, are family, even though we’re not biologically related,” said He Xinlong, 18. “Every time I watch fan-made videos of clips from when we were little, I find the six of us super adorable.”
As a group of Generation Z singers, BOY STORY has been focusing the theme of their songs on growing up or upgrading oneself.
He believes that growing up is inevitable for everyone. “Even if you try to bypass it, you’ll realize you’ve only taken a detour. Eventually, you’ll have to deal with it,” He said. “I believe growing up happens when you learn to resolve issues in different approaches.”
In Jia’s opinion, growth is the by-product of one’s efforts, and sometimes it’s not even consciously realized or intended by oneself. “When you look back on a long period of time, you may realize that you’ve changed and improved a lot. But during that time, you’re simply working hard and doing what you have to do.”
To Li Zihao, 19, growing up may seem like a scary thing when a person is young. However, as long as one has a group of friends accompanying him or her every step of the way, it’s not a big deal anymore. “Everyone has to grow up eventually,” he said.
The story continues
The year 2023 was an important and eventful time for BOY STORY. It was the fifth anniversary of their debut and was marked by new accomplishments.
With the COVID-19 pandemic a thing of the past, they were able to hold concerts and perform at music festivals both in China and abroad. Representing China, they also participated in singing the official anthem of COP28, Lasting Legacy, on Dec 2, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“We’re heading in the direction of becoming mature artists, and we’re doing quite well,” said Yu. “However, we all feel that we’re not satisfied, whether with the results so far or with our efforts during the process.”
On Feb 3, BOY STORY released their third EP Ji, meaning extreme and opposites. As usual, all members participated in the production of the album which includes six songs.
Li introduced that the title song Alpha is about the contradiction of opposites.
“Contradictions are everywhere: within oneself, between oneself and the society, and even among the six of us,” he said. “We often have many emotions and thoughts, and we enjoy the collisions of these ideas. We hope this song can express these reflections and convey the message that as ‘alphas’, we want to dominate the music world.”
Li added that the album also includes two special songs that further illustrate the message of Ji. The first one is the production of the three elder members, including Li himself. It’s called Overheat, and the lyrics are distinctive and powerful rap. The other one is Lost, which is written by the three younger members. “It has a unique and softer vibe,” Li said.
While Overheat talks about ambition and greed, Lost depicts the double-sided nature of things, like freedom and being lost.
“If you only listen to the melody, it may sound bright and upbeat, but the lyrics are actually complex and a little dark,” explained Ren, who participated in the creation of Lost. “This is another contrast we’re trying to create.”
When it comes to the creation, the three younger members expressed that it was an excruciating process. Gou Mingrui, 17, for example, said it was hard to find inspiration.
“Inspiration doesn’t come as you wish. We had to sit in the studio for a long time, writing and deleting repetitively,” Gou said. “Shuyang is a person full of whimsy. He babbled strange thoughts and phrases nonstop for an hour that day, saying things like ‘a watch without a pointer’ and ‘endless sleep’. Interestingly, one or two of these ideas actually helped.”
Since this album is the first time they’ve introduced accompanying dancers, the choreography also posed new challenges for the group. And more complex choreography also means it’s more tiring when they perform live. But they all consider performing live as one of the responsibilities of an idol or artist.
“Every profession comes with its responsibilities,” said He. “For instance, students must study, and doctors need to help their patients. Our responsibilities include performing our best on stage, constantly learning and upgrading ourselves offstage, and conveying positive energy and a message to our fans.”
When it comes to this year’s goal, He said he hopes to collaborate with artists in other countries and interact more with the “Boss” — the official name of BOY STORY’s fans — both at home and abroad.
For Ren, he hopes that more people could learn about BOY STORY. “Some may have heard of us, but their impressions may be that of when we were still kids. I hope people can see how we’ve changed and what we’re aiming to become.”
In fact, when they were first given the name “BOY STORY” by J.Y. Park, co-founder of JYP Entertainment, they all felt awkward about it. But surprisingly, the name soon began to grow on them.
“Ten years, and 20 years later, even to the point when we have to walk with canes, whenever we get together, we’ll always be BOY STORY,” said Gou.