By its very nature, the idea of organization by chapters is an intuitive concept. In TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s case, they began with The Dream Chapter and then moved on to The Chaos Chapter. While the word “chaos” doesn’t inherently suggest reality, growth or the end of boyhood, when it’s used as the title of a chapter following one called Dream, the two necessarily stand in contrast. It represents a transition from the world of a “hot summer / While we could not see each other / I grew up taller / My voice got lower” (“20cm”) to where “I can see the entire ending / It will be difficult, worse than a hangover” (“Anti-Romantic”). Here, the idea of a “hangover” actually creates a sticky situation. It feels like you could substitute it with the word “inebriation” instead—a juvenile phase when they’re no longer quite boys, but not yet adults.

The world surrounding me and even I myself are no longer the same as we were in the past, and we can never go back. To demonstrate the point, we can look at the T-shirt referencing the British dark comedy The End of the F***ing World in the concept trailer for TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s new album, The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE, and its lead single, “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You),” featuring Seori, as more than simply a fashion choice. James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), the protagonists of the UK series, take an unexpected trip where they experience life-changing events and discover how they really feel. James is only 18 when the pair’s escape comes to an end and they return to the real world, but he hasn’t really grown up. Needless to say, he can never be a young boy again, either. In “LOVESONG”,the ideas in the chorus of “lovesick” and “loser” are virtually tautological, and drives home the point the song wants to convey.

There was an era when the youth of its period defined themselves through music. As such, that “LOVESONG” reflects 1990s alternative and the emo sound of the 2000s isn’t so much a conscious choice as a matter of course. You may be wondering: What does the alternative/emo genre matter in 2021? That’s a valid question when asked about a traditional band. In the world today, artists like the former rapper Machine Gun Kelly and TikToker LILHUDDY symbolize the link between youth and the various types of rock. Visuals in the “LOVESONG” music video, like the speakers set up in the background of the earlier scenes and the grunge rock clothing in the second half of the video, are an extension of this trend. TOMORROW X TOGETHER are expressing something about that time between boyhood and adulthood—a visual demonstration of the way teenagers used to embody their emotions before the idea of individual genres emerged and each one began to symbolize something.

While the opening track and lead single of The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE introduce the concept and narrative, the tracks from “Magic” onward continue on from where the group’s previous albums left off. This duality can also be seen in the album’s visuals. Just as the concept trailer and the “0X1=LOVESONG” music video stem from one place, the concept photo and the “LOVESONG” performance stem from another, resulting in an album that is largely stateless yet one that gives shape to a vivid image of boyhood. The force which causes the two different stems and, therefore, the two different periods of growth to intertwine is a highly finished product. For example, the lyrics to “Frost,” a confession of inner chaos, are effectively backed by a melody that’s made unfamiliar thanks to the members’ unusually ominous voices as they oscillate between rock and hip hop. All that inner turmoil leads up to the boy’s earth-shattering scream in “LOVESONG,” uniting the album’s emotional strands. That’s why it’s important to present a collection of good songs. The industry isn’t as proficient as you might think at concentrating on one point the way FREEZE does.

To take things one step further, the rock music component of “LOVESONG” is reminiscent of the more contemporary approach that bands take to discard convention, with the leading examples being Radiohead and Coldplay. “LOVESONG” conjures up arena rock as a starting point not just because the grammar of K-pop presupposes a simple pop/rock combination or performance. The conventional wisdom is that TOMORROW X TOGETHER got their start in a manner entirely counter to the way rock bands do and yet they still arrived at the same place. With their sophisticated narratives and logically drawn musical conclusions, TOMORROW X TOGETHER knows what they’re talking about and who their message is meant for. In other words, Henry Rollins, former singer for the American hardcore punk band Black Flag, will understand when TOMORROW X TOGETHER wears a T-shirt in their music video of the band he once led.
Article. Seongdeok Seo(Music Critic)
Photo Credit. BIGHIT MUSIC