Here’s what it means to be TXT-esque
Myungseok Kang: The title of “Opening Sequence,” the first track off TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s new album, minisode 2: Thursday’s Child, seems to hold two meanings. The lyrics “this movie starts with a scene where we break up” allude to the idea of a breakup playing out like a scene in a movie, while the song can also be taken to play the role of the opening of the album itself. The song that follows is the lead single, “Good Boy Gone Bad,” where the boy in question is so hurt and furious he says, “I just kill me,” while later, singing in a sorrowful voice against the soothing piano of “Trust Fund Baby,” the same boy realizes what he’s done and punishes himself because he “can’t be a lover.” The last song on the album, “Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go,” is, as the title suggests, the story of the boy starting out on a new journey, but it is also an ending to the movie set up by the album that shows him moving on from the breakup (“I won’t cry again”) that he came to terms with in “Lonely Boy (The tattoo on my ring finger)” (“I can’t think about it again, I’ll just let it be”).
“Good Boy Gone Bad” tells the story of a boy who aggressively yells out that he’s ready to “just ditch it all.” The reason the boy has “gone bad” is because the breakup has forced him into an even worse situation. He becomes aware of his financial standing once again in “Trust Fund Baby”: “that shiny spoon has nothing to do with me” and “the name of a feeling emptier than an empty wallet.” Whereas he was unable to see the reality of his situation when he was so angry, now, with the blinding power of that fury dying down, he can feel it in his bones. The lyrics to “Trust Fund Baby” reference previous TOMORROW X TOGETHER songs, like “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” featuring Seori (“It doesn’t work whether I add or multiply / because every number’s a zero for me”) and “LO$ER=LO♡ER” (“Lover with no $ dollar sign”). The boy, with nothing but love to his name, might have thought things were as bad as they could get back in previous songs, but the worst was yet to come. Now he has no car, no money—not even someone to be with. Even the love is gone now. Each song on minisode 2: Thursday’s Child highlights one emotion, like anger or sorrow, allowing the album as a whole to gradually reveal the issues that arise from the boy’s emotional change over the course of the five tracks. Even if they make a new start as Thursday’s children, all the grief, pain and growing realizations will have left a lasting impression on them, like a tattoo on the ring finger. The boy loses track of the people he had been with and is now in a position where he can’t be loved or even remembered by anyone.
The group previously used a worry-free world in The Dream Chapter: MAGIC as a tool to reveal the darkness that lives on the inside, and began to take a look at and express the realities that lead to it in The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE. Now, in “Good Boy Gone Bad,” that turns into intense rage. In the process, the group traded the dark and complex trap beats that expressed suppressed anxieties in “Can’t You See Me?” for the hard rock and dramatic melody found in the confessional “0X1=LOVESONG.” As the group reaches a point of self-destructive rage in “Good Boy Gone Bad,” their sound evolves into sleek, sharp rock with an emphasis on its quick tempo. TOMORROW X TOGETHER organically weaves their tracks into album-length stories, then connects each album into an ever more encompassing narrative. The way the group’s visual aspects and music change with each album reflects the stories the same way music and art direction do for movies. And with each new album release, these elements accumulate to build the group up to where they stand today. The TOMORROW X TOGETHER we saw in their debut single “CROWN” and the one in “Good Boy Gone Bad” are entirely different. And yet, there is more at play here than a simple change from effervescence to darkness. TOMORROW X TOGETHER has forged through a wealth of stories between those two songs, and the group wears that narrative like a tattoo, one that continuously influences them as they move from fantasy to reality, love to heartbreak and community to isolation. Even with a simple change of their logo for each new album release, the group keeps people wondering what they’ll do next. This second installment of the minisode series clearly marks the end of the previous chapter, but also signals the transition to another. The peculiar, the different and the novel have piled up one after another, and from some point we have started to accept this as the true identity of TOMORROW X TOGETHER—and the exact definition of the term “TXT-esque” is being fully fleshed out.
Visuals X TOGETHER
Jiyeon Lee: The MESS, END, HATE and TEAR concept photos released in the lead-up to TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s latest album, minisode 2: Thursday’s Child, demonstrate the emotional changes a boy undergoes following a breakup. The MESS version of the photos, the first to be released, tie into the YOU photos, which were the last to be released for The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE. “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” (feat. Seori), the lead single off FREEZE, was about the redemptive power of love, but those objects which symbolize it are all ruined in Thursday’s Child, a breakup album.
While the MESS version uses the objets formerly shown in the previous concept photos to visually represent the confusing emotions the boy experiences, the END version, by contrast, removes them all. Everything that can be removed is: The background and props are extremely conservative, and even the group members’ clothes are white and simple. Instead, the pain and sorrow that follows a breakup is conveyed solely through their faces. Conversely, the HATE version captures an emotion bordering on post-breakup self-destruction. Each member expresses their fury in their own way, such as stomping on roses, kicking walls or gazing into a broken mirror. Finally, we return to focus on the inner feelings of the boys in the TEAR version, where close-ups of their staring faces suggest they are deep in thought. Just as the songs off minisode 2: Thursday’s Child—from the post-breakup blues of “Opening Sequence” to the journey to rein in those feelings down a “longer and more rugged road than the one before” in “Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go”—explore the process of breaking up, the concept photos were a way of giving fans an early look at what TOMORROW X TOGETHER would explore on the album.
Appearing to have been thrown out with the trash, the TOMORROW X TOGETHER members visually embody a boy abandoned after a breakup in their individual MESS concept photos. With their arms and legs stretched to unrealistic proportions and looks of futility or resentment on their faces, the feeling that accompanies a breakup is compared with that of a heartlessly discarded doll. Meanwhile, in the END version, color photos show them staring into the camera with reddened eyes, as though on the verge of tears, and black and white photos show them unable to fight back their tears any longer. They stare off blankly in this version of the concept clip, limp in a bathtub, as though drained of all strength, and wipe their unconscious tears away and shut their eyes tight, granting viewers an idea of what it was like when the concept photos were taken. With each version of the concept photos featuring its own unique set of images to tell the story behind a breakup, the members, too, make good use of their physical appearance and uphold the connections within the emotional storyline. For minisode 2, the members are both vocalists conveying the story through song and actors immersing themselves in each situation every photo brings, all supporting the coherent story presented through expressive music and photos. In “Good Boy Gone Bad,” for example, they use restrained movements and facial expressions to show the fury felt after a breakup, then capture the ecstasy of the latter part of the song in the way they move with their super long limbs in a burst of energy in the final chorus. The same goes for “Opening Sequence,” which makes use of elements reminiscent of classical dance to emphasize the movement of their bodies. It’s just one more place where minisode 2: Thursday’s Child excels. Like a boy who continues to grow after a breakup, TOMORROW X TOGETHER is passing through their breakup phase and expressing themselves in a wider variety of ways. One of the ways they do so is with their one-of-a-kind visuals, leading to the nickname Visuals X TOGETHER.
Wonyoung Na (pop music critic): Emo does not belong to a specific generation or era, or even be defined by a specific set of traits. Since the mid-1980s, when emo broke away from American hardcore punk in order to differentiate itself by seeking, as the name suggests, emotional sincerity, emo has consistently existed as a part of at least one style of popular music during every era, taking on places as varied as the Internet underground to the peak of the global charts. Using the tools of this subgenre resting somewhere between rock and pop—a space with a wide margin of overlap to begin with—emo soon came to serve one main purpose: to bring emotional sincerity to the surface.
The lead singles TOMORROW X TOGETHER put out in 2021 as they entered their The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE era took the sleek, smooth sound of The Dream Chapter: MAGIC and added a little of the sound of the electric guitar and loudness that comes with it to give shape to that emotional sincerity effectively through electronic music. Consider what TAEHYUN sings through hoarse vocals as they head into the chorus of “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” featuring Seori: “I know it’s real, I can feel it.” On the second album in the minisode series, Thursday’s Child, the desire to express real, raw emotion is represented toward the end of “Opening Sequence” through the conspicuous dark electric guitar, very similar to how it was in “Dear Sputnik.” The entire album exudes a type of rock-like music with distinct guitars layered on top of the dance rhythm so familiar in idol pop, as heard in “Good Boy Gone Bad,” with its emphasized dynamic changes in rhythm and the distant, sizzling guitar that comes to the forefront whenever the overall volume of the track dips low.
Of course, there are other tools available besides this grungy electric guitar for expressing emotional sincerity. As in the example with TAEHYUN earlier, there is no more effective way to express emotion than in the vocals. HUENINGKAI twists the old math formulas in “Trust Fund Baby” with self-defeating lines like, “lover with no $ dollar sign,” and, “It doesn’t work whether I add or multiply / because every number’s a zero for me,” the harmony and music adjusted such that it feels like something is missing the perfect way to portray the emotional vulnerability in the song. The track “Lonely Boy (The tattoo on my ring finger)” lands on a compromise between this vulnerability and sincerity by making the foundation of the song a trap beat built around a short sample of a clean guitar. Overtop of the beat is YEONJUN’s melodically autotuned rap and a lower melody, which are contrasted against HUENINGKAI’s high-pitched vocals during the chorus, so that, even with the song’s simple composition, the idea of loneliness unfolds in two complementary ways. It’s here that one might pose the question: Why is it Thursday of all days we see this emotional outpouring?
The chameleon-like rock and pop star David Bowie released a reflection on his past in the form of a song called “Thursday’s Child” in the late 1990s. Bowie bitterly murmurs, “Maybe I’m born right out of my time,” overtop the downtempo track—he’s Thursday’s child: someone who senses the constant mismatch between themselves and the time they find themselves in, except for when it comes to having a midlife crisis. TOMORROW X TOGETHER channel the same midweek day: a complicated Thursday that, like the song’s title suggests, means there’s still a long way to go, but also provides some time before the weekend. As the group passes their third anniversary together, Thursday is like a reminder of the first few chapters they have been through. Judging by the aforementioned lyrics HUENINGKAI sings, TOMORROW X TOGETHER might very well be “right out of” their own “time” in a minisode between chapters. Though relatively little time has passed since the energetic singles of last year, they must surely feel a sense of being mismatched with their time, as the lyrics at the very start of this EP emphasize: “it feels like I’m rewinding from the breakup”; “the opening sequence replays the incident”; “the calendar’s a backstabber.”
The closing track off minisode, “Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go,” is completely different from all the others, following the current disco trend with clearly aligned rock beats and textbook synths. It seems as though a need for reconciliation in a time of difficulty has come to TOMORROW X TOGETHER by force with this EP, and they try to channel these strong feelings into more positive ones in order to “keep in step with the days ahead of me.” After all, Thursday’s child still has far to go. Given the way the rest of the tracks off The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE—a series of catchy electropop songs like those found on The Dream Chapter: MAGIC—deviated so much from the lead single, maybe the mismatch between “Thursday’s Child” and the other songs on this album was to be expected. TOMORROW X TOGETHER is passing through chaos fairly late on this minisode and taking this as an opportunity to portray each of their emotions through a combination of electric guitar and vocals in greater abundance than on FREEZE. They transition those emotions—created in an attempt to rid themselves of the emptiness that comes from formulas that place disparate values on either side of an equation or simply multiply by zero and result in an empty value—to become a source of computing power to find the next value. And the next chapter will soon begin.