“In this world of zero/You’re my 1 and only”, sings South Korean group Tomorrow X Together (TXT), read as ‘tomorrow by together’, in the title track of their new album, The Chaos Chapter: Freeze. Released on May 31, Freeze is their second studio album, consisting of eight songs.
The group debuted in March 2019, and has since churned out some of the most unique sounds in K-pop. In Freeze, members Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun and Hueningkai did an impressive job at expanding their musical capabilities, from showcasing magnetic performances to participating in writing and producing several tracks.
Both conceptually and musically, this album is a fresh departure from their previous journey with The Dream Chapter albums: Star, Magic and Eternity. Listening to the new title track, “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)”, alone, already cements that idea.
Described by Hueningkai, during the global media showcase for the album’s release, as a pop rock track, “0X1=LOVESONG” introduces a TXT of a new, higher caliber. Along with an anthemic melody, the lyrics tells a heart-wrenching tale of a person in ruin, confessing love to their savior. The song features soloist Seori, whose vocals blend brilliantly with the TXT members’ and contributes to a dreamy post-chorus. The song also credits BTS’s leader RM as one of the songwriters.
Before, with The Dream Chapter, TXT delivered music that centers around the stories of friendships and coming-of-age. With charismatic tracks like “CROWN” and “9 and Three Quarters (Run Away)”, TXT chants on the pains, as well as hidden joys, of growing up. While ballads “20cm” and “Maze in the Mirror”, the latter crediting all the members as songwriters, softly speak of experiences surrounding love and identity.
Besides that, in the fall of last year, the group released an EP titled Minisode 1: Blue Hour, that serves as a bridge between the Dream and newly released Chaos chapters. Minisode 1 appropriately tells of the lives of teenagers amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic. “We Lost the Summer” is an upbeat song about the days that are taken away from us. The lead single, “Blue Hour”, depicts the time of the day where the sky is moving between light and darkness, illustrating a time filled with beauty and imagination, but also unfamiliarity, as Beomgyu told Teen Vogue last year.
Interweaving from that theme, Freeze is all about facing the unknown. “Anti-Romantic” is the first track of the album, preluding “0X1=LOVESONG”. A skeptical viewpoint of love and intimacy portrayed in this song is actually a response to a form of trauma caused by heartbreak and disappointment. The chorus goes, “Sorry I’m an anti-romantic/I don’t trust it anymore, romantic/That my heart will all burn away/And only black soot will be left, I’m afraid”. (All lyrics and translations courtesy of TXT translations.)
Freeze also delivers TXT’s first all-English song with “Magic”, a funky track capturing the euphoric feelings of first love. Coming in third in the album, this song takes an optimistic stance, a complete 180 degrees turn from the cynical “Anti-Romantic”; in this one, the members sing, “If you’ve got a broken heart just take a chance”.
“Ice Cream (Small Evil Deeds)” is a tricky one. With a cheery tone, the members sing “I scream/You scream/We all scream/For ice cream”, giving the impression of a fun, summer song. But then it takes the subject of ice cream to a whole other direction: “It melts and disappears/Like a dream/Unhappy/Like ice cream”, revealing its deceiving undertone. While Soobin said that the song has a “trouble-maker vibe”, those lyrics and the ones like “In my heart, secretly secretly/I pray for misfortune” might signify a darker meaning.
In “Balance Game (What if I had been that PUMA)”, TXT sings of having to make a big decision, all the while comparing the act as a mere balance game (a trivial game of “this or that”). With lyrics like “Don’t want to choose/I just wanna skip it”, it seems like a nonchalant (or maybe submissive) attitude towards a major life-altering choice. The mention of “PUMA” is reminiscent of the ending track of Eternity, titled “PUMA”, which also notes feelings of confusion and doubt.
“No Rules” also does its part in referencing one of the band’s previous songs, Magic‘s “New Rules”, a song about the desire to rebel and create a new order for themselves. Meanwhile, “No Rules” echoes Minisode 1’s themes of the isolation experienced during the pandemic. In a dreamy pop vibe, the members sing “I just wanna dance, dance until we can’t no more”. But then those lyrics are replaced with “I don’t wanna dance anymore” in the final chorus, expressing lethargy due to a monotonous routine.
The penultimate track is “Dear Sputnik”, which crowns Hueningkai his first producing credit. It sings of eternal and fateful love, switching between chant-like verses and an eerie chorus. Lyrically speaking, it breeds a similar, but lighter, feeling with “0X1 = LOVESONG”, in a sense that both speak of some form of devotion.
Freeze closes off with “Frost”. Musically, it’s very distinct from the other songs, alluding to an antagonistic, angry tone. Resembling the title, the members’ voices are broken, harsh, and emotive; you get a sense of frustration mixed with surrender.
This is where we get a sense of closure after the journey the members went through throughout the album. After the rollercoaster of emotions, the members sing “I’m hollowed out, once again”. From heartbreak to optimism to indifference, they are now washed with fatigue. They feel numbness, and are therefore angered and confused by that. The world outside has not changed, they are still alone, frozen in space and time. “In the island of dreams, only chaos exist”.
The Chaos Chapter: Freeze is available to stream on Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify.
Featured image courtesy of Big Hit Music