K-Pop’s Gen-Z heroes Tomorrow X Together (TXT) return to finish off their Chaos chapter with a repackaged second studio album, The Chaos Chapter: FIGHT OR ESCAPE. Just under three months ago, the group released the chapter’s first installment, The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE, which landed a No.1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales in June. In these albums, members Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun and Hueningkai tell tales of youth caught in the midst of a faltering world, one that causes despair, anxiety and stress.
FIGHT OR ESCAPE includes three new songs in addition to the eight tracks released in FREEZE. Title track “LO$ER=LO♡ER” (LOSER=LOVER) is described as emo-pop-punk, but still carries the function of a love song, one that’s distinctively TXT’s. FREEZE’s title track, “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” also made an appearance, in the form of an emocore remix. Finally, the album also features TXT’s first song for their fanbase, MOA, called “MOA Diary (Dubaddu Wari Wari)”, a generously upbeat song reminiscent of their earlier discography. The members wrote the lyrics to express their love to MOAs.
The album titles from The Chaos Chapter might refer to the natural stress responses: Fight, flight and freeze. These responses are triggered by fears that we are conditioned to. Simply put, those things that we fear are perceived by ourselves, based on our judgements and experiences. So, perceived fears might be different between one person and another.
If a person responds to stress by freezing, they are protecting themselves and preparing to take action. One fear that the members might be talking about in FREEZE is the fear of love. “Anti-Romantic”, which for a time became a sensation on TikTok, begins with “I don’t know who loves me/And I don’t care, it’s a waste anyway/This romantic feeling/I feel a little scared”. Hueningkai even noted that the success of “Anti-Romantic” was due to the fact that we are unable to meet each other in person. So, these situations translate to feelings of longing for love, but not taking a chance on it because they don’t want to risk getting hurt.
Love, especially romantic love, is a fairly new theme in TXT’s discography, where previously, the group’s tracks mostly told stories of self-discovery and friendship. Novel experiences can be scary, especially when it comes to romance. Unlike in FREEZE, though, FIGHT OR ESCAPE no longer perceives love as frightening. Even the “fight” and “escape” mentioned in the new album refers to “fighting with you” or “escaping with you”.
New romance can invoke a flurry of feelings; it can be numbing and explosive at once. Expressions of new love may also come off as intense, as fans and listeners can tell by the lyrics of “LO$ER=LO♡ER”.
The song describes struggles to act upon one’s stressful realities (From rock bottom, crawling, fighting, bleeding, now I’m sick of it/Refuse, then I f***in‘ take it all), and desires to love (My hand clutching yours, it’s all banged up/It doesn’t matter when I’m with you).
In the music video, we follow individual stories of each of the members. There are a number of faceless girls, one accompanying each member (except for Beomgyu), on their journey of fighting or escaping. It seems that these girls are the representative “You” that the members want to fight for, or escape with.
Yeonjun also wrote his own rap verse for the song, and he credited the Netflix series The End of the F***ing World as his inspiration for it. Indeed, the two do bear some resemblance to each other in a way. For one, Yeonjun’s “If I’m with you, crashing is also beautiful” reminds me of the series’s male lead James, when he said, “No matter how bad life got, there’s always something good. You had to focus on the good.” When their world is in disarray, TXT has “You”, the savior of their story.
There is another quote by James that goes, “I’ve just turned 18. And I think I understand what people mean to each other”. This could mean the same for TXT during this time of their musical path. Since their 2019 debut with “CROWN”, they have performed songs about the discovery of the self and the world, as a young person in the 21st century.
This growth during adolescence is nothing without its intricacies. Nothing is simple or pragmatic about being young, and TXT’s discography encapsulates that with an admirable genuineness; no sugarcoating or fabrication. From relationships to imaginative worlds, they mold inclusive experiences of youth into their music and performances that are exclusive to their generation, because that is who they represent.
That is why this album, and The Chaos Chapter as a whole, feels all the more special, because fans are growing along with TXT, even during a time of chaos and uncertainty. And this step, of entering the new world of love and romance, is growth too. Could it be said, then, that the Anti-Romantics have taken their chance?
The Chaos Chapter: FIGHT OR ESCAPE is available to stream on Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify.