Review: Farewell, The Chaos Chapter… Welcome, The Name Chapter
By Jaden Lam
Fourth-generation K-pop leaders, on January 27th, 2023, have returned with their fifth mini-album, The Name Chapter: Temptation. The new EP has already garnered a great deal of attention with 2.16 million pre-sales before the drop of the mini-album. The Name Chapter starts a new era for the early 20 year old boys of Tomorrow x Together, following their 2019 to 2020 The Dream Chapter trilogy and 2021 The Chaos Chapter albums.
Recently named as the Gen Z “it” boys, TXT released this EP to portray a coming-of-age story of growing up and leaving your youth behind. In an interview with J-14 magazine, Yeonjun, the oldest member of Tomorrow x Together ruminates over the message of the album, commenting: “You know you have to grow up, but growing up can be tough. Sometimes you want to take a while and stay in Neverland where there is no big worry. That’s what this EP is about. You fight the temptation to stay in Neverland, and in the end you say farewell because you know you have to go.”
The Name Chapter: Temptation reflects the recent maturity of Tomorrow x Together, as the youngest members had just reached 20 years old and are transitioning into adulthood. Not only have the five members developed as individuals and artists, but their sound has changed a lot over the years, starting with a bubbly and innocent teenage-pop in 2019 with The Dream Chapter, transitioning into pop-rock with The Chaos Chapter, and finally settling into a more vulnerable and dark theme with The Name Chapter. The new mini-album is experimental, giving us a taste of fresh styles of music TXT has never tried before and is driven more by emotions rather than catchy hooks the band is synonymous for producing.
The EP kicks off with Devil By the Window, an all English-single, the second English language song by TXT succeeding their 2020 release of Magic. The song has a creepy and sultry vibe that sounds similar to Billie Eilish’s melodic style. Even though it has hints of another artist’s genre of music, Tomorrow x Together still managed to make the song completely their own with their signature undeniably catchy melodies. The sirens in the chorus slightly reminded me of SEVENTEEN’s 2022 lead single, “Hot.” It could be a possibility that TXT got inspiration from their song as the two songs have similar vibes and their group is under the same company label as SEVENTEEN. This song proved TXT’s experimentation as the boys have never ventured into this genre before and it gave a completely fresh concept to the group. Overall, I was very impressed by the vocabulary used in this song. Words like “nuisance” and “crimson” were used in the song, words you wouldn’t even expect to hear in most popular English songs in the West. I especially loved the line: “A wolf in sheep clothes, his disguise.” The lyrics compare the popular idiom to a devil, which I found quite genius. Unlike most other K-pop English-language songs, their genre of music took a creative approach and did not try to target the American market. It does not sound like a typical upbeat K-pop song you’d hear on American radios as their preceding Magic did. I didn’t even notice the song was sung fully in English until I looked at the lyrics. To be honest, I like the ending section of the song better in their live performance than the recorded studio version because I feel like the transition was quite sudden and jarring to the ears with no context. However, when you watch them perform the song on stage with choreography and set design included, the changeup of the flow of the song is a nice break apart from the normalcy of the song. It feels especially more atmospheric with the fog machine. I feel like that’s what K-pop is known for though; the stage is a whole new experience for a song that you can’t get purely through sonics and it enhances the emotions you feel toward a particular track.
Sugar Rush Ride, the lead single of the mini-album, starts off with an upbeat summery vibe. It feels as if you are running through the fields on a hot summer day with your closest friends. Then, as we reach the chorus, it drops into a more sultry style as seen with Devil By the Window. The song actually makes a reference with the previous track with the whispering lyrics, “The devil said.” Sugar Rush Ride is a continuation of the first track, in which Devil by the Window tells the story of a young boy meeting the devil, and Sugar Rush Ride depicts the boy falling into temptation and asking the devil to “gimme gimme more.” The track has many different layers to it. The beat switches up unexpectedly at many points in the song and it’s hard to predict what will happen next, giving the impression of being on a rollercoaster or a sugar rush ride. If I’m being completely honest, Sugar Rush Ride is my least favorite lead single of any TXT comeback. The song is definitely well-executed and has a different and creative sound from the rest of the title tracks of all their other albums, and it definitely shows their creativity and experimentation. However, because Sugar Rush Ride was dissimilar from all their other previous releases, it took me a bit to adjust to this genre of song by them.
An album full of fresh genres and track styles unheard of by the TXT world, Happy Fools provides us with a sense of familiarity. Although the song incorporates new sides to Tomorrow x Together we’ve never seen before, Happy Fools gives nostalgia to their older styles of song, with the fun, playful, lighthearted, happy, and feel-good atmosphere. The collaboration between the group and Coi Leray was a perfect match. Her joyful rap style meshed well with the song and kept an overall cohesiveness to the track. The hook on the song “I’ll be the laziest superman, so follow me” is one of the best hooks I’ve ever heard, it’s sung in a light-hearted tone and super catchy. It excites the listener to sing along. Overall, the track was very well-written. It’s the only track on the album written by all 5 members of the group. We get a glimpse at their personal stories and experiences. They highlight how freeing it is to be a happy fool who’s carefree in a career that puts so much outward pressure onto them, but at the same time points out the downsides of having such a draining occupation. A particular lyric that sticks out to me that makes the song go from well-written to impressive is the lyric written by the member Beomgyu: “I’m like a butterfly. The honeybee who only ever works has no idea how pretty the sunset or sky is.”
Though the song may look lighthearted on first view, when taking a deep dive and analysis into the lyrics you realize the depressing and harsh realities of being an idol in the K-pop industry that usually forces their artists to work an average of 12 hours a day in the dance studio, whilst still attending school. The average age for a debuting K-pop group is between 14 years old to 20 years old. They do not allow a prospective Korean member of a male group to debut after the age of 20 because of the 7-year contract of a K-pop artist binding them to their group, and once the contract expires, they reach age 28 and that’s when they are enforced to enlist into the South Korean military. This means that all these K-pop artists are teenagers still juggling high school, or just graduated, starting their first year of college.
His personal and intimate lyrics aren’t an exaggeration. K-pop artists usually don’t get their first break until around 4 years after their debut and it’s usually only for a few days or a week. It's a heartbreaking lyric to read when you actually think about how tough it must be for him that he actually never gets to experience a sunset because he’s so cooped up becoming this perfect singer and dancer the K-pop industry expects him to be in order to be successful. This epiphany only causes me to love the song so much more.
Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock) perfectly embodies the mentality of teenagers and young adults: burnout and just wanting to be a rock. Out of all the tracks on this mini-album, I loved Tinnitus’ lyrics the most. It is so relatable across so many audiences. My favorite lyric is when they play around with the word rockstar and give it a new meaning: “If you remove ‘star’ from Rockstar, just a rock, okay?” It dabbles on the idea that once you take away the star aura around a celebrity, they are really just ordinary human beings like the rest of us, or rocks in this case. They, too, have moments of laziness or times where they mess up. It’s exceptionally creative, and I give props to the two members, Taehyun and Yeonjun, for participating in the song-writing process of this song. It’s definitely one of their best written songs to date. I think the tropical-like atmosphere of the song fits perfectly with the lyrical theme of the song, it gives off this childish, innocent bliss, and laziness vibe that this song tries to portray.
Farewell, Neverland is my absolute favorite song on this mini-album. I vibed with this song the most out of all the tracks on the album. The first moment I listened to this song, I immediately fell in love with it, even with the snippet in the teaser. The other four songs, I had to get used to first, but Farewell, Neverland was a love at first sight. The highlight, or killing part, of this song is undeniably “My Peter Pan.” I could replay that part a hundred times, and still be in shock at its beauty. The emotional longing in the deliverance of that single phrase won me over immediately. I could never get sick of this song on loop. Like their song I Know I Love You, it leaves you with a wistful and emotional impact.
With Tomorrow x Together embarking on their second world tour in March, following the release of their first project under the Name Chapter, we can expect many groundbreaking achievements this year from the young group. A day after the album was released, the members already started slyly hinting at future projects, claiming that Farewell, Neverland had strong ties to upcoming albums in this era. We can only wait patiently to find out.