When TXT debuted earlier this year, the conceptual differences to their labelmates, K-pop titans BTS, were immediately obvious. BTS was brought together around its rappers as a hip hop group, but TXT are a vocal-heavy, pop group. It also seemed like Big Hit Entertainment intended to stick with its formula of providing relatable music. At debut, BTS were the underdogs, whereas TXT are holding a silver spoon. Acknowledging these differences and facing them head-on, TXT presented a less gritty, more polished and cheerful take on youth than BTS did.
While BTS’s debut criticized society’s unreasonable expectations that destroy the dreams and hopes of the young (“No More Dream”), TXT’s debut explored the range of differences that hold us back from fitting in with others (“Crown“). TXT concluded that it is only when someone who truly understands us that we learn to see these differences as unique and precious. In The Dream Chapter: Star, a group of boys came together to chase a dream.
Continuing the story in “Run Away” (and possibly developing a tradition of long titles), TXT now celebrate the magic and endless possibilities found in being together with such friends. The Korean name for the title track of The Dream Chapter: Magic, is “Waiting for You at Platform 9 and ¾”. In a press showcase held ahead of the release of the album, Yeonjun explained that “Platform 9 and ¾” symbolizes a special hiding place where nobody but the persona of the song and his friends are allowed.
In those times, when tears come
Hold my hand tight, shall we run away?
In the hidden Platform of 9 and 3/4
We can only get through if we’re together
In the Harry Potter books, Harry is introduced as an oppressed and abused, but ordinary, middle-class boy. On learning that he is, in fact, special (“You’re a wizard, Harry!”), he escapes his mundane fate via Platform 9 and ¾ to a School that understands his true value, where friends and adventure come together along with magic.
The MV for “Run Away” is similarly set in a school. TXT, however, have not received any letters from Hogwarts (or its Korean equivalent) and are regular students in the Muggle world. Thus, while Harry may have escaped to school, the TXT boys escape from it.
The MV opens with each of the boys on his own, going about his regular school day. The song begins as Soobin puts on red-tinted glasses, and previously unseen magic spells and occult symbols become visible. The familiar world takes on a magical hue. What’s changed? Soobin is no longer alone, he is now with his friends.
The boys laze around (or dance) in the school grounds during the day, hang about the school’s rooftop at sunset and break into the school’s swimming pool at night where they eventually find a trapdoor to a magical hidden land.
They jump through the door, only to find themselves in a vast green space. The water of the pool floats above their heads. As they walk through it, they come across a large door similar to the one Soobin drew at the start of the MV, and when Yeonjun puts on his glasses to look at it better, it bursts into flame. Outside in the real world, the classroom too appears to have been engulfed in flames.
Two concurrent elements – fire brought about by black-rimmed glasses, and the visible presence of magic – abound, separating the boys’ time spent together from the time spent apart. Sunlight falls on the glasses, and heats up Yeonjun’s notebook underneath, which soon bursts into flames. Beomgyu attempts to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher and the book is ruined, but the fire burns on. The world beyond the swimming pool in which they dance is upside down. In the library, Taehyun reads a book titled “Put Out The Fire”. The school is covered in occult symbols, and on the rooftop, the fire extinguisher releases rainbows, not nitrogen. Heuningkai looks oddly dazed as he steps into water. There is a magical, green world underneath the blue swimming pool.
The references to magic carry across to the lyrics. The most noticeable nod is to Harry Potter,
Bibbity boppity, the train is about to depart
Bibbity boppity, to our magic island
After this tunnel
After we open our eyes
Our dreams will become reality
The train in the lyrics refers to the Hogwarts Express. The sound of “bippitty boppitty” lingers, creating an inexplicable sense of urgency to catch the departing train.
The lyrics also harbor a sense of impermanence. The persona of the song appears to be caught in a moment suspended in time, but soon to come to an end. Indeed in real life, the magic of friendship is often lost once adult responsibilities start to take over our lives. Many of us often wish we could rewind time and return to simpler days. The MV grants this wish by rewinding specific moments at the swimming pool.
When this night is about to be over
Turn back time, rewind
A forbidden game in this magic hour
A blue light will blossom
I wanna color the classroom with this sky blue magic
So the summoning spell can connect us together
These unsettling feelings are amplified by the theatrical elements of the MV — the threat of an unpredictable fire that cannot be put out, the thrill implicit in sneaking out of class, onto school rooftops and breaking into the school’s swimming pool, and the discovery of a trapdoor that leads to another world. Except in an opening shot of Taehyun, the school is eerily empty of students, teachers or any other people. Have the boys been at Platform 9 and ¾ all along, or do they enter it when they jump through the doorway at the bottom of the pool?
However, anything is possible when one is with friends who truly understand him/her. The sky is the limit. That their time together is magical and rife with possibility is quite literally represented by a burn on Yeonjun’s thumb. Flaming red and exposed at the start of the MV, it is covered by Boemgyu with a bandaid. At the end, we see Yeonjun open the bandaid and the burn has healed. In simpler words, TXT celebrate the magic of friendship, inviting their friends to “run away” with them.
Be my forever, call my name
Run away, run away, run away with me
To the ends of the earth, forever together
Run away babe, please give me an answer
Tell me “yes”, don’t say “no”
Don’t wanna stay, now let’s go
“Run Away” is a synth pop song bolstered by prominent electric guitars and high-pitched vocals. Musically, this is a crowd-pleaser. It offers just enough originality in its execution to keep itself interesting but doesn’t take any risks. The MV brings it to life, infusing the song with meaning that grounds it firmly in its professed concept.
What could otherwise seem like an overenthusiastic effort that needs to be toned down, makes sense in context: Big Hit is fond of trans-media storytelling. It found massive success with the idea in the form of the Bangtan Universe (BU) and is now adapting it to TXT. Similar to the BU, TXT’s MVs are clearly building their own Universe. Fan theories have already begun to interpret the elements cluttering the MV in various ways, and the TU is clearly on its way to becoming an alternate universe in its own right.
With “Run Away”, TXT build on the foundation laid down at the time of debut, to further carve out a distinct niche and identity for themselves. The story they are telling is cohesive, coherent and most importantly, unique in its execution. It will be interesting to see where TXT takes the story from here.