For a group that haven’t even reached their third anniversary, TXT (Tomorrow X Together) have established a very clear identity. There are three things you can count on from a TXT release: An emphasis on youth (whether cheerful, mysterious, or angsty), eye-popping choreography, and an excellent MV. This consistency, not to mention quality, has helped TXT to become one of the biggest names in K-pop’s fourth generation. 

Their newest comeback “Loser=Lover” (stylised as “Lo$er=Lo♡er”) not only lives up to TXT’s standards, it exceeds them. “Loser=Lover” may not have the technical prowess or flashy special effects of some of TXT’s past memorable MVs. But the comeback is magical in the way a release can only be when, against all odds, the perfect song, concept, imagery, and group all come together. 

“Loser=Lover” revisits and takes to the next level the emo rock vibes of “OX1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You)”. It’s a style that suits TXT better than any other they’ve previously tried, especially musically. TXT have been criticized, not unfairly, for failing to develop a signature sound. HYBE Labels’ tendency to drown all their artists’ voices in gallons of autotune is a major culprit. “OX1=Lovesong (I Know I Love You)” and especially “Loser=Lover” are a big step in the right direction. 

Rock instrumentation helps TXT’s always catchy hooks stand out from K-pop’s endless supply of hummable refrains. Even better, the gravelly vocal delivery that TXT are adopting sounds hyper natural coming from the members, much more so than the airy singing style they have commonly used. Everyone’s individual vocal characteristics are given space to breath, adding loads of personality to a song. This is perfect for a bold track like “Loser=Lover” and something that it would be great to see TXT continue to develop.

As is appropriate for a song that packs such a musical punch, the MV for “Loser=Lover” is full of extremes. In total jaded teen mode, TXT get up to all kinds of trouble, snatching brief moments of joy with their lovers and each other amidst the chaos. TXT aren’t going for a full bad boy concept here though. Instead, they paint a picture of a world that is so insane it causes TXT to plunge into volatile rebellion, rather than the other way around. 

This is especially true with the three younger members’ stories. Yeonjun and Soobin rob an ATM and dine and dash respectively, activities that are nonviolent but definitely reprehensible. In contrast, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai are practically forced into revolt by bad luck (Taehyun’s skateboarding injury) or bad adults (Beomgyu’s parent and Huening Kai’s boss). 

It feels intentional that this trio of extremely sympathetic storylines dominates the final half of the MV. If Yeonjun and Soobin don’t pull you in with their rebel charm at the start of “Loser=Lover”, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai will get you with their fight against the unfairness of life. By the conclusion of “Loser=Lover”, when TXT choose freedom over safety by driving off a cliff Thelma & Louise style, you’ll be all in on their youthful insurrection.

The lyrics of “Loser=Lover” say that what gives TXT the courage to throw caution to the wind is love. “This life like a war, I’m always the loser. You were my savior, no doubt” they sing. This romantic sentiment is the one aspect of the song that doesn’t quite work.

The MV hints at romance through scenes of the members with their girlfriends, including POV shots placing viewers in the shoes of said girlfriends. But TXT have always focused more on friendship than romance, and that still feels true here, as brought home by the final shot of “Loser=Lover” that sees them going for broke as a group, rather than in their individual coupled-up pairs. Romance isn’t off the table for TXT as a solid lyrical topic, but that part of “Loser=Lover” is underdeveloped. Still, it makes for a tremendous, pun-filled refrain: 

I’m a Lo$er I’m a Lo$er
Lover with a $ dollar sign is a Lo$er
I’m a Lover I’m a Lover
Lover with a $ dollar sign is a Lo$er

This catchy if nonsensical chorus also hints at a huge strength of “Loser=Lover”, which is how the song can be interpreted many different ways. There are tons of interesting threads to follow in “Loser=Lover”. It has elements of bromance, romance, emo anarchy, and even anti-capitalism.

Yeonjun and Soobin’s slightly darker misadventures both revolve around money, and the conspicuous use of the dollar sign in the track’s lyrics shouldn’t be discounted as a gimmick. In a recent interview, Soobin said “The reason we used the dollar sign in the title of our song is to represent the need people have for money. It also implies that while we dislike how much adults obsess over money, we dream big because you and I still need money”.

So, if you want a pop-rock track with thoughtful commentary about capitalism, “Loser=Lover” can do that for you. It can also be a stirringly romantic track, a light-hearted ode to rebellious youth, an anthem for angsty teen friendship, or just an entertaining K-pop song. “Loser=Lover” has all of that without over-committing to any of it. The track walks a fine line between being hyper-accessible and having a distinct personality, but it manages the balance, and the result is pure pop genius.

Another thing that makes “Loser=Lover” so good is that it is tons of fun. Likely, a lot of fuss will be made about how this is a darker concept for TXT compared to the cheerful, mostly family-friendly releases they are known for. In particular, TXT swear multiple times in “Loser=Lover”, a very fitting choice given the song’s genre, but an outlier in their discography and really most of K-pop. But make no mistake, “Loser=Lover” is the farthest thing from a downer you can find. 

Despite the heavy emotions of the track, TXT remember not to take themselves too seriously. The MV is full of playful details. There are big theatrical elements, like the kitschy stage TXT perform on that is pulled down a very Americana highway by a truck. There are also smaller touches, like how Yeonjun’s hair in the opening sequence mirrors the shape of the devils on his sweater vest. Maybe most importantly, the song itself leaves a very upbeat impression, driven along by a fast beat, punctuated by jubilant rock-style shouts, and filled with lyrics about seizing freedom against all odds.

“Loser=Lover” sees TXT play with several non-pop ingredients. But they are smart enough to never forget that what they are making is a pop song, and they embrace that fun-filled identity alongside their experimentation. Instead of creating a hardcore ‘down with the world’ anthem, TXT present an uplifting track celebrating youthful rebellion that will leave listeners feeling exhilarated. “Loser=Lover” is a better TXT comeback, and a better song period, because of this balanced approach. 

“Loser=Lover” is a great addition to TXT’s discography, and the treasure trove of smart choices that went into making the song bodes really well for their future. The group have never sounded better or been more distinctive than in this comeback. Like the car rising into the sky at the close of “Loser=Lover”, TXT are climbing up higher and higher towards greatness. 

(Maekyung Media Group, YouTube. Lyrics via YouTube. Translation via Soompi. Images via HYBE Labels)