Fairly quickly after their debut, TXT found their sound. They carved a niche for themselves in the Gen Z, pop-punk, “shouting about societal failures and dancing while you do so” lane, and it was a good choice. Their vocals and songwriting lend themselves well to the paradox of youth–the passionate rage that makes them want to change the world does not always lend itself well to defined goals and concrete plans. Yet, TXT does have a brighter, more optimistic side; one that shines all the brighter for its scarcity of appearance.

From their first full album, The Dream Chapter: Magic, “Roller Coaster” is one of TXT’s rare love songs. It borrows decently from New Jack Swing, being particularly noticeable on the keyboard riffs and punctuating synth moments. Yet, it does not go full throwback, instead retaining TXTs overslick, synthetic production and keeping the vocals firmly in the upper register. There is a tantalizingly unfinished quality to the track, a sense of something bigger coming. This picks up on the lyrics, which compare the relationship to waiting for a roller coaster to drop–the anticipation, the risk, the knowledge of the drop’s inevitability, and the exhilaration of sharing those feelings with someone else. It is the perfect description of a new romance when everything is fun and the mundane has yet to intrude.

Also from The Dream Chapter: Magic is “Can’t We Just Leave The Monster Alive?”. An ode to childhood and the unpleasant inevitability of adulthood, TXT ask if you really have to abandon your childhood and take on the roles mandated by society like a knight has to slay a dragon. And while it can be interpreted as yes, and TXT are just stalling, “Monster” can also be read as no. The tropical house sounds may be relaxing, but there is a solid core that feels very resolute, particularly when paired with TXT’s vocals. They have the strength and determination to resist the fixed path and become their own people, not whoever they are told to be. It is harder, and they might fail, but the song still inspires the audience to try to leave the monster alive.

A breakup song might seem an odd choice for this list, especially one for a nonexistent relationship, but it is all about attitude. “Drama” opens The Dream Chapter: Eternity with a burst of slick, funky coolness. The piano bars, the guitar riffs, the handclaps building to a horn section, all backing TXTs sarcastic, ice-cold delivery; “Drama” is a musical victory lap, as it should be. TXT figuring out that a crush is not healthy, leaves them open to be used, and thus deciding to walk away is a positive outcome. Not every unrequited crush is a tragedy in need of mourning. Sometimes, the correct response to a toxic situation is a self-five and moonwalking your way out the door. “Drama” celebrates the success of breaking free rather than lingering in a bad place due to fear of failure or judgment.

So, including “Magic” from The Chaos Chapter: Freeze is kind of a cheat, as it was technically a single. But I’m sliding it in for two reasons. One, it is a second single primarily for the English market, and thus the exact thing a casual listener would not know about. Two, it is so happy leaving it off felt fundamentally wrong. “Magic” is an unrepentant slice of sugary disco-pop and is absolutely delightful. The unrepentant nature is truly what makes it work. “Magic” is TXTs sole silly love song, and they are leaning in hard. The falsettos are lighter than air, the intonation is sincere, and the groove is infectious and compelling, with enough bite to keep the track from being cloying. For three minutes, “Magic” makes the world melt away.

Rounding out the selections is “MOA Diary”, a literal love letter to their fanbase. While it is easy to be cynical about things like that, TXT’s talent for sincerity comes through again. Poppier and peppier than typical, there is still enough sharpness from the guitars to keep “MOA Diary” as recognizably TXT. It is also fairly low-key, a song to kick with a beer to, as rather than over-the-top acts of devotion, TXT are thanking their fans for showing up. In an era when fandom is often made competitive and exclusionary, TXT have chosen to highlight the truest form of fan support, and clearly mean every word.

TXT have carved their niche as alternative, rebellious, and angry, and it undoubtedly works for them. Yet, their few forays into brighter territory prove that they have the ability to do so, and to pack as much punch when they do.

(YouTube [1][2]. Images via Big Hit Entertainment)