After making an unorthodox debut last December with the bold and boisterous “Happy Death Day”, Xdinary Heroes finally returns with more music through their first mini album, Hello, World! Their title track, “Test Me”, continues their punk and grunge rock sound, but this time, it’s a bit more refined and hook-heavy. More so, the music video takes a less morbid turn, showcasing the band’s origin story. At the end of the video, however, we are left with the question—are Xdinary Heroes truly heroes?

Hero and villain tropes are no stranger to K-pop music videos, so it is fitting that the band follow such a narrative to help us get to know who they are. “Test Me” takes a step back from “Happy Death Day”, wherein in the latter music video, the band is already performing in the ♭form, JYP Entertainment’s venture into lore-building. Prior to the release of “Test Me”, JYP dropped an intriguing video for the band entitled, “How to enjoy ♭form with Xdinary Heroes”, which almost sounds convincing that the platform actually exists. A week after, we are introduced to how Xdinary Heroes is formed through the said AR/VR platform.

This is where the story of Xdinary Heroes begin. The band fails to move on to the next round and then discovers that the band competition is rigged and the winner has already been decided. The boys devise a plan to hack into the system, which ultimately leads them to battle in the final round and be crowned as overall champion. While we love rooting for the underdogs—which the band seems to be—if they hack into an already rigged system, then the line between a hero or villain becomes blurred.

This hazy distinction between hero and villain becomes more apparent when taking into consideration Western pop culture elements in the video. When the boys were plotting to get inside the match list control booth, they uncover a replica of the building and its surrounding area. This followed the band’s group shot performing in red jumpsuits inside the train—both scenes reminiscent of Netflix’s Money Heist. Another detail is their rival, Roboctopus2, who seems like one of Spiderman’s nemeses, Dr. Otto Octavius or more famously known as Doc Ock. Spiderman is considered to be Marvel’s first antihero, and having Xdinary Heroes face off a similar enemy, they might seem to want to be perceived as an antihero instead. Last but not the least, the intro sounds like the titular theme of the James Bond movies. James Bond is a perfect example of an antihero with his characterization and intentions being morally ambiguous.

Whether heroes, villains, or antiheroes, Xdinary Heroes consider themselves as freaks and weirdos who refuse to conform to the norm. Everyone’s the same and they would instead march to the beat of their own drum. They tell off people to “mind your own business”. Even if the world goes on without them, it’s okay because they are enjoying their freedom.

Yes I’m a freak

When everyone else

Is laughing, I can’t myself

There’s an answer already

But go on, you can test me

Taking a closer look, however, shows the irony between the song and the music video. If the boys are confident to be themselves, then why hack into the system? Roboctopus2 rigs the system to win and gain validation from the crowd, so isn’t Xdinary Heroes doing the same thing as well? Unlike following a Robin Hood analogy, their motive for fairness is self-seeking that which begs the question if they want truly want to “fight the system”. They sing of themselves as rebels, but instead of leveling the field also for others, they only elevate themselves.

While Xdinary Heroes leave us with more questions than answers, “Test Me” is a feast for the eyes with its fusion of cartoonish, game-like, and futuristic details. The parody names of famous rock bands were a delight to guess (e.g. Betallica, Radiofoot, Funs N’ Cozy, etc.). The cityscape background looks straight out of something like Ghost in the Shell. The battle stage is fairly similar to concerts done in the metaverse. The CG is undoubtedly impressive and it is exciting to see how Studio J would further expand Xdinary Heroes’ lore and identity—whether heroes or something else.

(YouTube. Marvel. Pop Matters. The Pop Culture Studio. Color Coded Lyrics. Images via JYP Entertainment.)