Early 2000s nostalgia has hit us once again, with Paramore finally performing “All I Wanted” and bringing “Misery Business” back to their live shows, Tiktok filling up our For You pages with alternative, grunge, and punk rock aesthetics, and Xdinary Heroes has come back with a new album, hitting us with that “screw the system” mentality as the year comes to a close.

In my review of “Happy Death Day”, I noted that Xdinary Heroes has the potential to normalise the grunge and punk rock sound in Kpop, provided that they polished their sound a bit more. “Happy Death Day” was impactful for the first couple of listens, but after awhile, it slowly devolved into noise music that wasn’t exactly the most pleasing to the ears. Although there were high hopes for “Hair Cut”, it seems like the band still has a lot to work on.

Let’s start with the positives: Xdinary Heroes know who they are, and what they wish to do with their music, which is quite rare for rookies. Most of the time, we see rookies stumble a bit with their music, experimenting with different styles before they finally reach one that they are comfortable with. However, Xdinary Heroes already know what kind of music they want to make, as well as the direction they should go. This was very explicit in “Happy Death Day”, and were reinforced with “Test Me” and “Hair Cut”. “Hair Cut” is a mix of punk and psychedelic rock, and the band’s distinctive style is very clearly heard in the song. It is a comeback unlike any other K-pop group we’ve ever seen, and upon listening to it, one will be able to identify that this is a Xdinary Heroes song, no doubt.

Secondly, it’s great to see a band embrace their weirdness and eccentricity. “Hair Cut” doesn’t shy away from weird visuals and sounds, examples including hair coming out of a closet, or the extremely odd but catchy phrase, “Get a hair cut” that we hear at the beginning of the chorus. Over the years, K-pop has gotten increasingly “normal” with their MVs, and even though they have stunning visuals, they no longer had that weirdness that made viewers question what they were watching. Long gone are the days where Bigbang’s “Fantastic Baby” and Orange Caramel’s “Catallena”’s bombastic visuals dominated the realm of K-pop (you will be missed, but never forgotten), but Xdinary Heroes seem to be making a comeback with their unique clothing and hairstyle choices. Of course, the MV itself is still relatively “normal”, but it is so filled with colour and vibrancy that it vaguely resembles the craziness of the early 2010 MVs.

The horror movie-like visuals are definitely the best part of the MV, introducing elements of creepiness such as an incredibly huge evil clown entrance, or the close up shots of the members holding extremely sharp scissors, as if they’re about to murder someone with them. All of these shots are fun and terrifying at the same time, and it makes you wonder, “Are they really heroes? Or villains in disguise?” It’s a question that lingers throughout the MV, as you watch the members get fed up with the people around them, and the last scene is just the band in an empty amusement park that is currently burning up in flames.

Unfortunately, while there are good things to say about “Hair Cut”, there are also not-so-good things to be said. Much like “Happy Death Day”, “Hair Cut” is a hit or miss for listeners– you either like the song, or you don’t. “Hair Cut” is noisy, introducing a clash of sounds and melodies that work well enough to sound decent, but is unfortunately not polished enough to be pleasing to the ears. Once again, it’s shocking, bold, and unique, but that is not enough to make it a good song.

Next, there is something disingenuous about “Hair Cut” that makes it cringe instead of impactful. Sure, getting a drastic haircut as a way of gaining control over your life is something that everyone has experienced, yet for some inexplicable reason, it feels as if the members have never done anything drastic to their own hair– at least, not without JYP Entertainment’s permission. Maybe it’s because most punk rock bands were formed on their own, and were signed to a niche label or released music independently before being signed to a major label, but Xdinary Heroes does not have the same rebellious energy and attitude. In fact, it seems incredibly ironic that they have a “screw the system” attitude even though they are literally part of one of the major labels in the K-pop industry. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why their music and lyrics feel disingenuous at the moment.

Listeners of the punk rock or pop-punk genre tend to enjoy music that embraces the darkness and sadness, which is why songs like Panic! at the Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor” and Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” are so popular. They acknowledge the persona’s struggles and sadness, and it provides catharsis to the listener. It also feels like the singers themselves are being liberated as they sing their songs. However, Xdinary Heroes’ “Hair Cut” lacks in that aspect. Their other title tracks, “Happy Death Day” and “Test Me”, feel a little bit more authentic and fitting for the genre, but I suppose it is difficult to complain about the struggles that come with being part of the system when the system is the very thing that either makes or breaks your career.

“Hair Cut” is unique, that’s for sure. It’s a song that does not necessarily appeal to everyone, but it definitely does not lack in personality and attitude. While their commitment to the punk genre is commendable, and sonically “Hair Cut” is much better than “Happy Death Day”, more polishing is definitely needed.

Youtube; Images via JYP Entertainment