South Korean rock band Xdinary Heroes has re-established their position as a growing contributor to the K-rock scene with their second mini album “Overload,” released on Nov. 11. With the title track “Hair Cut” detailing the ways in which a person must cut off negative feelings and anxiety in order to lead a more fulfilling life, the album is perfect for those feeling isolated by identity crises.
Xdinary Heroes — under JYP Entertainment’s sub-label company Studio J — has been making waves in the Korean music industry since their debut with the digital single “Happy Death Day” on Dec. 6, 2021. This song and the mini-album “Hello, World!” that followed enthusiastically established the band as trailblazers in the Korean rock industry with their fantastical “music hero” concept and upbeat rock sound. As their name suggests, the band members play “Extra Ordinary Heroes” in their music videos and promote the idea that “anyone can be a hero.”
With this mindset, Xdinary Heroes’ previous songs discussed the struggles of not fitting into a society that seems both insincere and judgemental and how accepting your individuality makes you heroic. In “Overload,” however, there is a noticeable tone shift as the group switches focus from external struggles to internal ones.
In an interview with allkpop, guitarist Jun Han said, “If ‘Hello, World!’ was an album that represented the beginning of [our] universe, ‘Overload’ is an album where we start to see the evil side within us and re-consider our identity as a hero.”
“Overload” starts with the track “Zzz..” — or “Sleep Talk” when translated from its Korean title. This is a song about feeling more at home in sleep than in the waking world. The song alternates between nonsensical lyrics, like “Banana is long, long, long” and “A wild goose, even if you flip it’s still a wild goose,” to give the impression that you’re listening to a person sleep talking, and wishes to stay asleep forever. This, along with the backing sound effects that fade in and out of hearing, creates a dream-like quality that is only broken when the song abruptly ends because of a ringing phone and an evil laugh — a transition into the next track, “Hair Cut.” Starting the album with such a fantastical concept works well to emphasize how sinister the next five songs sound in juxtaposition.
The title track, “Hair Cut,” on a surface level seems to only be about getting your hair trimmed. In actuality, however, the song uses the action of cutting hair in a metaphorical sense. In his interview with allkpop, keyboardist and main vocalist Jungsu said “’Hair Cut’ is a song that talks about cutting away the anxiety and bad feelings inside of you as if you were cutting your hair.” The song explains, then, that — like how hair covers our vision and blocks out light when it grows too long — negative emotions work internally to block a person from seeing the positive light of the world.
The song utilizes a mix-mash of tempos and volume levels to emphasize certain lyrics. For example, the repetitive lines “get a hair cut” are said when the chorus is slowed down and the instrumental in the background is minimal. It is only when the lyrics pick back up that the sound of drums and guitar is re-introduced — loudly and quickly. In addition, the sound of scissors being thrown and clipping hair works as transitions between verses in the chorus. The unique audio experience of “Hair Cut” helps to create an eccentrically creepy track.
After the title track, the remaining four B-sides call into question the band’s identity as heroes. “LUNATIC” and “Crack in the mirror” are by far the most rock-influenced songs on the mini-album, with intense guitar riffs and raw vocalizations taking up much of the listener’s attention. “LUNATIC” is also the focal song for Xdinary Heroes’ identity crisis, as the lyric “‘Cause I’m not a superman but lunatic” is emphasized as a part of the post-chorus.
“Ghost” sounds straight out of a Halloween movie soundtrack with its creepy whistling, distorted piano playing and melodic singing. The track personifies self-doubt as a ghost that mocks — singing “You really think yourself as a hero? / Ha, ‘Cause you’re not” — and footsteps that creep behind you. Finally, to round out the album, “X-MAS” uses elements from classic Christmas songs like “Silent Night” to create a suspenseful tale about hiding from a sinister force on Christmas day.
Xdinary Heroes is a band in the oversaturated idol industry of Korea, where dance performance is valued over the ability to play an instrument. Thus, creating an album about identity crises feels fitting. Especially with the knowledge that the mini-album was self-produced by the band and all six members contributed to writing “Hair Cut,” the struggles portrayed in these tracks must have personal relevance to the members of Xdinary Heroes.
Ultimately, “Overload” proves to be a no-skip mini-album that provides a unique sound in all six tracks. It can only be hoped that, in the future, Xdinary Heroes will be able to live up to the high expectations they’ve established for themselves and continue to tell engaging stories for their listeners.
Kaylie Harley is a 2022-2023 Copy Chief. She can be reached at email@example.com.