By Kya Brogdon | 7 August, 2023
After a strong debut at the end of March, KQ rookie boy group xikers is back with their first-ever comeback House of Tricky : How To Play. With double title tracks and a pre-release performance video, xikers fans (road𝓨) were well spoiled in the weeks leading up to the release. Containing six songs, this xikers album is a mix of their hard-hitting beats we’ve come to love from their debut, as well as summery b-sides that emulate the hints of a softer side of xikers we were teased in their first album.
The pre-release video featured the upbeat dance-heavy track, "Koong," which showcased xikers' incredible synchronization and dance skills. The energy style is similar to “XIKEY” from their last album, and the song is absolutely something I can see crowds going wild to at future concerts.
Telling the story of young boys who dream to become superheroes, the smiles on the boys' faces are infectious as you watch them perform. The choreography involves the boys playing with an umbrella, tossing it back and forth with such ease that it looks like magic. In the last 30 seconds (a classic KQ move), the boys transform into the masked heroes they spoke of being at the beginning. Although “Koong” is not one of the two title tracks, It was the perfect choice for a pre-release video to get road𝓨s even more hyped up about the album release.
The first title track is pop-punk inspired and features the already-iconic shout of “xikers!” to open up the track. “DO or DIE” explores xikers’ adventures in zombie-land as they once again show off their youthful energy and intense dance styles. I found myself humming along to the insanely catchy melody immediately after listening to it. Leaning heavily into the loud guitar styles of pop-punk music, the vocals have a tinge of squeak and roughness to them, especially during the chorus. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoy it, and I think xikers has taken this genre and married it with K-pop’s style of music perfectly. The bridge is a head-banger, and I can already see crowds jumping and moshing to this song in particular. Lyrically, the song is a perfect message for the youth of today. Encouraging listeners to take risks and seize every moment of life, the boys sing “Fight yourself 감춰진 / Enemy is 너 only / 이 세상 누구도 / 못 말리지 No one” (translation: Fight yourself, the hidden / Enemy is you only / No one in this world / Can stop me, no one”). They take the message of “do or die” seriously - “do” chase your dreams with passion and ambition, or “die” from thinking about what could have been.
The second title track explores more of a softer side of xikers—like we got in the change-up bridge of “XIKEY” from the first album. “HOMEBOY” is an intense shot of nostalgia. If someone could take what running in slow motion on the beach with your best friends at your side and bottle it into a song, it would sound like this one. Bright and colorful, “HOMEBOY” gives the xikers members a chance to show off their amazing vocals and explore a style we haven’t seen from them before.
The lyrics are inspirational just like “DO or DIE,” but with an air of comfort within them. The chorus reads, “We are so dang fine, 이 느낌, so hot / 모인 이 순간, 여긴 우리 ground / We are flying, we are flying / We will fly, homeboys / We are so dang shiny, 느껴지는 vibe / 모인 이 순간, 여긴 우리 ground / We are flying, we are flying / We will fly, homeboys” (translation: “We are so dang fine, this feeling so hot / The moment we’re together, this is our ground / We are flying, we are flying / We will fly, homeboys / We are so dang shiny, feel the vibe / The moment we’re together this is our ground /We are flying, we are flying / We will fly, homeboys”). They also remind road𝓨 that they are not on this journey alone, and that the members are with them. In the bridge, they sing, “때로는 따가운 시선에 / 괜히 아프고 힘들지 몰라 / Keep in mind, 알잖아 너의 곁에 / 같은 곳을 보는 우리가 있잖아” (translation: “Sometimes with a stinging gaze / I don’t know why it’s painful and hard for no reason / Keep in mind, you know, by your side / I’m looking at the same place / We are here”).
Having this message of confidence and comfort is perfect both for a rookie group like xikers - who are still so early in their career that they may need reminders that they aren’t in this alone - and for their fans. The song being on the softer side means that fans can listen to it when they’re in need of a boost but aren’t in the mood to listen to anything hardcore like “DO or DIE” or “Koong.”
Out of the three b-sides, I’m really finding it hard to choose a favorite. Each song follows a similar softer style like “HOMEBOY” and epitomizes the feeling of freedom and youth that is present in the entire album. “Skater” opens with an adorable quip of “Hey, xikers, already here / I know you've been waiting for us, shall we go? / Let me go, let me go, woah / I don't want you to let go.” “Run” encourages road𝓨 to take a journey with the xikers members and get out of their comfort zone. “Sunny Side” tells listeners to not spend their time worrying, and instead to live in the present moment and make the most of it.
Despite the difference in genre styles from Doorbell Ringing to How To Play, the notes of xikers shine through. In my review of their first album, I wrote how I could see them making a strong comeback with more traditional pop-sounding songs rather than their dance-heavy tracks, and I was absolutely correct. With such a vast and stellar discography already under their belts, I can’t wait to see how they continue on their rise. I’m excited to see which songs they choose to perform for their slot at KCON LA later this month, but I know whatever they pick I’ll be singing along.