Stray Kids, the next big thing in K-pop, are back


Kate Mcilhany, Staff Writer

Stray Kids are back at it again with their third mini album of the year. “I am YOU” is the third “I am” album in the series they debuted earlier this year. They are a promising nine member pop and hip hop based K-pop group formed from a survival show in late 2017.

The rookie group debuted with “I am NOT” on March 25 and came back with another mini album in August titled “I am WHO.” Both albums focused on the aspects of identity and reoccurring struggles. These albums hold a much bolder tone to them than “I am YOU,” which has vibes that are much more emotional, nostalgic even.

The group, though relatively new, are already well known for their heavy contributions in their music, pouring their stories and hearts into what they create. Bang Chan, the leader of the group told J. Lim. in Soompi publication, “A lot of groups these days compose their own music, and that’s what we do as well. We’re trying to differentiate ourselves in the music genres, styles, and messages we want to convey. We’re putting all of our sincerity into our music.” For their latest mini album, the group participated in writing and composing all the songs, especially the well known powerhouse trio 3RACHA (members Bang Chan, Seo Changbin and Han Jisung). The trio is credited with writing and producing the majority of the group’s discography and are perhaps the reason for the groups creation in itself.

Now getting into the actual album, the first track is the intro “YOU,” sung by Changbin, Jeongin and Hyunjin. With every one of Stray kids’ albums so far, I have found myself falling in love with their intros. This makes it all the more bittersweet knowing how short they always are. “YOU” intrigues me because as the song escalates it still manages to keep an almost calm vibe until the fast-paced instrumental following Changbin’s lines at the closing of the song.

Now at first listen all I could say about the title track was that it was a bit disappointing. Stray Kids’ two previous title tracks were much bolder and intense, and overall they had more of an imprint on me at first listen in comparison to “I am YOU” being much tamer in contrast. And yet, somehow they still are able to keep that unique Stray Kids sound to it. There is no way for me to describe that sound, but it is consistent across their discography. The more I listened to “I am YOU,” the more I came to appreciate it. The chorus is addictive and the lyrics hold sentimental meaning to the boys so there was no way for me to not like it.

For fans who prefer fast and more rap based songs then the title tracks from previous albums “District 9” and “My Pace” will be more their style. Even the music video gives off a sentimental vibe, with the choreography for the song shown in the video just when you’d expect. The choreography is amazing, and the boys did not disappoint with their delivery, and their dance moves left me in awe. The song was nostalgic and highlighted the group’s vocalists better than the other title tracks, but I can’t help but wish they did something more with the song.

“My Side” has to be the most intriguing out of the entire album. It was an amazing choice to begin the song off with Felix’s deep-toned voice, allowing that nice smooth intro to fade into the rap.  One moment you may feel at peace then suddenly the song shifts and the rap barges in without any bridge or transition. This may throw people off and ward them away from the song, but it will pull others in. The clash between heavy rock and a soothing beat fascinates me and though the combination can be awfully abrupt at some points, if you listen to the song enough you will become used to it. One of my favorite parts has to be the chorus, the way their voices rise with the music got me obsessed at first listen.

Next is “Hero’s Soup,” a ballad that does not have a rough side like “My Side.” The tempo seemed to have started off high and decreased throughout, which in the end allowed this beautiful fadeout of the song. The vocals in the song were exceptional and the pre-chorus is so fixating that it entraps you in this emotional R&B esque vibe. While not a bad song, this one simply didn’t stand out as much as the others.

Get Cool” is the odd one of the bunch and is probably among the top three on the album. It is the kind of song that is really only appropriate for certain moods. Do play “Get Cool” if you are trying to stop crying, though, because it will brighten your day. This uplifting and goofy song has a catchy rhythm and it definitely stood out the most. The background noises and shouts are perfect for the mood of the song and add this extra push to make it even sweeter.  From Chan’s dorkiness to Changbin’s sassiness every verse seems to shine with personality from the members.

“N/S,” the sixth track, was a risky move on their part. Although the group is acknowledged heavily for an insanely talented rapline, there has never been a Stray Kids song that consists of only rapping (with the vocalists included in that.) All in all, this was a risk well worth it and this song is definitely in the top three. The song is prominently hip hop based and definitely more of the style that attracted many of its fans in the first place. It is a must listen with a heavily addictive beat, and even though the lyrics are simpler than the average Stray Kids song, “N/S” is still incredible.

The next track, “0325,” alludes to their debut date on March 25 and the siren throughout the background of the song is a great reminder of their debut song, “District 9.” “0325” is a  combination between all the intros of the trilogy of albums “I am NOT” “I am WHO” and “I am YOU,” which allows for an incredibly interesting effect if you are an avid fan of the group. When Chan says, “This is our Start line” it references the unit 3RACHA’s song “Start Line” and also shows that this is just the start of Stray Kids’ career.

Lastly is a hidden track, “Mixtape #3,” a soft, endearing song in contrast to what the title implies and it may just be my favorite song on the album. The song is absolutely beautiful, with lyrics to go hand in hand with its sentimentality. The song speaks of uplifting those, especially the youth, who deal with the continuous stress of life, societal expectations and pressuring academics. In Changbins rap at the beginning of the song he says,  “So don’t worry you are already doing more than enough. We are still young, this can’t be the end. With the pain from the past we gain our strength again. Troubles bound to come, hold on, believe in yourself continuously.”

This is promising that you are more than and stronger than those who bring you down, that it is up to you to bring yourself up beyond the stress of school and the binds it may hold on us. The song also implies you aren’t alone. You have them and their words to inspire you to do so. Another favorite line being, “Blessings waiting for you,” which implies that even in the darkest of times, in spite of all of the odds against you there will always be that drive of hope, that spark. The song itself goes beyond just the lyrics for the combination of the instrumental and heartfelt vocals/rap really takes the song with its meaning to a whole new level. Together it reminds you that you are more than just a grade on a paper or a judgmental view from society, and Stray kids will be there to help you remember that.

There is no question why Stray Kids have already built a formidable fanbase in just one year. Their lyrics inspire Stays (their fans) to never give up, to be strong, and not to listen to the people bringing them down. Though they are a group seeping in talent across the board, they have that extra “snazz” needed for a group to truly succeed.