[Review] MANIAC – Stray Kids

The comeback that finished off the busy week (but not the list of reviews of songs I intend to cover from the past week) belonged to Stray Kids, who returned with MANIAC, and their sixth mini-album, ODDINARY. This comeback follows Thunderous/NOEASY and their Japanese comeback single Scars, (which the group re-released in Korea as part of their SKZ 2021 compilation album). Unfortunately, their album promotions this time around has hit a speedbump, with some members testing positive to COVID-19, joining a string of comebacks and debuts that have been affected by the pandemic. At this stage, the members are all isolating and I presume (provided no one else test positive), Stray Kids will be back on stage shortly to continue promotions.

Right off the bat, I will say that MANIAC is not my favourite Stray Kids track. To me, it lacks the same flair and intensity that their other comebacks thrived on and is not as adventurous. But while Stray Kids does take a bit of a different approach with MANIAC and the fact that I am not heads over heels for it, MANIAC is still a great song. It still has some of the tropes that I would say are associated with Stray Kids, including noisy instrumentals, some boldness and a killer hook when it comes to the chorus (more on this in a bit). It also conforms to the current trends, with a funky tone hidden in the midst of the noisy instrumentation. The instrumental features various sound effects like birds tweeting and drills, which I thought were cool additions to the song. Very different in terms of connectivity, but definitely attention grabbing over the rest of the instrumental. As mentioned earlier, MANIAC doesn’t have the same intensity (that being said, there are still enough intensity coming from the song’s rap segments). But this allowed the group to showcase more vocals, balancing out the rap vs. vocals competition that I think is sometimes occurring in Stray Kids’ title tracks. I liked how the vocal moments felt clean, particularly the bridge of the song. As for the chorus, it was an impressive one. Felix and Hyunjin really stole the show with their MANIAC opening lines, while Hyunjin (for the first chorus) and Lee Know aggressively follows up in the second half. Overall, MANIAC still has that powerfulness to it that is Stray Kids known for, despite holding back on some aspects.

What a music video. For the most part, it felt like the members were quite aggressive throughout the video (which fits the ‘MANIAC‘ concept). But the plot twist the end with Lee Know simply installing the picture frame (instead of threatening the screen with the drill, which is what Felix did for the first chorus) caught me off guard. I am sure there is a reason to why the video ended this way and a story underneath all of this. Aside from that, I was blown away by the post-production and editing. Piecing this video together would have been a crazy task, especially with the transitions and such. But it definitely made the video look cool. I really like the camera tilting effect when it came to the choruses, and how the world flipped upside down for the second chorus (alongside the drill sound at that moment).

Before the promotions were put on hold, Stray Kids did film a few performances for MANIAC. And they are proof of another show-stopping and captivating performance from Stray Kids. It is so good that I cannot wait for them to return to the stage once again! Felix seems to be injured, which prevented his full participation in the performance. But I liked how they still weaved him into the performance. The sharp spin alongside the drill sound and the head screwing move was super amazing as well (‘blew my mind type’ of amazing).

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

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