[Review] S-Class – Stray kids

Stray Kids continues to rise in the KPOP industry, as evident by the success of the group’s latest release – their 3rd studio album titled ★★★★★ (5-STAR) and the title track S-Class. It has only been a day since the album and song release, but Stray Kids has managed to sell the most albums in the pre-order period than any other KPOP album ever. And the album sales thus far are tracking to overtake the likes of MAXIDENT (lead by the single CASE 143), which was also a record breaking album for Stray Kids as well. Today’s review will focus on the title track S-Class, with more Stray Kids related reviews on their way (based on how their promotions went under past album releases – i.e. music videos for side tracks).

It is needless to say that there is a lot going on in S-Class. It is pretty much Stray Kids’ answer to the current trend of MIXX pop tracks that JYP Entertainment has been experimenting with through NMIXX’s debut era. However, S-Class plays towards Stray Kids strengths, with the producers (which includes Stray Kids’ inhouse producing team 3RACHA) loading up the song with a lot aggression and intensity. In a way, I think this makes S-Class super bold and appealing. But it easily can slip into overwhelming territory, which was my first impression of S-Class (and the ongoing opinion of others). Luckily, the help of their promotional material prior to S-Class release and a number of listens since its release has helped reduce that overwhelming sensation. There were many segments that I found enjoyable in S-Class. Going back to the pre-existing promotional material, they really helped make the chorus of S-Class quite catchy (even before the song was released). A lot of the different styles within S-Class stood out to me, such as the dramatic opening that introduces you to Seoul and sets up the song, the melodic direction taken by the pre-choruses, the second verse’s callback to the 90s hip-hop, and the groovy influence to the start of the final chorus. All of this (including the parts that I did not mention), but not the 90s hip-hop middle verse, comes together somehow and melds into a strong track. That 90s hip-hop middle verse somehow is the outlier that just doesn’t fit in, but it still manages to work. Per usual, Stray Kids’ rappers really popped off in this song, adding energy to the song and making it even more intense. But for me, the vocals (courtesy of Seungmin, Felix and Bangchan) in the all English pre-choruses stood out for me, as they brought a crisp and refreshing tone to the song. Overall, I find myself enjoying S-Class.

Just like the song, the music video also has a lot going on within it. I did like how the video references the group’s past concepts of monsters, members as transitional sequences between shots and having misplaced people somewhere in some of the shots. It all helps gives the music video a sense of familiarity, whilst also introduces a newer concept. In this video, we actually see a battle play out with the octopus-like monster. But Stray Kids’ is not part of the battle. Rather the battle occurs around Stray Kids. Evidence of this can be seen in the second pre-chorus sequence, where Seungmin is dancing around with noise cancelling headphones on whilst the SWAT team was being eliminated effortlessly by the monster. That was hilarious to watch. Elsewhere in the video, the effects and post-production really makes this a bold and fun music video.

Once again, the group pulls off a cool and amazing choreography routine that is undoubtedly deserving of any choreography award when it comes to award season in Korea. The arm and footwork in this video is incredible. But the thing that really jumps out at me and sells the choreography the most was the intense charisma that all the members showed off on stage. It just makes the performance so riveting and serious.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 10/10

Overall Rating – 9/10

[Album Review] SKZ-Replay (3rd Compilation Album) – Stray Kids (Part. 3)

What do you mean today isn’t Friday? Apologies for the delay in posting the third and final part of the SKZ-Replay album review. I may or may not have slept when I should have been drafting this post. Anyhow, as started earlier this week, I began reviewing the SKZ-Replay compilation album. The album is split into two sides. The first side, known as the A-Side of the album, features the lead single FAM, a single previously unofficially released through a special YouTube video and 8 solo songs from each Stray Kids member. The second part of the album is known as the B-Side. And it consists of 15 songs from the SKZ-RECORD or SKZ-PLAYER web-series from a few years back. These songs have never been released digitally until the release of this album.

For the purposes of this album review, I have now posted the album review in three parts – Part 1 focused on the A-Side. Part 2 will focus on the first half of the B-Side, and Part 3 (this post) will focus on the second half of the B-Side. Also, there was no teaser images for this compilation album. So I have gone through and selected images from past promotions to serve as the featured and teaser images for the album review.

SKZ-Replay Album Cover

8. Alien (외계인) (Han Solo)Alien begins the second half of the B-Side. Han really pushes his vocals in the choruses, as if he wants to be heard. The song speaks about being lonely, like an alien who dropped down onto Earth (taken from Soompi). Wanting to be heard definitely makes sense in the context of the song. This stylistic choice, to me, feels impactful. His rapping isn’t as powerful in this song, as opposed to his other solo tracks on this album. I felt it was a nice choice to tone down the delivery, given the chorus. Otherwise, it easily could have been an overwhelming and full-on track. However, Han still manages to infuse emotions into Alien whilst rapping. I also enjoyed the chilled nature of the instrumental. (8/10)

9. Because (좋으니까) (Changbin & Felix) – Released on White Day in 2021, both Changbin and Felix adopt more of singing delivery to their rapping for Because, presumably for a softer and sweeter approach for the romantic day. However, this created more of a neutral atmosphere, and this ended up boring me. It doesn’t help that the instrumentation was pretty much bland, as well. The pair is more well known for their intensity and rapping, and if Because demonstrated anything, that is when they are at their best. (5/10)

10. Piece of a Puzzle (조각) (Changbin & Seungmin) – Unlike the preceding song, Changbin’s rapping is more appreciated. He isn’t as powerful like how he is usually heard, but his fast delivery in the bridge was a neat return to form. Plus, his other parts were likeable. Seungmin himself sounds charming throughout the song and does a great job of delivering the melodies of Piece of a Puzzle to us. Unfortunately, the combination of hooks and the instrumental just made the song feel overly repetitive, and this ultimately ended up being a lukewarm track. (6.5/10)

11. Wish You Back (Han Solo) – Han definitely dominates the B-side with his fourth (out of five) solo tracks. And I do think we are in a bit of a rut with another neutral track, Wish You Back. We do get some strong rapping from Han and the bass does help make the track a bit livelier. But the rest of the song was just plain (i.e. the autotuned vocals) and doesn’t live up to the other solo tracks he present us on this album. (7/10)

12. HaPpY (Han Solo) – Wishing a person, who is no longer by your side, happiness is the message behind the track HaPpY. Again, this is another dry track for me. The mid-tempo nature of the song was probably the biggest driver of this. The instrumental was pretty repetitive, as well. However, I did like the last moment’s push Han gives just prior to the song ending. (6/10)

13. Up All Night (Bangchan, Changbin, Felix & Seungmin)Up All Night features the most members, four in total. Latin influences feature in the instrumentation and there is a playful energy to the song that makes it a fun listen. Felix kicks off the song with a very seductive approach. Bangchan brings personality to his vocals, while Seungmin’s vocals had a nice easygoing vibe. Changbin was the weakest member in the song in my opinion, with the higher pitch feeling quite unnatural. The bridge with the deeper notes/bass was my favourite bit in the entire song. (7.5/10)

14. Drive (Bangchan & Lee Know)Drive is the other song that I mentioned in Thursday’s half of the B-Side review that is more recognisable than most other tracks on the album. The undeniable yet iconic sexy lyrics that I don’t think we know who of the pair wrote, the rhythmic and atmospheric hip-hop instrumentation, and the mature tone that both Bangchan and Lee Know brings just makes this a cool listen. I also like the smidge of upbeatness that Drive had, which is another appreciable energy booster during this part of the album. (8.5/10)

15. ice.cream (Hyunjin Solo) – The honour of closing the 25-track album goes to Hyunjin’s ice.cream. I liked the R&B nature of the song and Hyunjin’s husky vocals make the song charming. Don’t get me wrong, however, when I use the word “charming”. ice.cream is a very much bittersweet love song. Hyunjin also raps in the verses, and there is a nice showing of his rapping skills. The abrupt ending is not something I enjoyed and I think the song could have eased out to make the closing of both song and album more palatable. (7.5/10)

Overall B-Side Rating – 7.6/10 (this also includes song ratings from the first half of the B-Side of the album)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

Teaser Image from Stray Kids’ God’s Menu era

[Album Review] SKZ-Replay (3rd Compilation Album) – Stray Kids (Part. 2)

Yesterday, I posted the first part of a three part album review for Stray Kids’ 3rd compilation album, SKZ-Replay. That first part focused on the A-Side of the album, which featured the lead single FAM, a single previously unofficially released through a special YouTube video and 8 solo songs from each Stray Kids member. Today, I post the second part of the album review, focusing on the first half of the compilation album’s B-Side. As mentioned yesterday, B-Side consists of 15 songs from the SKZ-RECORD or SKZ-PLAYER web-series from a few years back. These songs have never been released digitally until the release of this album.

For the purposes of this album review, I will be posting the album review in three parts – Part 1 focused on the A-Side. Part 2 (this post) will focus on the first half of the B-Side, and Part 3 will focus on the second half of the B-Side. Also, there was no teaser images for this compilation album. So I have gone through and selected images from past promotions to serve as the featured and teaser images for the album review.

SKZ-Replay Album Cover

1. Zone (Bangchan, Changbin & Han) – Starting off the B-side of the album is Zone, which was previously revealed four years ago by 3RACHA. Personally, Zone isn’t my cup of tea. But it is decent hip-hop track that shows us who 3RACHA are and what they are about. The powerful energy they channel through this track is quite bold. Changbin, who has been nominated for Best Rapper in a few KPOPREVIEWED Awards, proves to me why he is constantly stands out and worthy of the award. (7/10)

2. Close (Han Solo) – Most of the appealing elements of Close comes from Han himself. The instrumental itself was pretty chill and lowkey. This allows Han to show off a deeper tone than what I hear from him usually, and his rapping was well done. I liked how he varied his delivery in the song, which keeps listeners interested in Close, rather than going from start to end in a flat or consistent manner. The song is about meeting stranger by chance, being drawn to them, and the desire to get closer to them. (8/10)

3. Streetlight (Changbin ft. Bangchan) – You don’t need to know the language to hear the heartfelt message and emotions that Changbin pour into Streetlight. But in case you are interested, you can read more about the song from Changbin himself in the linked SOOMPI article. I have opted to not summarise the meaning of the song into a few words, especially since it touches on the topic of seeking help and is already beautifully explained by the songwriter himself. As for the music, I liked how consistent the drumming is, and how beautiful the piano and orchestral influences are in the song. I also like how the instrumental doesn’t get into the way of the Changbin and the message he is trying to deliver. Plus, his flow and tone are quite impeccable. (9/10)

4. I Hate To Admit (인정하기 싫어) (BangChan Solo) – For this particular half of the B-Side of SKZ-Replay, I Hate To Admit is my favourite track. The way Bangchan delivered this ballad was so captivating and gripping. It is one of the songs where you need to stop whatever you are doing to take it all in. You can feel the heartbreak and heavy emotions that Bangchan relays to us. It practically pours from the song when it reaches its peak. The piano and strings were beautiful yet minimalistic, allowing Bangchan’s vocals to front and centre, which was an excellent choice. (10/10)

5. I GOT IT (Han Solo) – Again, Han focuses on raps in I GOT IT. In terms of instrumentation, it is a repetitive hip-hop background. Nothing really special. But that is not the reason why I like I GOT IT. It is more so the rapping that floors me. He really showcases his talents in this song. He shows off how expressive he can be and the fast tempo he throws at us is literally fire. The autotuned high-pitched rapping at the end of the song was very interesting, but charming in its own way. (9/10)

6. Miss You (꼬마별) (Hyunjin Solo) – This half of the B-Side has been pretty 3RACHA dominant thus far. It is not until the sixth track (this one, in particular) do we hear from someone else. And that someone is Hyunjin. Miss You is a song dedicated to Hyunjin’s first pet, who has since passed away. Miss You is a touching and delicately instrumented song. Not exactly ballad territory, but you can feel the reflective emotion behind Hyunjin’s raspy tone in the song. It is a comforting listen. Personally, Miss You is not a track I have gone back to since its initial release two years ago, but revisiting it was a pleasant experience. (7/10)

7. Maknae On Top (막내온탑) (I.N ft. Bangchan & Changbin)Maknae On Top is one of the two songs from the SKZ-RECORD series that is more recognisable then the rest. I.N is the main character in this one, with the entire song about him. I liked the colour and energy that the Latin influences bring. The combination of the influences with I.N’s playfulness makes this one fun and humourous track. And this effect is pretty much hard to avoid. Bangchan and Changbin also features in this track to help fuel the fun and humour, and the fact they feature in this track also helps reiterate the idea of the song that I.N is in fact the boss of the group. (8/10)

Overall B-Side Rating – 7.6/10 (this includes all songs from Part 2 and Part 3 of the album review, which focused on the B-side of SKZ-Replay)

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

Teaser Image from Stray Kids’ Mixtape: On Track era

[Album Review] SKZ-Replay (3rd Compilation Album) – Stray Kids (Part. 1)

As mentioned in my review for FAM song review yesterday, I will be posting an album review for SKZ-Replay. This is a compilation album, consisting of a total of 25 tracks. It is led by the Korean version of FAM, which also dropped as a single on the same day at the end of December 2022 as the album release. Due to the length of this album, it is split into two halves – an A-Side and a B-Side. A-Side consist of 10 songs – the single FAM, a single unofficially released by Stray Kids in a Youtube video and 8 never-heard-before solo singles from each member. B-Side consists of the remaining 15 songs, all of which have previously been released as part of SKZ-RECORD or SKZ-PLAYER web-series from a few years back. These songs have never been released digitally until the release of this album.

For the purposes of this album review, I will be posting the album review in three parts – Part 1 (this post) will focus on the A-Side. Part 2 will focus on the first half of the B-Side, and Part 3 will focus on the second half of the B-Side. Also, there was no teaser images for this compilation album. So I have gone through and selected images from past promotions to serve as the featured and teaser images for the album review.

SKZ-Replay Album Cover

1. FAM (Korean Version) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for FAM (Korean Version). (8/10)

2. Connected (Bangchan Solo) – Bangchan’s Connected is a decent all-English EDM track. The choruses were by far the most likeable moments within Connected, bringing some cool synths and effects to the song. This is in stark contrast to the verses, which didn’t have much going on and was pretty forgettable to me. Even the rapping in the second verse didn’t ping me as a strong element. On the other hand, Bangchan does a good job with his vocals. He shows promise, delving into falsettos during one part of the song. However, I think there is a possibility to strengthen the song with a more memorable hook or melody. (7/10)

3. Limbo (나지막이) (Lee Know Solo)Limbo is the main reason why I decided to write an album review for SKZ-Replay. I was (and still am) impressed by Lee Know’s vocals in this track, mainly because he usually isn’t known his vocals in Stray Kids’ usual releases. However, the push he gives himself in the choruses strongly shows off his vocals and makes the choruses a highlight for me in Limbo. I wished there was more to the instrumental and the verses, as they were more on the typical side and lacked anything interesting. But despite that, it doesn’t change the fact that Limbo is a standout for me thanks to Lee Know himself. (8.5/10)

4. DOODLE (Changbin Solo)DOODLE was a bit of a weird one for me. I remember thinking that Changbin’s solo was going to be an immature and childish sounding track, just based on the title alone. But surprisingly, it ends up being a heavy hip-hop track that shows Changbin’s rapping skills. The track itself has the message of not being set to the rules and being carefree, like a doodle we make on the page. His delivery was quite powerful, and adds to the heaviness of the song. There are some moments where it was quite textured and the intensity just hits you (in a positive manner). I do find DOODLE to be on the repetitive side, which is a bit of a letdown given how expressive the song is already. (7.5/10)

6. Love Untold (Hyunjin Solo) Love Untold is a mix of rock (gearing towards rock balladry territory) and hip-hop. Overall, it was a nice showcase of what Hyunjin has to offer when it comes to both rapping and vocals. However, I do feel like the chorus could have been better had be executed by a stronger vocalist. That being said, Hyunjin does show off his emotive and passionate side, especially when it comes to the rapping. It also helps that the melody of Love Untold is a lot clearer and cleaner. (8/10)

6. Run (Han Solo) – Han has demonstrated that he is an all-rounder over the last few years, and this made me curious to what direction his solo track would take. For Run, he chooses to showcase his rapping skills. I really liked his flow and the minimalistic vibes of the instrumental. It feels trendy and super unique. The deep autotuned vocals during the bridge of Run pretty much can be described the same way. Overall, I was impressed with Run and really enjoyed it. (9/10)

7. Deep End (Felix Solo) – Out of all of the members’ solo track on this compilation album, Felix’s Deep End was quite unexpected. It takes the form of a ballad. I really liked all the different vocal tones and variations he gives us throughout Deep End. He definitely utilizes his infamous deep and husky tone. But he also shows off so much more – like falsettos, a raspy tone and a set of smoother mid-range vocals. The instrumental is kept to a minimal with piano and the light presence of some other instrumentals, enabling the focus to be placed on Felix and his vocals. Quite a compelling listen. (9/10)

8. Stars and Raindrops (내려요) (Seungmin Solo) – I remember think how Stars and Raindrops felt like it could have been a DAY6 song. And knowing that he is a fan of the band, I do like how he drew upon his influence to deliver a strong track. I like how pleasant everything is, from the synth-featured band instrumentation, to his vocals, to the melodies of the song. The beat in Stars and Raindrops was also a nice change in momentum, given the preceding tracks. (9/10)

9. Hug Me (안아줄게요) (I.N Solo) – At first, I thought Hug Me was going to be an acoustic ballad with the way it started for some reason. But within seconds, as soon as I.N starts singing, the song instantly transforms into a pleasantly brighter and more cheerful number. The guitar work keeps the song grounded, while I.N’s vocals were sweet and loveable. (8/10)

10. #LoveSTAY – The final song covered on the A-side of the album (and this part of the album review) is #LoveSTAY, which is undoubtedly a love song for their fans. Musically, it is a ballad. Beautifully instrumented with orchestral touches and the vocals are so dreamy and touching. I really liked the way they ended the song, reiterating the loving and appreciation message they have for STAYs. Also, the group released a video for the song at the end of 2021, so check it out below if you missed it. As a recap, it features behind the scene shots of the members recording the song and snippets throughout their promotions/award shows. A nice nostalgic walk down memory lane for fans and the members alike. (9/10)

Overall A-Side Rating – 8.3/10

Overall Album Rating – 7.9/10

Stray Kids’ Teaser Image from the MAXIDENT/CASE 143 era

[Review] FAM (Korean Version) – Stray Kids

The Korean version of FAM was released last year as the lead single off Stray Kids’ 3rd compilation album, SKZ-Replay, which dropped as one of the last KPOP album releases of 2022. Since then, the song has risen to the top of my Weekly KPOP Charts segment twice this year – the 3rd weeks of both January and February. It is a bit awkward for a song to have been placed first on my own Weekly KPOP Chart segment to not have a review, so today I will be reviewing the single. This review will then lead into my album review for SKZ-Replay, which I have wanting to review for a while now. So keep your eyes opened for the album review (which will be split into three parts). But for now, here is my review for FAM.

Previously released as a Japanese single, FAM is very much a personalised song made by the group’s in-house production team 3RACHA for the group (and their fans). The entire lyrics of FAM were made of references to the members through nicknames, shouted names, descriptions and praises of each member. For me, fun is the main word I would use to describe FAM, matching up with the group’s personality when they are off-screen and not performing their usually intense title tracks. As for the music, it is an upbeat and lively electronic track. All members, including the vocalists, delivered their descriptions and praises of the succeeding member in the song by rapping. This adds to the fun side of FAM. All members were also heavily autotuned, which adds a bit of a quirky affair to the song and blends them into the electronic profile of the instrumentation. The choruses were also shared amongst the members and were the closest to feature some singing. Again, autotune was present here to match with the rest of FAM. But the choruses had a catchy ring to them FAM. Altogether, I found FAM to be an addictive track. It is light-hearted (despite the song being delivered in a not so light manner via autotuned raps), casual and fun track that pretty much speaks to the bond that Stray Kids have with one another and their carefree personalities that comes about when the members are not on stage.

The music video for FAM was an edited version of their encore performance during the second Seoul leg of their recent world tour. While this isn’t much to go on with, I do want to point out that I liked the post production of the video. It added some fun elements to the video, emphasised parts of the song and brought some much-needed colour. With the stage lighting and denim outfits, everything looked blue. So, the yellow was a nice way of offset and make it more dynamic. I also liked how the post-production also aided in the emphasis of the member that was in the spotlight for that particular part of the video.

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

[International Song Reviews] Stray Kids, WEi, OMEGA X

I think it is time for another International Song Reviews post, with the last one being from 10 weeks back and covering Japanese releases from THE BOYZ, BoA and TWICE. This time around, I will be covering Japanese releases from Stray Kids, WEi and OMEGA X. I would like to stress that these songs are from last year (not this year – I will get to them eventually), as I am still catching up on the many releases that I just didn’t cover last year due to time constraints. I am hoping for another post in a couple of weeks, so I am hoping I can get around to the 2023 release soon. But for now, here are my thoughts on Your Eyes (by Stray Kids), Maldives (by WEi) and Stand Up! (by OMEGA X).

Your Eyes – Stray Kids

Language: Japanese
Release Date: 1 June 2022
Album: Circus (2nd Japanese mini-album)

Your Eyes features a different sound for Stray Kids, who are usually known for their electronic dance tracks (see their lead single Circus from the same mini-album that features Your Eyes). It is a soft ballad that expresses their feelings about being in love and the anxiousness and happiness in their relationships. It shows Stray Kids in a more delicate manner, as one expects when it comes to ballads. The track is also purely vocally driven, and this allows the members to bring a sweeter colour and approach to their tone. The piano driven instrumental was soothing and calming. Altogether, Your Eyes was a dreamy number.

The music video is shot in a first person’s perspective, with the camera capturing the members who act as boyfriends to the person watching the video. I am sure fans have enjoyed this, as it gives them the opportunity of seeing the members up close and in such a loveable light. The video feels personal and works well with the song (in terms of both sound and lyrics). For me, I am not affected by this stuff. It isn’t my cup of tea, but I enjoyed watching the members smile and looked down to earth in this video. For Stray Kids, however, I can imagine this video coming back to haunt them (possibly a few years down the track where they are more matured). We have seen their reaction to the video at release. Just imagine the hilarity that would come about when they are reminded of the video’s existence later on in their careers. Their former labelmates, GOT7, also went through a similar thing with their debut teasers a few years back.

Overall Rating – 7.6/10

Maldives – WEi

Language: Japanese
Release Date: 11 August 2022
Album: Youth (1st Japanese mini-album)

WEi’s first Japanese single, Maldives, is a upbeat pop track that dabbles into some groovy territory with its instrumentation. The energy was great, and the vocals and rapping altogether was quite pleasant. It elicit feelings of a good time, which is the point behind the track – dreaming of paradise in the Maldives. However, there is a bit of typicalness to the song that held me back from completely liking the song. I felt like the producers could have done more to innovate Maldives into a better track. Maybe have more funky undertones to the song, or create a killer hook to the song to make it more memorable. As it is, Maldives is a fine song and a nice listen. But it quickly disappeared from my mind when it was out of my listening rotations (i.e. Weekly KPOP Charts segment on my blog, and I boil that down to lack of a memorable hook.

The music video is what I had expected. The video shows the members having a good time, spending time at the beach and in each other’s company. I am not sure if the group actually shot the video at the Maldives (I guess not due to the lack of scenery that would indicate a Maldives beach was chosen), but the beach location in which they chose felt appropriate nonetheless. Even the forest scenes we see in the video had a fresh vibe to them, something you would expect in Summer. The setting for the indoor choreography scene was pretty generic (I recognize the background from other videos) and I wished something better was chosen here. The choreography itself was also on the typical side. But I did like the fun and playful undertones present behind some of the moves.

Overall Rating – 7.3/10

Stand Up! – OMEGA X

Language: Japanese
Release Date: 24 August 2022
Album: Stand Up! (1st Japanese Mini Album)

Prior to the revelation that OMEGA X was being mistreated and abused by their former company (and the subsequent lawsuit ended in their favour), OMEGA X made their Japanese debut with the single Stand Up!. It is another fun dance track with funky and groovy undertones, making it super upbeat and suitable for the Summer season in which it was released in. The melodies and vocals were all very pleasant, as well, making it an enjoyable listen. Like the previous song above, I think Stand Up! lacks that memorable factor. Listening to the song now, I wished the raps in with a little more oomph. The track was pretty neutral overall, and I think some harder rap lines would have helped boost the song up and created a more eventful atmosphere. But what we got was still a great and fun listen.

Just like the music video preceding this review, this video shows the members having fun with one another at the beach. The main difference is that we get a different lead in – one of the members was bored of their original summer, and with the help of VR, he is taken to an alternative summer which was much more fun and exciting. This video also features some more urban locations, such as the skatepark and surfing activities, which do feel a little more summery. As for the choreography, I felt that it was light and flowy, whilst also being upbeat and playful.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Album Review] MAXIDENT (7th Mini Album) – Stray Kids

Congratulations to Stray Kids for being voted the Best Overall Artist and Best Male Group of 2022 in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. In addition to that Stray Kids also took home Best Stage Presence, Best Group Choreography – Male (for MANIAC), Best Electronic Song (for MANIAC) and Best International Song by a Korean Artist – Japanese (for CIRCUS). For more of the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards, click here.

It has been a long time coming, but here is the album review for MAXIDENT, Stray Kids’ 7th and their best selling release yet. I have been waiting a long time to actually sit down to review the album, but time and other things just got in the way. I have been actually been holding back on the album review segment as well, just because it didn’t feel right to proceed with the segment with listening deeper to MAXIDENT. Released back in October 2022 with CASE 143 as the title track, MAXIDENT went on to do over 2 million in album sales. And I think I read somewhere today that the album ended up being one of the best sellers globally in 2022. Massive feats for Stray Kids. In addition to CASE 143, there are 7 addition track (3 side tracks that I have reviewed in separate song reviews, 3 unit tracks and the Korean version of their Japanese single CIRCUS).

MAXIDENT Album Cover

1. CASE 143 (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for CASE 143. (8.5/10)

2. CHILL (식혀)Click here to read the full review for CHILL. (8/10)

3. Give Me Your TMI Click here to read the full review for Give Me Your TMI. (10/10)

4. SUPER BOARDClick here to read the full review for SUPER BOARD. (8.5/10)

5. 3Racha – The self-titled 3Racha track by the 3Racha producing team (Bangchan, Changbin & Han) should come as no surprise for being rap-centric song. 3Racha is a super intense track with the unit rapping about their success and achievements thus far in their careers. Based on their delivery, they each really showed their rapping potential in the song. Changbin is usually the member that I focus on, but both Han and Bangchan really showed their passion and skills in this song.  The ending did fizzle out the intensity and momentum that the three were hurling at us throughout the song, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience as they killed it in the song overall. (8/10)

6. TASTE – Lee Know, Hyunjin and Felix takes the album down a mature turn with TASTE. I really found the smoothness and mysterious tones to TASTE were strong characteristics of the song, and this adds to the sensual energy that the song delivers – I never knew organs can sound like this. Each of the three members stand out in their own way in the song, but I think Lee Know really takes the spotlight with his vocals. Given that the trio are also the members of the DANCERACHA unit, TASTE is well-designed for the trio and lends well to feature a memorable choreography routine thanks to the presence of instrumental moments for the trio to showcase something impact on stage and the intensity of the song. (9/10)

7. Can’t Stop (나 너 좋아하나봐) – Out of the three unit tracks, Seungmin and I.N’s Can’t Stop was my favourite. You might boil it down towards me having a bias towards vocalists per my past reviews, but Can’t Stop was quite an unexpected surprised. It was a simple pop rock that sounds so cheerful and had a great feel-good vibe to it. Can’t Stop necessarily didn’t show off both VOCALRACHA’s vocal capabilities, but it was a fun listen. And that I thoroughly enjoyed. (9/10)

8. CIRCUS (Korean Version) – The Japanese version of CIRCUS was previously reviewed on this blog. Click here to read that review for CIRCUS. (9/10)

I could not find the official audio for the Korean version of Circus, so I have opted to add a link to the Japanese version instead.

Overall Album Rating – 8.8/10

MAXIDENT Teaser Image

[Review] Give Me Your TMI – Stray Kids

The final Stray Kids’ side track to be reviewed this time around is Give Me Your TMI. It serves as the group’s third song on the mini-album, which is lead by their hit CASE 143. Alongside separate reviews for the title track, SUPER BOARD and CHILL that have already been posted, I can now officially confirm that the rest of MAXIDENT will be published in the coming days through a long overdue album review post. But for now, let’s have a deeper dive into Give Me Your TMI.

Give Me Your TMI was quite a punchy and a super fun track to listen to. Personally, out of the three tracks I have reviewed recently on the blog, Give Me Your TMI comes out on top, as the song is so expressive and there was never a dull moment in the track. I really liked the funky notes the song had, which gave Give Me Your TMI more character than if it went down just the glitch pop genre. The range of synths we got in the song were super cohesive and gave the song that punchy aspect. I particularly enjoyed the intense EDM breakdown we get in the post-chorus hook alongside Felix’s “Woo Woo Woo“. It was super catchy. The vocals and rapping were on par with each other, and both vividly took the spotlight. Changbin probably is my favourite KPOP rapper at the moment, just because I focus on him a lot in my reviews. But from the way he started off the song to the more intense oomph he gives in the bridge, he definitely showed off his skill set in this song once again. The vocalists had a really great chorus and pop melodies to deliver. And they practically nailed it. Even the low key moments in the second verse from Hyunjin and Lee Know were fun moments in the song. I also liked how the group sounds flirty throughout Give Me Your TMI, which goes hand-in-hand with the lyrics of the song (which I will speak to in the next section of the review). Overall, I find it hard to find an issue with Give Me Your TMI. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it is a song that I look forward to hearing when I relisten to the album or check out their discography.

Give Me Your TMI is a song about wanting to know more about one’s crush. In the video, the members are depicted as spy agents. But their mission is a lot more lighthearted than what we usually come across in movies or tv shows. So a lot of smiles and laughter being shared are seen in this video. I feel like the amount of barriers the members had to get to (i.e. the walls, caution tape etc.) represented the walls that their crush had put up, and the actions they had taken (i.e. gunfights, odd items that depict grenades, perfume that doubles as a smoke screen, hacking etc.) were all attempts to weaken said walls to get to their goal – to find out more about their crush. Clever and fitting way to depict the lyrics.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.6/10

[Review] CHILL – Stray Kids

Next up on the review block that belongs to Stray Kids is the side track CHILL, which comes from the group’s 7th mini-album release MAXIDENT from October of last year. As you may be aware from earlier in the week, I am reviewing the side tracks from the MAXIDENT mini-album that also got a music video release. This is all done in preparation for the upcoming mini-album review that is very much overdue at this stage. Previously, I have written reviews for CASE 143 (back in October 2022) and SUPER BOARD earlier this week. A review for Give Me Your TMI is also due shortly.

CHILL is a R&B pop song that has a particular stylish vibe and upbeat bounce to it. But this is at odds at with the messaging of the lyrics, which expresses the feelings about a relationship that has ‘cooled down’ (hence the title CHILL). Knowing this, it does put CHILL in an intriguing place. And if you know me, I like do that. On the topic of the instrumental, I enjoyed the details in the background. The synths sprinkled throughout the song gives CHILL more character, while the saxophone gave off a classy vibe that was so suitable for the song. As for the vocals, I would say CHILL is more vocally centric than usual for the group, as most of the members do gear towards a form of vocal delivery in the song. The melodies helps brings that aforementioned bounce to the song, whilst also a slight catchiness to the song that helps boost the appeal. CHANGBIN was the only member that had a substantial rap sequence in CHILL and his part actually stands out quite strongly to me. It added momentum to the song and also gave CHILL a dynamic punch, which helped heighten the appeal of the song. Overall, CHILL was a pleasant listen and was stylish and trendy track to enjoy.

The music video is set in an art gallery, with the members dressed in stylish suits/jackets for the duration of the video. I did find it interesting that all of the artwork they were looking at or featured in this video had something to do with water, which I guess keeps up with that cooler theme. But I am sure there is more meaning behind that. Throughout the video, the members were doing some random (but probably had some meaning) things. I guess they all relate somehow to the state of mind of members or the failing relationship they are in. I do think everything that they were doing (i.e. ice sculpting, setting off sparkers, creating the illusion of rain etc.) would probably make the owners (of that art gallery that the video was shot in) quite nervous.

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

[Review] SUPER BOARD – Stray Kids

Guess who is finally getting around to writing that album review for Stray Kids’ MAXIDENT (led by CASE 143), which was released way back in early October of last year. But as you probably have guessed, I intend on covering the side tracks that were accompanied by a music video before I actually get to writing the full album review. And kicking it off the road to the album review is the song review for SUPER BOARD, the fourth song of the mini-album.

Let’s get the catchiest song out my head. That way, the rest of the song/album reviews coming your way won’t be infected with the ridiculously catchy hooks that are a main feature in SUPER BOARD (more on this in a second). SUPER BOARD enters cyberpunk territory, which is new territory for the group entirely (as far as I am aware). Some bass is also mixed into the song to give it a stable foundation and this compliments the cyberpunk quite well. The combination definitely brings a breath of fresh air to the Stray Kids’ electronic heavy discography, emphasising to me that they are capable to adapting and showing variety (in case their discography has yet to demonstrate this). I really liked the intensity and punchiness the instrumental gives SUPER BOARD. And I also enjoyed the more punkish side of the group, in terms of sound. SUPER BOARD features a good showing of vocals and raps from the members, just like all other releases by the group. However, I did notice that the vocals were drowned out by the instrumentation, and it was hard to notice each individual member as a result. It wasn’t as bad for the rappers of the group, but it was also heading in that direction for them as well. What did stand out is the fun little speed car racing sound effects that the members vocalised in SUPER BOARD. it just adds a bit of colour and brightness to the song that otherwise could have come off as heavy handed. Elsewhere, the repetitive set of similar lines that makes up the chorus was really effective and keeps SUPER BOARD very much upfront in your mind. It is quite hard to shake off SUPER BOARD when you revisit the album/song.

Just like the song, the music video visually shows a punkish side of the group that I don’t think we have seen before. In addition to that, the music video features a range of scenes of them hanging out and having fun in a garage. And it does genuinely look like they are having fun and are up to no good. There isn’t much else to the video. So for me, this video was one of the types of the video that you kind of just need to watch once. Just a quick side note, however, but the drills and the colour scheme of the garage made be think of MANIAC. Not sure if this is intentional.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[International Song Reviews] ONEW (SHINee), Jackson Wang (GOT7), MONSTA X, aespa, TXT, Stray Kids

Finally getting around to another International Song Reviews post. I originally had intended to post one of these every fortnight since the start of September, but I have failed to keep up. So, I am hoping to smash through some of these as fast as I can, especially since I feel like the songs that I cover in this segment of the blog have been really forgotten (on my part) this year. In the last International Song Reviews post, I covered ITZY, Mark Tuan (from GOT7), Jackson Wang (from GOT7), CIX, Golden Child and Woosung (from The Rose).

This time around, I will be focusing on ONEW (from SHINee), Jackson Wang again (from GOT7), MONSTA X, aespa, TXT and Stray Kids.

Life Goes On – ONEW (SHINee)

Life Goes On is the title of both the lead single and first studio length Japanese album from ONEW, the leader of SHINee. It dropped officially back in July of this year. Life Goes On is a cheerful summery track that has a simple message – even in the most boring or hardest times, life will continue. It features a bright and up-tempo acoustic instrumental that really sets the mood and makes you look/think in a positive light, which is the whole purpose of the song. ONEW’s vocals were dreamy and light, and worked well with the brightness that radiates from the song. My only issue (and it is a minor one!) with the song is how it transitioned from the pre-choruses to choruses. The buildup in the pre-choruses was done well, but the chorus slowed down just by a tiny hair. It isn’t much and doesn’t ruin the song for me. But it is one of those things that now I have noticed it, it just stick out me every time I listen to the song.

As mentioned before, the song is quite bright and gives off positive energy. ONEW’s solo scenes are all shot on a beach on a very sunny day and the ocean is just so blue, a perfect setting for the song. Elsewhere in the video, we see actress Hinako Sakurai come face to face with a few hiccups in her day (knocking over a plant, bumping into people, nodding off, dropping her lunch). But while she does become upset over these events, she manages to still enjoy her day, as depicted by her bright smiles and dance scenes. We also see some sadness, so the video covers all bad moments that are possible, but her ongoing dance parties are a nice resolve to get through to the next day. Even the ending, where the world had disappeared, is passed off by her as another day or something to worry about later.

Overall Rating – 8.4/10

Cruel – Jackson Wang

Another July release, with Jackson returning with the single Cruel, another pre-release single from his second studio length album, MAGICMAN (which was later released in September). This time around, Jackson Wang delves into grungier rock territory with Cruel. Personally, I prefer the likes of Blow over Cruel, but I appreciate the nostalgia that Cruel brings forth for me (i.e. the grungy styled tracks from my youth). I also enjoyed the fact that the song is vastly moodier and darker than any song he has put out previously – a nice change to his music. The use of his raspy tone and the filtering of his vocals throughout Cruel were one of the highlights of the song. Another highlight was the way the electric guitar acted as nice detailing to the grungy tones of the song, balancing out the song.

The music video probably the best part of this release. And to sum it up, it is amazing. Essentially, Jackson Wang and the people we see in the video are demons who have wrecked havoc on the world. But now it is the fight of the fittest demon, with all of them fighting each other for ultimate power. Jackson, as the main character, manages to succeed in eliminating them all over a well choreographed sequence which also includes playing some of the other demons as guitars. He takes their souls and faces off the one on the throne, who appears to have overpowered him. But that twist ending where he reappears might suggest he has a few tricks up his sleeve. The setting and even their ashy appearances all worked super well in the video.

Overall Rating – 8.8/10

Late Night Feels – Sam Feldt MONSTA X

Late Night Feels was a fun number between Sam Feldt (Dutch DJ) and MONSTA X. I liked the groovy and funky instrumentation of the song, with the disco undertones and brass giving the song extra liveliness and additional colour. Late Night Feels‘ backing is also quite light and airy, perfect for the type of late night feels one might have to just have some fun and escape their troubles. Pairing up nicely with this element are the vocals of MONSTA X, who also add a further layer of brightness to the song with their higher pitched vocals. The simple melody of the chorus definitely caught on and I found myself humming the song to myself quite a fair bit after its release. Late Night Feels all came together to be a straight-forward and enjoyable track.

I recognized a few faces from the video including LeenaDong, Alan Chikin Chow and Brooke Monk. Essentially, they are treated poorly by their bosses, strangers and loved ones. Instead of continually putting up with such treatment, each of person are transported to a different world, where they are dressed in PJs, surrounded by dancers and neon lighting and get to have fun with some carefree (or awkward in Alan’s case) dances. Their peers end up joining them, and they also lose the serious tones we first saw them in and see them in a more lighthearted manner. The video definitely sums up the song quite well.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Life’s Too Short – aespa

aespa released their first English single, Life’s Too Short, back in June of this year. The single later featured on their 2nd mini-album, Girls, which I will be reviewing soon. Life’s Too Short is a mid-tempo R&B pop single with a simple yet breezy melody that draws my attention to the song. I quite appreciate this release, as it is vastly different to their main EDM-based title tracks, which can be overwhelming at times. Even though this is a pop track and doesn’t necessarily pack a punch like those title tracks I just mentioned, Life’s Too Short still manages to showcase potential behind their vocals, especially when they single together. It is all unfiltered and uncomplicated, which allows the listener’s focus to be just on the vocals. The pop instrumentation is quite light and pleasant, which in turn enables the vocals and melodies to do most of the talking.

Despite having seen this side of aespa through their past remake singles, I still find it weird to see the members in a more innocent vibe. I am just so used to seeing and thinking of them in edgy gear/concepts. But it is a neat change of image (even if it is brief). I guess even aespa needs their off days from their KWANGYA travels. I found the teenage-like concept the members take on board to suit the simpleness of the song. However, I did wish the music video was a bit more interesting, just to make it more memorable, as it is pretty dry for the most part. As for the choreography, it is nice. But pretty typical.

Overall Rating – 7.3/10

Valley of Lies – TXT ft. iann dior

Valley of Lies is also another July release, and features the likes of TXT and iann dior (rapper and singer). Together, they form a neat indie pop rock track that is very easy on the ears. There really isn’t much to this song, if I am being honest. I quite like the heavy presence of the strumming guitar in this song. I really liked the husky and raspy tones that both TXT and iann dior bring to the song, as it gave the song some grit and substance. Otherwise, I would have passed on the track and ignored it. But they gave me a reason to listen to Valley of Lies. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to comment on. This lack of talking points doesn’t mean Valley of Lies is lacking or boring. It is just a simple track that I enjoyed and I don’t think I need elaborate further.

We don’t get a music video for this release. But we did get an official visualizer, which in the grand scheme of things, acts as a music video. In this visualizer, we see an animation of a figure walking through the valley of lies (and at one point, flying through the sky). This appears to be in line with the song, which “speaks about a lonesome journey that one takes towards the end of a relationship, along a trail of countless lies”. I do want to know what the different backgrounds mean, as I feel they add more meaning to the video than meets the eye.

Overall Rating – 7.7/10

Circus – Stray Kids

The final release to be part of this post is Stray Kids’ Circus, their latest Japanese single, which was released in June. A Korean version of Circus featured as part of their latest mini-album, MAXIDENT, which I will be reviewing some time in the future. Circus is a hip-hop dance track that has is centered on a circus theme, which I thought was cool and unique. I quite enjoyed the release, as the members made sure it was dynamic and fun, whilst also trendy and modern. There were many good moments throughout Circus, like the circus theme coming through via the melody during the bridge and the whispery lines at the start of the choruses. There was also a strong showing of rapping and vocals from the members, per usual. But my favourite part of Circus has to be Lee Know’s line in the second chorus. It is super ear catching and goes back to that idea that the song is dynamic. I constantly replay Circus just for that moment.

Like the song, the music video features a circus theme and circus performers, alongside the members. But we don’t see just one set of the members. There are two sets of Stray Kids featured in this video, which instantly bring up the cool factor in my books. One of them are actual circus acts, while the other version of the group sneak in. By the end of the video, the two sides are performing together. Like the song, there are other cool moments in this video, but Hyunjin stole my attention with his visuals. As for the choreography, I liked how they interwoven references to circus acts into the music video. It keeps the circus theme going. I also liked how they kept it punchy and dynamic. I would have loved to see the four members (can’t tell who) do that spinning move they did at the back of one of the scenes of the music videos. That looked cool in the video and would have been super awesome to be pulled off on stage.

Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] CASE 143 – Stray Kids

Now onto the new releases of the week. There were a few comebacks that need to be covered, but I am starting off with the latest one. Well, because it is Stray Kids. That’s right, Stray Kids made their comeback yesterday with the new title track CASE 143 and their 7th mini-album, MAXIDENT. This comeback follows their MANIAC (Korean) and Circus (Japanese – yet to be reviewed) comeback from earlier in the year and their newest mixtape release, Time Out.

CASE 143 was a mildly confusing song at first. But the more listens I gave it, the more interesting and less confusing it became. CASE 143 is primarily a playful and fun track, but it also taps into the heavy hip-hop sound we got in MANIAC at times. The two don’t usually go together, but I am not surprised that Stray Kids made it work. The choruses is where CASE 143 is most playful and fun, with a descending melody that is, without a doubt, an addictive feature of the overall song. I also enjoyed how the lyrics were delivered in a syllable-paced manner, which added to the addictiveness of chorus and CASE 143. It does give off a repetitive vibe that might dull CASE 143 in the long run, but I am not too worried about this yet. The verses is where CASE 143 takes on that heavy hip-hop influence, which is pretty synonymous with Stray Kids. I don’t have any issues with the very contrasting sides of the song, simply because the lighter feel of the chorus allows the rappers to really be slightly more playful than usual with their rap delivery in the verses. Take Chan’s sequence in the second verse as an (extreme) example, which ended up gearing towards the lighter and perky side of CASE 143. Aside the rapping, CASE 143 also features some decent vocal moments that we don’t usually get in a Stray Kids title track. The vocal melodies in the pre-chorus and bridge were much smoother than usual and works well with the lighthearted side of CASE 143. Lee Know’s lines in the bridge in particular feel so lovely. The last aspect of the song that I really enjoyed was that entire final sequence (i.e. from the 3 minute mark of the music video), where CASE 143 pretty much falls into place and finishes off in a satisfying manner. Overall, a slightly different take on Stray Kids, but still a fun and addictive song.

Stray Kids continues to battle big monsters in this music video. Their Thunderous days saw them fight the Sound Monster. In this video, the police version of Stray Kids (the more serious side of the group) investigates and tracks down the Heart Monsters (not entirely sure if there is a name for them). These Heart Monsters appear adorable, but they seem to take over their host’s minds (i.e., the version of Stray Kids in more colourful clothing) by weakening them to be cute and also cause havoc (i.e., causing Felix to flip the table and the place ends up on fire and some late night graffiti). The police gets pretty far into their investigations and tracking down the liar of the Monsters, unplugging the power source of the Heart Monsters. But it appears the Heart Monsters have taken full control of the all versions of the members in the video. The appearance of the group at the very end (i.e. when they crash out the video/screen) maintains the serious side of the group via their black outfits, but the way the members carry themselves are lighter and carefree, which suggests that the Heart Monsters also got to the police version of the group. Aside from the plotline, the video features amazing post-production (i.e., editing and CGI), which adds that cute and playful side to the video. A great video, overall.

The energy and powerful side of the choreography peaks towards the end of the song (at the similar part mentioned above) and this serves as my favourite part of the whole performance. On top of that, I quite liked the waves in the earlier choruses and the 2PM Heartbeat reference in the choreography.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] Time Out – Stray Kids

As I constantly hinted throughout the last week when I was preparing for the group’s ODDINARY album review, I would be review Stray Kids latest release some time this week. And so, the time has arrived to review the group’s latest mixtape release, Time Out. This release unexpectedly dropped last week on Monday to celebrate four years since the naming of their fanclub, STAYs. Time Out follows the release of three other mixtapes from the group – Gone Days, On Track and Oh.

Stray Kids jumps onto the rock train through Time Out. There was a few aspects that I enjoyed about the song. The first is the intensity of the rock in this track. It brought forth a vibrant, bright and refreshing atmosphere, which makes Time Out suitable as a Summer season. I also like it how it is a different sound to what Stray Kids usually put out, so again it demonstrates Stray Kids’ potential to be versatile. The guitar work was extremely satisfying and packs a punch. In terms of vocals, I liked the liveliness that each member brought to the song. It is a different side to the group that we don’t hear often, as they are usually more serious and edgy. So this goes back to the point about them showcasing their ability to be versatile. I did like Changbin’s part in the pre-chorus. His vocals was very textured thanks to his raspy and deeper tone, and the energy he put behind his part in the pre-chorus made it dynamic and striking. On the more critical side, I did find the hooks and melodies to be on the weaker side of the spectrum, as they don’t come off as memorable. For Time Out, it is the praises for the elements above (namely the instrumental and Changbin’s line) that does this for me.

The accompanying music video is quite simple. It is footage of the members enjoying time with one another on the beach and at a beach house, which makes sense given the song’s sound alignment with the Summer season. It is great to see the members in a more light hearted and carefree manner, full of smiles and uplifting energy. It is very different to the darker notes of their music videos from their latest mini-album.

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

[Album Review] ODDINARY (6th Mini Album) – Stray Kids

Over the last week or so, I have been reviewing some of Stray Kids’ older (given that they did release new music at the start of this week – I will be reviewing it soon!) but recent releases. And this is all in preparation for this particular album review. ODDINARY is the group’s 6th mini-album, and was released back in March of this year. Headlining this mini-album is the title track MANIAC. But like their recent comebacks, there have been multiple music videos for different tracks as part of the promotions for their comeback. For this mini-album, VENOM, FEVER and Lonely St. all got the music video treatment alongside the title track.

But that is not all, ODDINARY also features 3 additional tracks (one full group and two unit tracks), giving this album a grand total of seven songs. And ODDINARY is another solid release from the group (though not their best to date). The tracks are right up Stray Kids’ alley and were all pretty much cool in their own way. There was a range of good to amazing tracks, with the mini-album containing another 10/10 track on this album, in my opinion. Find out which one by reading onwards.

ODDINARY Album Cover

1. VENOM (거미줄)Click here to read the full review for VENOM. (7/10)

2. MANIAC (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for MANIAC. (8/10)

3. Charmer – The first track on the mini-album to not get a music video is Charmer. I quite like this song for the catchy flute work we get in the instrumental-centric chorus. It is quite a focal point for such a hefty and serious sounding track like Charmer. The rest of the track falls squarely into Stray Kids comfort zone of hip-hop and raps, just without the noisy EDM that has become synonymous with Stray Kids’ title tracks. All of this is makes Charmer a strong track. There was also a great display of vocals, especially when all the instrumental was all stripped away. (8/10)

4. FREEZE (땡)Click here to read the full review for FREEZE. (9/10)

5. Lonely St.Click here to read the full review for Lonely St. (7.5/10)

6. Waiting For Us (피어난다)Waiting For Us is the first of two unit tracks. It features Bangchan, Lee Know, Seungmin and I.N, with the quartet giving us this atmospheric rock ballad. My first impression of this song remains vividly in my mind, simply because it was stunning the first time around and it still is! The vocal work in this song was spectacular and riveting, especially the harmonies during bridge. In particular, Lee Know genuinely surprised me with his ability to keep on par with the other members in this song. The melodies were so drifty, and I really liked the kick and amplification of everything during the chorus. It was all captivating, and that earns this song a 10/10. (10/10)

7. Muddy Waters – The other half of the group (Changbin, Han, Hyunjin and Felix) show off their rapping skills with this old school hip-hop track. Again, I am not a hip-hop or even a rap song person. But Muddy Waters was definitely cool and hip. I really enjoyed the jazzy roots of the instrumentation, which gave the song a golden and vintage type of feel. The members went hard with their raps, impressing me with their delivery. Altogether, we have a groovy and enjoyable track to round out the album. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

ODDINARY Teaser Image

[Review] Lonely St. – Stray Kids

The final track from Stray Kids’ ODDINARY mini-album to receive the music video treatment was Lonely St.. And so, before I can proceed to an album review for ODDINARY, I will also be reviewing Lonely St. in this post. It follows the release of music videos for VENOM, MANIAC and FREEZE. Following the album review, there will be one more Stray Kids review next week, for their unexpected release earlier this week. So keep your eyes out for that.

Stray Kids brings the emotions out with Lonely St., with the song taking the form of a ballad. But it isn’t your usual type of ballad, given the hefty pop/punk rock instrumentation and the use of autotune. I don’t mean to suggest that the song is a let down or terrible. It was just an interesting take on a ballad. Obviously, these elements to Lonely St. allows the song to fit the grander picture of ODDINARY, given that Stray Kids music is usually heavy on the synths and autotune and the three tracks from the album that I have reviewed thus far. As expected with a ballad, however, the vocals of Stray Kids are on full display and I quite liked the push the members give to their vocals. Also, the autotune usage was nice and all. It didn’t get too much in the way of showcasing the vocals – though I am always for dialing down autotune to hear a rawer approach to the vocals (such as during their concert). The rappers also have a push on their end, enabling emotionally charged sequences to come about and fit in with the rest of Lonely St. I feel the pop/punk rock instrumentation also enables this. I think the lacking aspect of Lonely St. are the melodies. I find them straight forward and I feel this straight forwardness I find the melodies to be straight forward and I feel this pretty much rubs off on the rest of the song. There is nothing wrong with being straight-forward, but I think Lonely St. could have used something more enticing in this department to be more appealing. I also thought the ending was too abrupt, which you know is something that I don’t personally like.

The music video features the members running away and being isolated, as per the title of the track. I quite liked the mix of studio and outdoor shots in this video, which made it more interesting than it should be. The grey palette of the music video also sets the tone for the video really well, complementing the likes of the song perfectly. The members’ acting was quite decent, as well. The only aspect of the video that I am not entirely sure of is the ending with Lee Know getting up (and all the members lying around him). The abrupt ending to the song does justify something to follow after the ending of the song, but what we got just raises questions regarding that end – like how did all the members get there and what does it all mean?

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.7/10

[Review] FREEZE – Stray Kids

It is time to review another Stray Kids release. But not the new one just yet. That is on hold until I complete the other Stray Kids Korean releases that I have passed over so far this year. Instead, I am prioritizing the side tracks from Stray Kids’ sixth mini-album, ODDINARY, that got the music video treatment, ahead of their impending album review which I am looking to (and hopefully post later this week). Last week, I covered their VENOM track. As for this review, I will be focusing on the release FREEZE, the album’s fourth track.

FREEZE is quite an aggressive and abrasive track (if not one of their most aggressive and abrasive tracks to date), something that is pretty much up Stray Kids’ alley. I am sure these are the first words that pop into most people’s minds. I also find it bold, dynamic and packed full of energy, the latter two being noticeably absent from the group’s first track on the album. Therefore, I quite enjoyed the likes of FREEZE. The EDM is, without any doubt, very strong, and I quite like the trap elements in the chorus. It is quite a centrepiece and definitely embodies all the adjectives that I have used thus far in the review (and possibly even taking them to the next level). I would also describe as the bigger picture that is FREEZE to be balanced. Interesting word choice for an EDM track like this one, but not once did I find the overload of synths and texture to be overwhelming. Per usual, the rappers definitely stand out in this song. They were rough and harsh, complementing the abrasive nature of the song. The vocals help bring a bit of relief, and I liked how they stayed on top of the synths. They easily could have slipped and been smothered by the synths. I like the smoothness from the ending, with that contrast being a highlight for me. I did think the ending was a bit abrupt, but I do understand that the nature of this song calls for an abrupt ending. It doesn’t make sense for a fade out to be featured at the ending. If anything, I wished the hooks were meatier. That was the only element I thought was lacking in FREEZE, especially since it relied so heavily on the instrumental for its memorable factor.

It seems like the group are going after the white coat gang in this music video, with half of Stray Kids going undercover into a meeting with said gang and the other half listening close by to the events of the meeting. Not sure if the group are like police, but based on the fiery ending, I don’t think so. An epic shoot out happens (though, I am going also going to describe it as impossible) and the members listening in rush in to provide backup. But the white coat gang manages to capture all of them, and tie them up. The gang then leaves the group alone in a warehouse. Not sure why there is no one watching them, but okay. Stray Kids find the green chemical that seems to be causing some trouble in the media (see the Korean news paper article at the start – I presume the white coat gang are behind such an attack). They then confront the gang and use the green chemical against them, causing that very strong warehouse fire at the end. But the ending seems a bit confusing. We close out the video with I.N smiling in a manner that is a bit suspicious (as if he is making fun of Stray Kids), while posing with a gun. I don’t know if this suggest that Stray Kids is after the wrong people, and should have looked internally with themselves. Aside from the plotline, there were some really great visual effects, particularly during the shootout scene.

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