The Korea Herald


[Album review] Why Stray Kids are super rookie group of 2018

By Hong Dam-young

Published : March 28, 2018 - 14:25

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Stray Kids

“I am NOT”


Upon seeing the Stray Kids on a music chart, one may not be so intrigued to press the play button. One might think, “What a name. Maybe it is one of many K-pop rookie groups trying to ride the latest trends.” But hear the throbbing beats of “District 9,” from Stray Kid’s debut album, “I am NOT,” and one will be convinced it’s only a matter of time for this nine-piece act to rise to the fame level of, let’s say, BTS.

The reason for comparing Stray Kids with super star BTS lies not only in the rookie’s hip-hop laden musical preferences, but also the songs’ introspective messages and deliberately thoughtful lines. Just as BTS initially captured younger generations’ attention by projecting itself as rebellious schoolkids, Stray Kids solely focuses on its own issues on its first album.

And another reason: All eight tracks from the album are self-written and composed by the bandmates. Kicking off with a wailing siren, opener “Not!” is either a warning or an invitation to the band’s complicated inner feelings. Bangchan narrates in a low tone over dreamy cyberpunk beats, “When I look at me, I know I’m not me. We need to wake up and get away.”

“District 9” is the ultimate stress reliever, incorporating siren sounds, pulsating synths and rock-electronic dance music. The best part of the banger comes with Bangchan’s quick-fire rapping delivered in an off-beat way. His coarse rapping, akin to Ikon’s Bobby, plays a huge role on the rest of the album, balancing mellow vocalists like Seungmin and Woojin. Along with Felix, whose rapping is more toned down, the two rappers’ excellent sense of rhythm shines as a true gem of the album.

“Mirror” and “Awaken” are less aggressive than “District 9,” but dripping with defiant energy that will satisfy those struggling with self-esteem issues. “You Are Doing Well” and “3rd Eye” are soothing, while not missing out on the newfound trendy charm of soft rapping. 

Not a single song about unrequited love or a tough breakup can be found among the coming-of age compilation. And that’s part of what makes the rook group so potent and fresh. Without trying to project the image of sweet heartthrobs, they are attractive just being themselves.