It’s (long past) time to talk about Stray Kids. In a world where Korean music tends to be placed under the supposed all-encompassing umbrella of K-pop, SKZ stands in a class apart from their peers. Need proof? Look no further than their second full length album, Noeasy.
Before we begin- yes, Stray Kids might fit the quintessential picture that Korean music presents with the eye-catching fashion and tightly choreographed dances, but their sound lends an entirely new dimension to the octet. SKZ is completely self-produced- the trio of Bang Chan, Han and Changbin (collectively known as 3RACHA) has writing and production credits on each of Noeasy’s 14 tracks and their vision is faithfully executed throughout.
The group introduced the record with a nearly 30 minute video breaking down the songs, which is easy when you figure how much of a hand each member had in creating the tracks. SKZ is a true outlier in their industry, not restricting themselves to strictly hip-hop influenced pop and instead experimenting with handcrafted beats, soaring ballads and plenty of rock instrumentals.
The title track, “Thunderous”, is an explosion of sound, while “Cheese” is a not-so-subtle middle finger to naysayers who call the group’s music “noise”. SKZ is a fourth generation group with a vendetta and it bleeds throughout this album. They’ve won their accolades (first place on heavyweight idol competition show Kingdom, anyone?) but they’re already looking past that to- as they’ve put it- Stray Kids World Domination.
Stray Kids has leaned heavily on EDM-style beats and drops since their debut, and while this album has plenty of that, they also branch out with rock guitars and a full quota of emotional ballads to tug on the heartstrings. Even if you don’t understand their Korean lyrics, the members are masters of conveying genuine emotion with their arrangements, and you’ll be left wondering what heartbreaking events led to the creation of “Sorry, I Love You” and “Secret Secret”.
“The View” picks up where In Life’s “The Blueprint” left off- both songs are a warm hug from an encouraging friend. The tail end of the album breaks the eight members into subunits with vastly differing themes. Bang Chan and Hyunjin explore their sexy side with “Red Lights”- a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack. Meanwhile, Lee Know, Changbin and Felix take us to the beach with the bouncy “Surfin’” and the vocal powerhouse trio of Han, Seungmin and I.N. reach the highest ceilings with the lofty “Gone Away”.
When you put everything together, Noeasy is a massive labor of love and undeniable skill from one of the hardest working groups in the Korean music industry. Watching this 4th generation group eschew genre and convention has led to the creation of some of the most innovative and compelling new music- and propels Noeasy into a contender for one of the best albums of this year.
NOEASY is out now!
Story by Olivia Khiel
Image courtesy of NME/Stray Kids