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Music Rewind 2023: Stray Kids Write Their Name Into The Stars

Music Rewind 2023: Stray Kids Write Their Name Into The Stars

If you thought 2022 was Stray Kids’ biggest year, you’re not ready for 2023. Every year, Stray Kids get bigger and better, and we’re seated for every part of it. Music, touring, awards, and everything in between, Stray Kids are truly everywhere, and we’re not complaining. In their sixth year as a group, Stray Kids achieved huge milestones, gave us fantastic music, established themselves even more as the massive group they are, and made our year all the much better while doing so.

Let’s go down memory lane and look back at everything Stray Kids has done in 2023 as we brace ourselves for the storm that will be 2024!

First Full-Length Japanese Album: THE SOUND

The year started at a massive high with the release of their first full-length Japanese album, THE SOUND. It included the title track, ‘THE SOUND,’ that celebrated Stray Kids’ unique music, mixing EDM with hard-hitting lyrics that encapsulated what they’re all about and their passion for their craft. Apart from including the Japanese version of some of their greatest songs, the album also included new songs such as ‘Battle Ground,’ ‘Lost Me’ (written by Changbin), ‘DLMLU’ (written by Hyunjin) and ‘Novel’ (written by Seungmin). This album alone showed us that this year would be their biggest yet.

MANIAC Tour: Encore

Unfortunately, everything that is good has to come to an end, and the Maniac Tour was one of those things this year. After kicking off their second world tour in 2022, Stray Kids went to even more places at the beginning of the year. They concluded the Asian leg of the tour and went to Oceania, making it the first time Stray Kids went back to Australia as a group since 2019. And we all know how special Australia is to Stray Kids. It’s literally their second home. It was special for everyone to see them going back there. 

Stray Kids embarked on the encore part of the tour, bringing them back to Japan and the US – making their last show of the tour in Los Angeles at the BMO Stadium, their biggest show in the US ever. It was the end of an era, and we knew something really big was coming after. We weren’t wrong.

Third Full-Length Album: 5-STAR

June 2nd is the day that rewired all of our brains as Stray Kids released their much-awaited third full-length album, 5-STAR, with as a title track, of course, ‘S-Class.’ And saying they took the world by storm again would be an understatement. At the time, the album broke the record for the most pre-orders, and it sold over 4 million copies in the first week. 5-STAR ended up being the third most-sold K-Pop album of the year. And Stray Kids landed, thanks to it, their third consecutive number 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart.

And 5-STAR truly deserved all the hype it got. It felt like ‘S-Class’ took over the world with its iconic choreography and catchy chorus. On top of that, this album embodied everything Stray Kids is about, yet it pushed the boundaries even further. ‘Hall Of Fame’ has to go down in history as one of their best opening tracks. 5-STAR gave us some incredible hype songs such as ‘Super Bowl,’ ‘ITEM,’ and ‘GET LIT’ (written by HAN). It also had some unique songs in Stray Kids’ discography, like ‘DLC’ (written by Changbin), ‘Collision’ (written by HAN), and ‘FNF’ (written by Bang Chan and Felix). 5-STAR also had the heartfelt track ‘Youtiful,’ their 2022 summer song ‘Mixtape: Time Out’ and the Korean version of ‘THE SOUND.’ But even more memorable was Stray Kids’ collaboration with the legendary Tiger JK in the iconic ‘TOPLINE.’ They really went from naming him in a song to sharing a stage at the MAMAs 2022 to having a song together. 

5-STAR was the era for Stray Kids. They put themselves in their own tier. They were right when they said they were special.

3rd Fanmeeting: PILOT : FOR ★★★★★

Another year means another fanmeeting, and Stray Kids’ third fanmeeting was nothing short of exceptional. And like every fanmeeting, the setlist was extra special. They performed songs we never thought they would perform again, like their 2019 OST ‘Neverending Story,’ and their 2019 title track ‘Levanter.’ They also performed’ Hello Stranger’ for the first time – which we also never thought would ever happen – and premiered the full performance of ‘ITEM.’ 

But fanmeeting also means special surprises other than the setlist itself. We all know Stray Kids is a group full of all-rounders, and they made sure to showcase that as they performed their ODDINARY unit songs, ‘Muddy Water’ and ‘Waiting For Us,’ but with a twist. The ‘Muddy Water’ team – Changbin, Hyunjin, HAN, and Felix – sang ‘Waiting For Us,’ and the ‘Waiting For Us’ team – Chan, Lee Know, Seungmin, and I.N – made their rendition of ‘Muddy Water.’ It was fun, iconic, and one of their most impressive and memorable performances, as each member was able to showcase new sides of their talent.

We also had some fun segments thanks to Jaejae, who was again the MC this year. Stray Kids even had some more other unit moments. How can we forget 3RACHA’s first live performance of ‘HEYDAY?’ Meanwhile, the other members did dance covers that still live rent-free in our minds, with Lee Know and Hyunjin dancing to the iconic ‘Troublemaker’ by Hyuna and Hyeusung, and Felix, Seungmin and I.N dancing to SHINee’s ‘Replay.’

Some of our favorite Stray Kids moments of the year happen in this fanmeeting. Needless to say, they were nights to be remembered.

Lollapalooza Paris

Stray Kids made history this year when they became the first K-Pop group ever to headline Lollapalooza in Paris. This festival needs no introduction; it is one of the most well-known festivals of all time, and Stray Kids absolutely killed it. They performed in front of around 50k people, making it one of the biggest crowds they’ve ever performed in front of. And the setlist wasn’t short of surprises as they performed live for the first time ‘Super Bowl’ and ‘TOPLINE’ – and it led to truly legendary performances. Lollapalooza was their first proper show in Europe since 2019, and it had people coming from all over the continent and the world to see them. This event will go down in history as one of the most critical moments of Stray Kids’ career. There’s no use denying it: Stray Kids is now one of the biggest groups out there.

1st Japanese EP: Super Bowl / Social Path (ft. LiSA)

A comeback, a fanmeeting, and a festival later, Stray Kids were far from slowing down. Stray Kids released their second Japanese comeback of the year with Super Bowl / Social Path. As the name indicates, this comeback had two title tracks: the Japanese version of ‘Super Bowl,’ and their collaboration with the Japanese singer LiSA in ‘Social Path.’ The EP also included the bossa nova adjacent track ‘Butterflies’ as a b-side. 

Just like with Tiger JK, this collaboration was extra special because of Stray Kids’ long history of admiring LiSA. To see this collaboration finally happening was a dream come true, as much for them as it was for us. ‘Social Path‘ is also one of their most personal and vulnerable songs as they sing about their struggles, fears and the sacrifices they had to make to become idols. This EP ended up being the album by a foreign act that ranked the highest in the Billboard Japan Hot Albums Year-End Chart and their first Japanese release to surpass 1M sales. So it would be safe to say that Stray Kids indeed chose the right path.

5-STAR Dome Tour

Stray Kids may have wrapped up the Maniac World Tour this year, but they also had a whole other tour in 2023. It’s Stray Kids we’re talking about – of course, they did. But this tour was like no other as it was their first-ever dome tour. 

For the 5-STAR Dome Tour, Stray Kids sold out every single date, going to four different cities in Japan and selling out two nights each. And for such a big tour, of course they had more than one surprise for us. In this tour, they premiered ‘Social Path’ even before its release and performed live for the first time several songs such as ‘Battle Ground,’ ‘CHILL,’ ‘Hall Of Fame,’ and ‘Fairytale.’ They also included very surprising songs to the setlist such as ‘WOLFGANG,’ ‘Question’ and ‘My Pace.’ What made the tour even more special was that for the first time, Stray Kids included solo stages into their concert, with each member singing a solo song they wrote. While I.N and Lee Know went for their SKZ-REPLAY‘s solo songs, the other members premiered songs that, as of today, remain unreleased. Each performance was just as mindblowing as the other, and it was an occasion for them to show more of themselves. They concluded the tour succesfully at the end of October in Tokyo, but it’s safe to say we will never forget it.

Seoul Special (Unveil 13)

Of course, Stray Kids brought the tour to Seoul. It was initially announced they would perform at the KSPO Dome, the same venue as their Maniac Tour encore and their third fanmeeting. However, they ended up performing at the Gocheok Sky Dome with a capacity of 25k spectators – their biggest show in South Korea yet. They became the first fourth-generation group to hold their concert at this venue, and they sold out the two dates immediately. These dates were extra special because it was their Unveil 13 and they revealed elements of their next comeback. They showed the SKZFLIX teaser, and it was indeed the first time we heard ‘MEGAVERSE,’ ‘Leave,’ and ‘Blind Spot’ – all b-sides in their upcoming mini-album, ROCK-STAR.

ROCK-STAR

And so, a few weeks later, Stray Kids made their second comeback of the year with ROCK-STAR and ‘LALALALA.’ The album ended up being their fourth consecutive album to top the Billboard 200 chart, making Stray Kids the first act to have their first four entries top the chart since 2007. During this era, Stray Kids also entered for the first time the Billboard Hot 100 at number 90, and ‘LALALALA’ became Stray Kids’ first song to reach number 1 on the Genie Real-Time chart. The song also became the highest-charting fourth-generation boy group song on the Billboard Global 200 Chart at number 10, surpassing ‘MANIAC.’ All this and a million other achievements the song reached amounted to Stray Kids getting their first-ever music show win at Music Core, the only music show they had yet to win a trophy, and the music show where both Hyunjin and Lee Know had been MCs. Yeah…This comeback was huge.

But it is never only about the numbers with Stray Kids, because ROCK-STAR hit us like a rock with how good it was. The opening track, ‘MEGAVERSE,’ embodied Stray Kids’ confidence and unique aura. In the b-side ‘Blind Spot,’ they were surprisingly vulnerable through an upbeat song, and ‘COMFLEX’ was all about embracing who they are. ‘Cover Me’ was the first non-unit song written by Hyunjin to be included in one of their Korean releases, and it was named one of the best K-Pop songs of the year by DAZED. Changbin also gave us yet another beautiful ballad, ‘Leave,’ which was included, as well as ‘Cover Me,’ in the long-awaited short film SKZFLIX. And, of course, ‘LALALALA.’ This song was everything: energetic, loud, festive. Truly a moment in our lives.

Collaborations & Other Releases

As you may have noticed, Stray Kids has never stopped releasing music. And with two Korean and two Japanese comebacks, Stray Kids still found the time to release even more songs. Of course, the SKZ-Record and SKZ-Player series is always ongoing. This year we had: Lee Know and HAN’s first duet ‘Want SO Bad,’ ‘Snain’ by Changbin, Felix and Seungmin, Hyunjin’s ‘Contradicting,’ HAN’s ‘VOLCANO‘ and ‘Miserable (You & Me),’ Seungmin’s ‘Hold On’ written by HAN, Seungmin’s cover of ‘Event Horizon, ‘I.N’s cover of ‘The Little Prince,’ his duet with Hyunjin, ‘untitled,’ and another duet with Bang Chan in ‘Black Hole.’ They also released an OT8 summer song for STAY‘s anniversary: ‘PARTY’S NOT OVER,’ written by Changbin and Seungmin. Stray Kids collaborated with Tiger JK and LiSA this year, but that’s not all. In a fun turn of events, they also featured in a remix of Lil Durk’s ‘All My Life.’

But that’s not all. Changbin released a solo song in partnership with Samsung Korea – thanks to his iconic jutdae meme and his constant support of the brand. Hyunjin featured in Troye Sivan’s remix of his hit ‘Rush’ after meeting at a Versace event. And talking about brands…

Brand Endorsements & Solo Activities

Stray Kids were absolutely everywhere this year, and we don’t mean just because of their tours. This year, we saw members get more opportunities than ever before, and the list of activities and events is endless. But here’s an idea of what happened this year.

Stray Kids continued their partnership with Pacific, which ended only a few weeks before the end of the year. They also partnered with SLBS, Samsung, and Tommy Hilfiger in a campaign emphasizing their family bond. Lee Know remained an MC at Music Core until the beginning of November. Changbin filmed an advertisement for Samsung, released ‘Fly High’ with them, and he also attended a Ferragamo fashion event. Hyunjin was appointed as a global ambassador of Versace, while Felix was appointed as a house ambassador for Louis Vuitton. It led them to participate in several events. Both Felix and I.N assisted the Paris Fashion Week – Felix for Louis Vuitton and I.N for Alexander McQueen. Seungmin was set to throw the first pitch at a Lotte Giant game in Busan, and he appeared in MBC’s King of Masked Singer and even got to the second round. Additionally, Seungmin collaborated with Coach for his first solo magazine cover in Nylon, while Lee Know collaborated with Gucci for his solo cover in W Korea

See Also

There were countless other magazine covers, such as Lee Know, Seungmin, and I.N for DAZED Korea, Hyunjin for Bazaar and Esquire, Felix for Beauty+ and GQ Korea, and more. And, of course, almost all the members, apart from Lee Know and HAN who still use the group’s account, opened their individual Instagram accounts this year, and that alone was a moment on its own. 

3RACHA

This was also a massive year for 3RACHA as a unit. Bang Chan, Changbin and HAN are always at the top, making all the music Stray Kids releases. And you might have noticed that Stray Kids released a lot of music this year, and that needs to always be celebrated. But 2023 was even more significant for them as a unit. All three members officially entered the top 20 idols with the most credits in KOMCA, being the youngest to do so. Bang Chan also entered the top 10. Between last year and this year, 3RACHA also spent over 100 weeks on Billboard Japan’s Hot 100 Lyricists and Hot 100 Composers Chart.

This year, 3RACHA worked with another group by producing ‘Paradise‘ for NiziU. Additionally, 3RACHA performed as a unit at the Global Citizen Festival in New York and gave an unforgettable performance of ‘HEYDAY,’ ‘3RACHA,’ and a 3RACHA version of ‘TOPLINE.’ And 2023 was the year 3RACHA was finally awarded a prize for their hard work producing the music we love so much. The unit won the Best Creator award at the 2023 Asian Artists Awards. And it’s been a long time coming if you ask us.

Award Shows & Other Achievements

Stray Kids keep getting bigger every year, and new opportunities are open to them each year. 2023 has been another great one when it comes to the recognition of their talent and their music. Here are some of their most significant achievements.

Stray Kids received many awards, including two daesang: one at the Hanteo Music Awards for Best Performance at the beginning of the year and another for Stage of the Year for ‘S-Class’ at the Asia Artist Awards. They also received several bonsangs, such as Artist of the Year at the TMA and Best Album at the Golden Disk Awards.

Stray Kids was the second artist with the most album sales on the Billboard charts, and 5-STAR was the fourth most-sold album in 2023, also on the Billboard Charts, making it the highest-ranking K-Pop act this year. In Korea, 5-STAR is the third most-sold album of the year. They also surpassed 6 billion streams on Spotify, making them the first and only fourth-generation K-Pop group and the second male K-Pop act to do so. Stray Kids are really on their own tier now.

In 2023, Stray Kids attended for the first time the VMAs and gave one of the most memorable performances of the night with ‘S-Class’ after winning the award for Best K-Pop with that song. They became the second K-Pop group in history to win the award. A few months later, Stray Kids performed at the BBMAs for the first time and also brought an award home for Top K-Pop Album with 5-STAR. But that’s far from being the only recognition they got through the year in the West. Time included them as one of the next generation leaders. And, well, yeah, after all of this, how couldn’t they be considered the leaders?

2023 was a five out of five for Stray Kids. If this year proves anything, Stray Kids will keep getting bigger and greater through the years, and we’re so here for it. This is only the beginning.

What was your personal Stray Kids highlight of the year? What’s your favorite song they released this year? Be sure to let us know by tweeting us at @thehoneypop or visiting us on Facebook and Instagram.

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