It’s crazy to think it’s already been eight months since Stray Kids’ last Korean comeback with MAXIDENT. Those eight months have been packed for Stray Kids with the end of their second world tour, the release of SKZ-REPLAY and their first full length Japanese album, along with so many other things. But Stray Kids are now officially back with their biggest and greatest comeback up to date. They didn’t come here to play with their third full-length album, 5-STAR! They’re already breaking records, not only in the 4th gen this time, but in the history of K-Pop.
5-STAR made history even before its official release by having a pre-order stock of over 5M copies – the first album in K-Pop history to do so. And while we never doubted that Stray Kids would give us the album of the year, nothing could prepare us for this – and it is totally understandable why this is breaking records left and right. 5-STAR is an absolute masterpiece!
Don’t expect Stray Kids to change what makes them special. If anything, with every single comeback, they get louder and better. They’re not afraid to make music that can be polarizing, and that’s when you know it’s gonna hit. ‘S-Class’ (or ‘특’) does exactly that. It’s loud, unapologetic, bold, and overflowing with confidence, highlighting the best things about Stray Kids. This is a song that no one but Stray Kids could make. The beat and lyrics are as addictive and witty as always, and they added something truly special by making a switch into a straight-up old-school type of hip-hop rap beat in the second verse. There are so many different details in the lyrics, the production, the instrumental that make this song so good with all its different layers. That’s truly a marker of Stray Kids’ genius.
They took the scale of the comeback to a whole other level with the music for sure, but also with the music video. This music video is really something. Just like the song itself, you could watch it a hundred times and still would find something new every single time – believe us, we’ve done it. Dancing in the middle of Han River, having an octopus attack, dancing on the moon… You name it, ‘S-Class’ has it – along with one of their most impressive and addictive choreographies. If there’s one thing Stray Kids will do, it’s to have an extremely hard choreography that feels iconic right from the first watch.
This is Stray Kids in their most glorious era. And to say we love it doesn’t even begin to explain how we feel about it!
‘THE SOUND’ & ‘Mixtape: Time Out’
Before we get into the new b-sides, let’s talk about what we’re familiar with first. Indeed, 5-STAR includes two songs we already know and are still obsessed with as the last two tracks! They included ‘Mixtape: Time Out,’ a joyful and summery pop-rock song they wrote last year in memory of their trip together which was released as a gift to fans on Stay’s anniversary. Additionally, they released the Korean version of ‘THE SOUND,’ the title track of their first full length Japanese album. We all know Stray Kids write all their own music and this doesn’t exclude Japanese tracks at all. We now have the original version of the track in our hands and it is incredible. Stray Kids’ music hits every single language – it’s no joke.
‘S-Class’ may already live rent-free in our heads, but if there’s something Stray Kids know how to do, it’s to create an album with nothing but hits. They really think their releases through and create different worlds with every single album and every single track – the fact that they’re a self-produced group changes everything. Every single release has its own distinct energy and vibe, whether it is a mini-album or a full-length album. There’s something about albums though, and there’s something about this album.
This album feels the most representative of Stray Kids as a group and as artists. It is the epitome of the best sides of Stray Kids. 5-STAR is not only Stray Kids at its best – it is simply Stray Kids, period. It has some of their most experimental and special tracks, and this time around they also focused even more on raps and gave us some of their more insane and addictive beats, mixed with some incredible vocals. Truly, Stray Kids at its best.
‘Hall of Fame’ is an insanely good song to start off the album with. It sets the tone for the entire album as Stray Kids show their confidence, but more importantly, their ambition and hard work. The build-up it gives is actually insane and addictive, with some of their most satisfying melodies ever.
On 5-STAR, as shown by the title track, Stray Kids went back even more to the hip-hop influences with tracks such as ‘ITEM,’ which is, as Felix would describe it, ‘DOMINO’ but in level 2. It has an insane production and instrumental. They have straight-up party anthems like the fun and addictive ‘TOPLINE,’ featuring the incredible Tiger JK, and ‘Get Lit.’ Both of these songs showcase Stray Kids’ fun and confident side so well, with amazing vocals and impactful rap verses like no one but Stray Kids could give us. And the beats on both of these songs are just crazy. To think these songs are b-sides is crazy enough.
Meanwhile, ‘Super Bowl’ sits on the more experimental side of their discography. The song was originally meant to be called ‘God’s Menu’ before they made the ‘God’s Menu’ that shook the industry. It is no surprise then that it takes a similar concept of comparing how they make music to cooking. It has some of the most surprising moments in the album – yes, we’re talking about the whispering. They translated the original song to make it a fully English song, and we’re so glad it’s seeing the light after three years. This song is just too good!
‘DLC,’ a song written by Changbin, may be a party song as well but it has a twist to it. While the title stands for “dance like crazy” and it’s all about leaving worries behind, its EDM beat has some dark undertones to it which make the song extra special.
Indeed, 5-STAR still features more pop songs such as ‘FNF,’ truly reminiscent of mids 2010s summer pop. It is a very special song – Bang Chan initially started writing it in honor of the flora and fauna that was lost due to the massive fires that affected Australia in 2020. When Felix joined the making of the song, he added a verse that made the song have a double meaning. It feels summery, hopeful, and full of love, but also nostalgic – pulling off that bittersweet feeling we love from so many Stray Kids songs. They also filmed the unveil when Stray Kids went back to Australia for the first time as a team since early 2019 for their world tour.
On the softer side of the album, we also have ‘Collision.’ It may have an upbeat rhythm and a smooth instrumental, but it is the perfect example of Han‘s incredible talent when it comes to writing heartbreaking songs. Comparing love and heartbreak to the collision of two planets is one of the most beautiful things he has ever done.
Unfortunately, everything has to come to an end, and the last new track on 5-STAR is ‘Youtiful,’ their first team song to be originally written all in English. It is a pop ballad dedicated to Stays, and to say this song feels like a hug is an understatement. To be more specific, ‘Youtiful’ literally feels like watching an episode of Chan’s Room, and if you’ve watched any of Chan’s lives, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
Stray Kids never cease to create not only incredible music, but also a safe place for everyone to be themselves and feel loved. Things like 5-STAR and Stray Kids happen only once in a lifetime. There is magic in everything they do and 5-STAR is the beginning of a new and bigger era for Stray Kids. And we’re more than honored to be here to experience history!
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