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National Music

Album Review: Stray Kids – ‘GO LIVE’

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Stray Kids‘ first full-length album, GO LIVE, released June 17, is undoubtedly a triumph. Or, as rapper Felix puts it on the title track “God’s Menu,” a “five star Michelin.”

“God’s Menu” really sets the stage for the entire album. It’s a hype declaration of their own worth–they’re “one of a kind,” with “anything on [their] menu” certain to “satisfy.”

GO LIVE delivers on that promise. As a self-produced Korean boy group, Stray Kids has a distinct sound that leans dance-electronic, not dissimilar to fellow K-pop boy group NCT’s fondly nicknamed ‘noise music.’ But instead of becoming wearisome over the course of the 14-track album, it’s harnessed to build up the energetic “Easy” and “Pacemaker” while flowing with the more sentimental “Airplane” and “Phobia.”

Stray Kids, Top

Promotional poster for “TOP,” released on May 13, about a month before the rest of GO LIVE.

Again, it all comes back to “God’s Menu.” Like the album, “God’s Menu” doesn’t stick with a particular tone. Even within the second verse, there’s a shift from Felix’s low, seductive rap to Seungmin’s higher, softer vocals, then again to Hyunjin’s steady rap.

Though the eight-member group is considered relatively new to the K-pop industry, having debuted in 2018, they seem to have a clear sense of identity. Composed of dancers Lee Know, Hyunjin, and Felix, rappers and producers Changbin and Han, and vocalists Seungmin and I.N, the group is led by producer Bang Chan. Their roles create sub-units 3RACHA for the producers, Dance Racha for the dance specialists, and Vocal Racha for the vocal specialists.

Stray Kids, Go Live

Concept photo for GO LIVE featuring members Lee Know (Dance Racha) and Changbin (3RACHA).

Maintaining such distinct sub-divisions within the group could have been damaging, pulling the group in different directions. But each member of Stray Kids has a common goal: to rise to the “TOP.” They’re ultimately a single team with lofty ambitions, as demonstrated even just by the titles “God’s Menu” (which Stray Kids sees themselves a part of).

On “TOP,” Stray Kids assert that they’ll “rise ’till [they] reach the sky.” On “Gone Days,” they announce, “This is the new generation”–though they’ve only just begun, they see themselves at the forefront of a new future that they’re defining.

Since their breakthrough with their hit song “MIROH,” Stray Kids has been a rising star in the K-pop industry. GO LIVE maintains the same color and energy from that 2019 track, but brings it to a fuller, more realized maturation.

As Stray Kids continues to grow in their art, it looks like there’s only one place to go: to the top.

Listen to “God’s Menu”:

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Michelle is an undergraduate English major at UCLA, also pursuing a minor in professional writing.

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