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Stray Kids Rock-Star Comeback

One of JYP’s biggest boy groups, Stray Kids, debuts their fourth successful album this year. The new mini-album called Rock-Star has eight songs in total. Including a Korean version of their earlier collaboration with Japanese singer LiSA and two versions of the title track Lalalala. Achieving their third consecutive number one on the Billboard 200 in June.


Stray Kids debuted in March 2018 and have expanded their presence in the K-pop scene now becoming one of the biggest names in the industry. After securing their third number-one spot on the Billboard 200, they became the first K-pop act to headline Lollapalooza Paris in July. They won MTV Music Awards for Best K-pop award in 2023 back in September. Recently, they sold out a dome tour through Korea and Japan.


In Rock-Star Stray Kids’ main concept is pirates and free spirit. They explain that 5-Star was showing their unique colors, while Rock-Star is about showing their free spirit and showing a new side of themselves. They wanted to pique listeners' curiosity with the wordplay of their title track, including a Chinese character for joy which sounds like rock. The album Rock-Star encapsulates the feeling of joy music creates—an exclamation of joy.


All tracks in Rock-Star were composed, written, or produced by a member of 3Racha, their subunit of main writers and producers. Although three members were involved in a minor car accident earlier this year, Lee Know, Hyunjin, and Seungmin all made fast recoveries with minor muscle aches. 3Racha only had to cover one performance in New York’s Global Citizen festival, although they were absent from Paris Fashion Week too.


Stray Kids wanted to portray a variety of sounds on this album. Although they are grateful for their opportunities to perform in numerous large venues, they remain nervous before their performances. Rock-Star showcases their free spirit which aligns well with their artistically rebellious identity. Similar to God’s menu in highlighting their strong stage presence and physical power. While 5-Star showed their biggest effort, Rock-Star showed an unfiltered version of themselves.


Lalalala was recorded last November, initially planned as a b-side for 5-Star. During recording, Changbin called the higher-ups to ask for this song not to be included in 5-Star, it was replaced by ITEM. After making their next title track, the guitar was added as well as Lalalala as background vocals throughout the hook since prior to this it was only included before the hook. This song has a flow and shows their new energy and aura that can dominate the stage.


Rock-Star is an emotional journey through happiness, sorrow, and anger that concludes in joy. Featuring a melodic tune throughout the chorus, which is rare from Stray Kids. The main dancers of the group were actively involved in choreographing the title track; all members gave suggestions, resulting in the complex final choreography. A drone camera was used on some of the video’s takes to show all the supporting dancers and the large set in Lalalala.


Comflex is Stray Kids' most playful song in this comeback. Where they flex their complex as their usual wordplay. Comflex is a song about self-confidence as imperfections make things special. It is a very upbeat tune with strong rap verses that make for a fun listening experience. Featuring yet another collaboration with the incredible Millionboy.


Megaverse is another playful song from Rock-Star. Megaverse has a gradual BPM change which makes the song become gradually faster. Their leader, Bang Chan, explained, “The universe is always expanding, just like the universe expands Stray kids is too. Our musical spectrum is constantly expanding just like the universe”.


Cover Me is Hyunjin’s first song included in a Korean album. Co-written and co-composed by Bang Chan and Hyunjin. A song that speaks of the emotional toll of their fame while also being a grand song which is unusual for Hyunjin’s minimalistic style. Leaving a lingering feeling of sadness and hidden anxiety. Bang Chan had to direct, with Hyunjin’s notes, due to Hyunjin having a work event to attend, but Hyunjin was able to direct Han and Felix, including a lot of melodic singing from Felix which is rare from Stray Kids as he often sings their hooks in a low register.


Another sad ballad included in Rock-Star is Blind Spot. Where they elaborate on the mental toll their fame causes, many of their staff’s efforts go unrecognized. This emotional song connects fans and members as it explores Stray Kids' need for constant improvement to stay relevant in their industry. The main writer for this song, Han, mentioned that it was comforting to know he wasn’t the only one feeling like this.


Leave is their last emotional ballad on the album. The song was written by 3Racha member Changin a little over a year ago but he wanted it to be released in autumn as that is the essence of the song. Throughout the ballad, there are numerous trot inspirations that are similar to older K-Pop ballads. As the only heartbreak song featured in the album, it speaks universally about the pain of letting go of a relationship.


Lastly, Social Path, the Korean version of their earlier collaboration, is LiSA in August. This song is vulnerable yet directly addresses a lot of pain faced by Stray Kids earlier in their careers. Social Path tells Bang Chan’s story as he became a trainee at JYP Entertainment at 13 years old, spending his youth training to become an idol. There are some cheerful dance moves incorporated to bring some emotional range to the song while portraying that feeling of youth.


All in all, Stray Kids has already broken their previous sales record from 5-Star with their release of Rock-Star. They were able to show yet another part of themselves that many fans hadn’t seen before, including Hyunjin’s songwriting. Fans are eagerly awaiting a world tour announcement for next year after four successful albums this year.

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