Stray Kids has made their triumphant return in almost a year with their 2nd full-length album ‘NOEASY’ and it an album that cannot go under any K-Pop fan’s radar. This 14-track album features songs that showcase Stray Kids’ familiar sound as well as introduces STAY (the fandom name of this sensational group) to some new sides of the members. Fresh from their win on “Kingdom: The Legendary War,” this album is sure to raise some eyebrows of new and veteran STAYs alike.
“Cheese” starts the album out with an already intense feel, Felix’s bass-filled voice accompanies the riffs of an electric guitar and clapping. Once the song begins all that can be heard outside of the members’ verse are the deep 808s and the riffs of the electric guitar. Towards the end of the song, I.N. breaks up the intensity by counting “One, Two, Three!” in Korean. Overall, “Cheese” is a song that needs to be listened to with a large speaker to really appreciate how heavy the beats are and how hard it truly goes.
Being the title track, it comes with a heightened level of excitement upon the first listen, and “Thunderous” did not disappoint. The song lives up to its title with its heavy base and use of both modern and traditional percussion throughout the song. Stray Kids also uses other traditional stringed instruments that can be heard in various parts of the song. The chorus of the song is simple yet makes a huge impact, lyrically it includes onomatopoeias and the song title, musically it uses a lot of brass percussion and a heavy drop that is almost punchy before dropping out entirely for the next verse. It is truly an adventure for your ears.
“Domino” was another highly anticipated track simply because of the wordplay that even got Domino Pizza’s attention. The song comes in with 5 heavy drops right into Changbin’s rap that is already faster than the song itself. Musically, the song really leans into the Stray Kids sound with a lot going on from sirens to eerie wind instruments. The pre-chorus sung by Chan, Seungmin, and I.N. helps split theintensity of the rest of the track with an electric keyboard-based melody and smooth vocals. Underneath the main melody of the chorus, a xylophone scale can be heard that could represent thesound of dominos falling. This track does play into the idea that Stray Kids makes noisy music and Stays cannot get enough of it. “Domino” joins “Cheese” in the “It deserves bigger speakers” club.
This song is classic Stray Kids. The song mixes the strength of the rappers and the vocal prowess of thevocalists to create a track that gives a piece of something for everyone to like. The song starts with the sound of a roaring audience and then transitions to Changbin setting the tone with his staccato rap over a classic hip-hop beat, followed by I.N. singing and then Seungmin sings the pre-chorus over piano and strings. Then, the track drops into a simple EDM Beat for the chorus before continuing into verse two. The song mixes parts of different genres to add to the overall feel. One thing to point out is the puremetallic sound of one of the percussion instruments that sound very similar to what banging a woodenspoon on a pot would sound like.
“The View” brings out a more playful side of Stray Kids. 3RACHA worked alongside artists Krysta Youngs and TELYKast to put together a song that you can’t help but want to dance to. The song features light and playful vocals over a snapping percussion and a piano-based melody. The chorus repeats the line “I like the view right now,” and a drop that will make your head bop without you realizing it. It is sweet enough for an everyday listen and would make a great addition to a road trip playlist.
Sorry, I Love You (좋아해서 미안)
Following the playful sound of “The View” is “Sorry I Love You.” This song is dialed back several times compared to the early tracks on the album. This ballad-esque song mixes a lot of piano that sits backstage to the drums and the members’ vocals. The way the lyrics are distributed throughout the song feels as if a conversation is happening between two people. While the song is not inherently sad it does give off a melancholy vibe.
“Silent Cry” sounds the opposite of what you would think based on the title. It leans into a less explored area for Stray Kids. The song is a fascinating middle ground between R&B and video game music. Underneath the vocals, the electronic melody that sounds like it was plucked out of a Nintendo game is layered with a fun dance rhythm made from similar electronic instruments. The way the song builds almost feels like it should be part of a video game. While this might not be a go-to song for some, the song does stand well on its own.
Secret Secret (말할 수 없는 비밀)
“Secret Secret” joins the club of songs that are written exclusively by HAN. The song begins with a soft guitar that is joined by a simple beat; more instrumental layers are added as the song continues. Thistrack is almost entirely vocal-based with a brief singing rap added towards the middle of the song andfinishes more in a more classic ballad style. This is also a track that has a lingering melancholy vibe that helps show Stray Kids’ more mature side. This continues the pattern seen with other tracks written by HAN on previous albums.
There is always one feel-good ballad-type track on a Stray Kids album and “Star Lost” is that song. Even the rappers are rapping in a sing-song way. The song’s energy remains consistent throughout the entirety of the song. While Stray Kids are known for the way they experiment with their sound, theyseemed to have played it safe with this track. This track would have been super popular from the start ifit had been released about 10 years earlier.
Red Lights (강박)
“Red Lights” is one of the three songs created on the Stray Kids variety show called ‘Howl in Harmony.’ The members split into three groups to create tracks that showed their unique color. Red Lights was written by Hyunjin and Bang Chan. This song created quite the stir when the unveil video was released online, as it showed a wildly more mature concept than STAY were used to seeing out of Stray Kids. The song itself is quite interesting to listen to as Chan and Hyunjin’s voices complement each other in such a unique way. The instrumental is a mix of strings like violin and electric guitar, the introduction of the rumbling bass adds to the sensual feel of the track. What sets this song apart from the others is how it is almost 50/50 between using both English and Korean lyrics. The one part of the song that leaves a lot to be desired is how abruptly ends.
“Surfin'” is the second of the three songs created on ‘Howl in Harmony.’ This track was created by Lee Know, Changbin, and Felix. Surfin’ is a simply fun song. The main thing you can hear throughout the song is the electric keyboard and what sounds like a metal drum you’d find in the tropics. The vibe is very much close to something out of early to mid-2000’s top 40 tracks. There is no doubt in my mind that this could find its way into some kickback playlists with no issue.
“Gone Away” is the last of the three songs created on Howl in Harmony. This song was created by I.N, HAN, and Seungmin. Gone Away is a gift from Vocalracha featuring HAN who could easily be a memberof Vocalracha himself. The song is slow and sweet with a mix of piano and acoustic guitar. While manysongs on ‘NOEASY’ have elements similar to a ballad “Gone Away” is the true ballad. With this track the maturity in Seungmin and I.N.’s voices is evident. Towards the end of the track, fans are treated with a gentle rap from HAN. The mixture of the smooth voices and rap make this song an experience to listento, just try not to cry too much while listening to the emotion from the members’ tone.
This track holds a special place in STAY’s hearts as the track that finalized Stray Kids’ win on “Kingdom:The Legendary War.” However, while we only heard the track as seven members during the originalbroadcast, this version includes all eight members. The inclusion of Hyunjin’s verse really does bring a new feel out of the winning Kingdom song.
Mixtape: Oh (애)
Rounding out the 14 tracks is “Mixtape: Oh.” This song marked the return of Hyunjin to promotions afterfour-month hiatus. Releasing in June 2021, a full two months before the release of NOEASY, “Mixtape:Oh” picks up where “Mixtape: On” Track left off. The instrumental uses a mix of piano and stringinstruments with very light percussion to keep the members’ vocals the main focus. The vibe of the song is of an OST which fits well the music video that picks up the story from On Track. In the music video, the members are all enjoying different activities while they muse about the person they like and how they are a “baby” around them. Overall, this is a feel-good track that would make a great addition to any playlist.
‘NOEASY‘ truly lives up to its name. This album shows even more how Stray Kids is forging their path as artists and creators. Some may turn their nose up and say Stray Kids makes noisy music; others wouldsay to understand how musically brilliant a Stray Kids song can truly be you have to bask in the noise. Check out the songs and let us know our favorites in the comments own below!
Edit by: Edward Leary