Stray Kids’ newest comeback “NOEASY” is an amazing display of their growth

New album reaffirms Stray Kids’ unique musical style and versatility.

April Wang, Staff Writer

Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

Stray Kids’ second studio album “NOEASY” was released on Aug. 23. The new album was highly anticipated by fans, who were especially excited after Stray Kids’ victory on the reality TV competition “Kingdom: Legendary War” as well as a pre-release online series showing the creation process of three of 12 songs on the album. Within a week, the album reached first on the Gaon Album Chart, a South Korean national chart similar to the U.S. Billboard charts, and made the top 20 in eight other countries, including Japan and Australia. Having sold more than 1.1 million copies, “NOEASY” is not only Stray Kids’ best-selling album, but also the best selling within their label, JYP. 

With most of the songs co-written by Stray Kids members Bang Chan, Changbin and Han, this album isn’t just a commercial peak for them, but also a personal one. Especially for long-time fans, this album feels like a celebration of how far the boy band has come. The following four songs reveal how Stray Kids has come to embrace the music style they’ve cultivated over the years while also exploring the extent of their abilities.


Track 1: CHEESE

The song “CHEESE” starts off the album with a bang as one of Stray Kids’ signature, heavy EDM songs, with blaring brass instrumentals. The song is addicting, especially due to the diction of the lyrics —– the words are enunciated clearly and conveys a lot of charisma. Additionally, every beat is tense and filled with energy, and the point lyric in the chorus, where they simply yell the word “Cheese,” leaves a lasting strong impression. However, due to the strong start of the song, the climax falls off due to the lack of a buildup or payoff. Overall, though, the lackluster climax doesn’t take away from the fun mood of the song. 

“CHEESE”  also references several of Stray Kids’ previous songs such as “Side Effects” and “God’s Menu,”, both of which are EDM and hip-hop heavy. The song makes fun of Stray Kids’ critics through lyrics like, saying, “I love what you hate / It’s all good fun to me no matter what you say.”. The word “cheese” is used as a play on words: mozzarella cheese sounds like “lacking” in Korean, while the word itself is a taunt daring haters to uselessly flaunt their hate. The wordplay and references elevate the song from an attack on haters to a hilarious track, and show signs of maturity in the way that devalues the words of haters, turning them into a joke rather than serious criticism. Ultimately, “CHEESE” is an intro that represents Stray Kids’ typical sound well, and sets the tone for the rest of the album.


Track 2: Thunderous

As the album’s title track, “Thunderous” is just as glorious as its title makes it sound. The song “Thunderous” serves as yet another diss track to haters, with its Korean title (“Sori-kkun”) serving as a pun meaning both “nagger,”, referring to said critics, and “traditional singer,” referring to themselves. The song conveys a universal message of having confidence in one’s self, and is honestly very empowering, reminiscent of superhero themes with its use of brass instruments. Interestingly enough, the song also includes a variety of traditional Korean instruments, further emphasizing Stray Kids’ confidence in their identities not just as artists who stray from the norm but also as Korean artists. 

For being a trap and hip-hop style song that uses a lot of rap, there is a surprisingly high, vocally-focused pre-chorus. The contrast serves as a great buildup and drop into the chorus, which is more simple than the verses and involves more aggressive shouting than singing, leaving a strong impact on the listener. Stray Kids’ main rapper Changbin stands out here for his rough rapping style, delivering his lines with a growl that fits the meaning of the song very well. 

Overall, “Thunderous” stands out from Stray Kids’ other title tracks in that it feels as if it’s been specially tailored for each member. The first, most impactful verse is given to Changbin for his aggressive voice, while vocalists Seungmin, Bang Chan, I.N. and Lee Know have the pre-chorus and bridge for their flawless and smooth voices. Rappers Han and Hyunjin keep the second verse interesting due to their versatile rapping style and habits of fluctuating in pitch, and finally, rapper Felix brings out the killing parts with his uniquely deep voice. No line is ever left hanging awkwardly, and every member sings their lines with such conviction that it’s hard to remember that this isn’t an epic superhero movie soundtrack. “Thunderous” isn’t just a song that was randomly picked out of a pile of possible choices — it’s one that feels deeply personal to Stray Kids in both its meaning and execution.


Track 5: The View

In “The View, ” Stray Kids’ tone changes to upbeat, yet maintains an EDM style. The soft, yet energetic synths immerse the listener in a vivid picture of Stray Kids’ imagined scenery, representing the feeling of watching a vast landscape. This song happens to be the perfect chance for Stray Kids’ vocalists — Seungmin, I.N., and Lee Know — to show off their skills. Their ability to achieve a sharper vocal quality while singing falsetto suits the electric instrumentals, and mixes well with the softer rapping that is used in this song.​​ All the members’ voices combine to make a dynamic track with both melancholic verses and an energetic chorus. 

What makes “The View” special though are its beautiful lyrics. The song acknowledges the struggles and pain in life while also emphasizing the importance of looking for beauty: “Back then, the place used to be vast like a desert / Now it is a wide field where I want to run / I can see the different colors in this place / Big and small futures are alive and breathing.” In the same way that some people read books for escapism, this song feels like taking a trip away from the turmoil of life. The lyrics say, “I don’t know where this will end / I leave it all to the refreshing wind.” It’s soothing, especially as a student, to be reminded that it’s OK to put aside all worries, even if it’s just temporary, and appreciate the small things around us.


Graphic by April Wang

Track 8: Secret Secret

As a soft R&B song, “Secret Secret” has the capacity to bring tears to one’s eyes. From the beginning, the instrumentals are soft and measured, with gently plucked guitar and recurring high notes echoing in the background. Together, it creates a whispery atmosphere that’s perfect for listening to in the rain. 

The lyrics of this song are more downcast than the other tracks on the album. The song is almost like a constant downward emotional spiral, with lyrics such as, “It feels like I’m left in this world alone / Will I get better by deceiving my own heart.” Yet the song is strangely soothing. Han, the song’s writer, seems to have a truly special ability to craft comforting songs. He understands what it’s like to hurt and isn’t afraid to express that. And there is nothing more rewarding as a listener than to be able to finally let things out and cry, knowing that you’re not alone and that, somewhere out there, there are people who understand. “Secret Secret” is a song that will linger long past its final refrain, tucked away in a corner of the mind for those less-than-perfect days. 


Final Thoughts

When listening to Stray Kids’ music, understanding the stories behind the music goes hand in hand with being able to truly enjoy and digest the music. In the past, Stray Kids’ music had been criticized for sounding like “noise” and not real music, especially because of their less mainstream hip-hop and /EDM approach to music. This album serves as a retaliation, turning the so-called “noise” into addictive diss tracks, fun EDM songs, and calming R&B tunes that embrace their personal music choices. Of course, this isn’t to say the album is perfect. The songs “SSICK” and “Wolfgang” cause the album to drag due to their repetitive meanings and aren’t very musically interesting. However, all of the other tracks remain incredibly memorable, whether for their lyrics and meaning or for the performers’ excellent delivery. Overall, “NOEASY” maintains Stray Kids’ iconic style while showcasing their versatility in a unique way.

Rating: 4.5/5