The K-Pop boy group makes a bold statement with an album bursting with choppy melodic hooks and overflowing charisma.
The hotly anticipated 3rd full album from the K-Pop sensation Stray Kids has already proved to fans around the world that the 8-piece boy group are here to stay.
Having achieved a record-breaking 5.1 million pre-orders for 5-Star, it is safe to say that expectations were high for the group to keep pushing boundaries with their genre-bending style. And, as expected, they did not disappoint.
Stray Kids’ producing trio, 3Racha, masterfully navigate feverish hip-hop beats, staccato raps, soulful vocal performances, and hard-hitting bass to present a practiced and polished sound, meticulously refined through years of industry domination.
The album’s title track, ‘S-Class’, is a playful dissection of genres the group often mingles in. From its starting whistled intro, to its harmonic bridges and minimalist, though addictive chorus, ‘S-Class’ strays from K-Pop’s conventional dance-pop to dabble in old-school hip-hop rapping and contrasts soaring instrumentals with sharp repetitive vocal phrases.
The group boasts about being the “best of the best” and feeling like the “brightest star” as compared to their industry counterparts, and even just going off album sales and accolades, they would appear to be telling the truth.
But, the fun doesn’t stop here. The boys present a collaboration with Tiger JK, a member of the legendary Korean hip-hop group Drunken Tiger, on track ‘Topline’. As long-time fans of the rapper, Stray Kids baptise this holy union in fire and ash in this explosive rap-fuelled anthem.
Group rappers HAN and Changbin bounce bars off of Tiger JK’s swaggering verse as the group furiously chant “Ain’t nobody can do it like this”, leaving nothing to be desired in the wake of this savagely infectious track.
For all its break-neck glory, 5-Star also has offerings of emotional ballads and sentimental lyricism.
‘Youtiful’ is a heartfelt song of encouragement and devotion dedicated entirely to the group’s fans, known as STAY, to “don’t ever doubt yourself” and embrace being “youtiful”. Backed by delicate acoustic strings and tentative electric guitar, the members’ sweet and pure vocal performances provide an uplifting sentiment to their loyal listeners.
Aside from love and confidence though, 5-Star shines with additions such as ‘FNF’ (Fauna and Flora), which expresses regret in the aftermath of the Australian bushfires. As a love letter to wildlife and nature, Australian member Felix reflects upon his anger and disbelief at the tragedy through lyrics such as
“I can feel the rage burning up inside my heart” and “I can’t stop thinking about what I could’ve done”.
Though these meaningful confessions are enveloped in the soft and hopeful sounds of dance-pop, listeners are inevitably drawn to think about wider issues in the midst of the memorable 5-Star.
The album perfectly wraps up with the sound of summer itself, ‘Mixtape (Time Out)’, combining lively rock guitar with light and harmonious vocals sure to get listeners singing out loud. With a run-time of just under three minutes, ‘Mixtape (Time Out)’ ensures that fans are no doubt left scrambling for the replay button, solidifying 5-Star as an unforgettable album by a group thriving in their unique brand of confidence and professionalism.
Score/Oustanding: There is truly something for everyone on this album. Whether that’s soft-sung ballads or energising anthems to hype you up on a bad day. There is even a song entirely in English (‘Super Bowl’) for those tentative about foreign-language lyrics. 5-Star takes no prisoners and demands attention through its largely experimental style and emphasis on self-confidence; it’s definitely an album that will keep a solid reputation for years to come.
[We rank albums on a scale of: Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, Outstanding].