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Billboard-topping boy band Stray Kids returns to 'rock'
Three-time Billboard 200-topper Stray Kids returns with new EP 'Rock-Star' FridayBy Choi Ji-won
Published : Nov. 10, 2023 - 16:14
Three-time Billboard 200 chart-topper Stray Kids made a grand comeback Friday, this time as rock stars.
Marking the eight-member group's return after five months is EP "Rock-Star," which continues from the past album, "Five-Star," a mega-hit album that had landmark successes, including its third-straight Billboard 200 No. 1 hit.
It was a highly anticipated return, and the eight men were overflowing with renewed charisma as they went in front of the press on Friday morning during a press conference, decked out in simple yet classy black suits matching their bold demeanor.
An eased touch to the mood was discernible, as with the new album, Stray Kids said they loosened up on their iconic spiciness to go more easy, reveling in the glory of life.
The eight members vowed to become rock stars who enjoy life and leave their mark on history with it. "Our 'rock' goes on," they declare through the eight-track album. "Rock" in Korean is a Chinese character-derived syllable referring to "joy" or "music."
"The two albums are connected. If 'Five-Star' had pronounced the unique colors of Stray Kids, we wanted to show through 'Rock-Star' our untamed energy. The tracks have also been laid out freely. It will unveil more unprecedented facets of us," Bang Chan said Friday.
The team's producer trio, 3Racha -- consisting of Bang Chan, Han and Changbin -- again took the helm producing the album's focus track, "Lalalala," writing the words alone while playing the main role in the composition.
"'S-Class' (the title song of 'Five-Star') and 'Lalalala' both sing about special people who know how to enjoy things,'" Seungmin explained.
All Stray Kids' title songs have been either contributed to or produced by 3Racha members, and this is one point that enables their songs to resonate better with Stray Kids' unique identity, the members said.
"It's embarrassing to say this myself, but I think the fact that we speak our own minds (through music), our unique personalities and the explosive energy coming from it are what captures the public. It's gratifying, and I hope we continue to stay headstrong on our way."
"We're grateful to 3Racha, who take charge of our music. We've been able to speak about what's on our minds thanks to such great songs they produced," Seungmin said, adding, "We have more members jumping into songwriting recently, and I expect fans will be excited about this as well. We feel that fans understand our sincerity."
A new member who added his name to the credits this time is Hyunjin, more renowned for his immaculate dancing on the team. This time, Hyunjin contributed to the songwriting and lyrics of B-side track "Cover Me."
"I included my own song for the first time. I received the track from Bang Chan and wrote the top line and lyrics to it. I imagined the song would have a deeper ring if the eight of us sang it together, and thankfully, the company and the members accepted it," Hyunjin recalled.
The album also comprises "Megaverse," "Blind Spot," "Comflex," "Leave," a Korean version of the band's Japanese-original song "Social Path (Feat. LiSA)" and a rock rendition of "Lalalala."
Unwavering teamwork was behind the new album. Despite 3Racha taking the lead on production, all the decisions in shaping the album were made together by the eight of them.
"We all give our opinions about the songs. There are disparities but we listen first and decide together. We have the same goal with each album and usually arrive at a conclusion easily," Felix said.
It was a break-out year even for the already famous K-pop team, especially in their global career. The octet headlined Lollapalooza Paris in July as the first K-pop group ever in the event's history and went on to make its first appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, performing and nabbing the Best K-pop award with "S-Class."
They extended their victory on the global charts as well, landing at No. 1 on Billboard's main albums chart, the Billboard 200, with "Five-Star," for the third consecutive time since their first time with "Oddinary" in March 2022.
A five-city dome tour in Asia was also added to their achievements. En route during the tour, they held a gig at Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome, the nation's most distinguished concert venue, where only the world's biggest stars have performed.
"Every time we do a rehearsal at an upgraded venue, I look into the empty seats and wonder whether we'll be able to fill up such huge space and make use of it. But as soon as our fans, Stay, take their seats, I forget about these worries, and am overwhelmed and grateful," Hyunjin said.
The remarkable feats the eight-piece group has accomplished, both for themselves and in the K-pop history, may weigh down on their young shoulders heavily, pressuring them to push themselves beyond what they're capable of. Such burdens are inevitable, the members say, but they are able to endure and overcome as they are a team.
"If I'd achieved everything alone, it could have been fulfilling but somewhat hollow at the same time. The synergy itself is irreplaceable as we strive forward together, rooting for one another. The feeling of triumph we share together is what drives us to continue," Changbin said.
The member also added he feels the same about his role as the team's creative mind.
"People always expect Stray Kids to bring something new, and this is one of my biggest concerns. If I had to worry about this alone, I would have hit my limit by now. But I share this with 3Racha and the other bandmates, and talk about what we can do and want to do. We help each other overcome our own limits," Changbin said.
A Billboard No. 1 is not their goal. They don't take for granted their accomplishments and only hope that more people will be invigorated through their music.
"It's all thanks to Stay, our fans, that we were able to land three albums on the Billboard 200 at No. 1. It's blissful that many people listen to our music. We hope more people love the new album," Lee Know said.
Bang Chan said the feats were still unbelievable. "I still remember clearly when we heard of our first No. 1 on the Billboard 200. We were in the basement dance studio and we were numb and couldn't say anything. We still feel the same. We only think about how we might uplift listeners and give them hope through our music."
More diversity is what they aim for in the long run.
"I'm sure there are many genres that we have not performed as Stray Kids. We'll improve more and come back with greater music," I.N said.
Stray Kids' new EP, "Rock-Star," came out at 2 p.m. Friday.
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