Music Critic Molly Matthews reviews the latest album from Stray Kids, hailing it as one of the best albums she has heard recently


Stray Kids’ NOEASY is their jaw dropping second album jam packed with energy, emotions and charisma. After becoming the first fourth generation Kpop group to amass over one million sales from one album, as well as being the first artist under their major company JYP Entertainment to do so, it is no surprise that this album lives up to the hype expected. Just as the opening track suggests these ‘Thunderous’ eight are turning the heads of everyone, all eyes are on them and they never disappoint.

The title NOEASY is transformed into ‘NOISY’ on their album cover, a word used against them for years to which they are more than happy to claim, stating they are ‘the loudest noise that everyone will remember!’ But it is not just the title itself that is them not backing down from the comments and challenges they have faced with tracks like ‘CHEESE,’ ‘DOMINO,’ ‘SSICK’ and ‘Thunderous’ showing that they are staying true to their colours.

They call themselves ‘thunderous ones’ which fits them perfectly

The opening track ‘Thunderous’ is a powerhouse within itself, filled with strong brass and sharp beats that energises the body from the first listen. The mixture of traditional Korean instruments, brass and sound effects like car horns mixed with Stray Kids’ strong rap and vocals could have been overwhelming but 3RACHA and producer HotSauce have crafted this song to the perfect amount of noise needed for it to leave its mark in your mind. They call themselves ‘thunderous ones’ which fits them perfectly as even non-fans watch every move that they make and the noise they make is louder than anyone else, always making people focus on them.

‘CHEESE,’ ‘DOMINO’ and ‘SSICK’ have the anti-hero charisma carried from their Kingdom Stage inspired by Marvel’s Deadpool that made even Ryan Reynolds a fan. All three have the energy of a fight scene with their own style and character whether that be rock influence or dance beats. If you listen to the instrumental of these tracks the energy is different but when accompanied by powerful rap and vocals that is when everything hits within your chest. It can be hard for songs to be charismatic without performance as visuals aid to the charisma the artists wish to showcase but Stray Kids manage to make these songs just ooze their playful side perfectly.

These three are ultimately why Stray Kids’ music is so different from anything I have heard before and probably anything I will ever hear again

The character their music has is a sound that producing team 3RACHA, Leader Bang Chan and rappers Han and Changbin, have worked on since before their debut. These three are the fourth generation idols with the most KOMCA (Korean Music Copyright Association) credits, with Bang Chan being the youngest idol to currently have over one hundred credits. These three are ultimately why Stray Kids’ music is so different from anything I have heard before and probably anything I will ever hear again.

After four powerful songs, we are presented with ‘The View’, a refreshing synth-pop track that truly feels like home along with dance-pop song ‘Star Lost.’ Both have this freeing feeling to them, ‘The View’ feeling like running on the beach and admiring the setting sun on the horizon and ‘Star Lost’ being like exploring the vast galaxies our eyes are yet to see. I love when Stray Kids make these songs that feel nostalgic for moments you may have looked past at first, making you feel more grateful for the smaller things in your life.‘The View’ motivates you to look forward to your bright future, as that is what Stray Kids are doing, and ‘Star Lost’ motivates you to never stop seeking what you wish to find even if you feel lost.

This is everything I could ever ask for from a Stray Kids song

‘Silent Cry,’ their seventh track is quite possibly one of the best songs that Stray Kids have ever released, which says a lot as their discography is a goldmine. It is hard to put into words how this song makes me feel, from the change up of beats and melody throughout the song and the showcase of all the variation of voices and tones within the group. This is everything I could ever ask for from a Stray Kids song, especially with the lyrics. ‘I’ll listen to your silent cry/ So that you don’t get tired in a lost corner of your heart’ and ‘don’t be the only one hurting/ give me your silent cry’ are words many of us needed to hear for so long where they now cause a rush of pain to my chest knowing that there is someone out there willing to listen and share the burdens I carry. This song alone makes the album the best album I have heard in a very long time.

‘Secret Secret’ is my second favourite song on the album and not just because of the emotional lyrics Han is so skilled at crafting and his attention to raw human experience, wanting this to be a song where people can say ‘I bet you went through something similar. Just like you, I am thinking about the same thing. We are both human and we are friends.’ The guitar, matched with the slow beats already set the song up to be emotional but nothing can prepare you for the vocals within this song. With the emotion carried in I.N.’s voice and the show-stopping ad-libs by Seungmin I am beyond happy with how Stray Kids are using the arsenal they carry.

This song is honestly perfect for the voices of all the members

‘Sorry, I Love You’ is an R&B track written by Changbin that uses Stray Kids’ lower register perfectly where it settles in your chest and carves itself a home there. This song is honestly perfect for the voices of all the members, especially Felix’s deep voice, with duets in the pre-chorus showing just how well their voices work with each other. It is intended to express something ‘youthful but sad’ and even without the lyrics it manages to do so due to the use of the piano guiding you through the emotions of the song with bass lines and guitars giving it a more mellow feeling to it.

Hyunjin and Bang Chan’s ‘Red Lights’ or ‘Compulsion’ by its Korean name starts with the deep breaths of Bang Chan and you already know what you’re about to listen to. I love hearing Hyunjin’s singing voice considering he is one of the rappers in the group and I think this darker style fits his vocals perfectly. But I implore you to seek more beyond the allure of the classy strings, sultry guitar and buzz words. The two wanted to create a song that focuses on one’s inner struggles with perfectionism and the compulsion to work rather than a love interest. The music acts as a glamour to the true meaning, much like the glamour of being an idol overshadowed the non-stop work life expected of teenagers and young adults within the industry.

Stray Kids really have no limits when it comes to sounds they will produce

Changbin, Felix and Lee Know’s ‘Surfin’’ on the other hand is a fun track perfect for the summer which achieves its goal of being a song that feels like the coolness of water on a hot day. It is healing to have such a light hearted song in between ‘Red Lights’ and ‘Gone Away’ and on the album as a whole, with this light energy not always seen from Stray Kids. I love Lee Know’s lighter singing voice and this is perfect for it with his voice feeling like the sea breeze they talk about in the song. This style is honestly perfect for this trip with power rapper Changbin being the king of aegyo (cute displays of affection) and I adore this carefree vibe they produce. Stray Kids really have no limits when it comes to sounds they will produce.

‘Gone Away’ is a beautiful ballad that showcases the group’s vocalists without straying away from Stray Kids’ sound. Showing off Seungmin’s velvet voice, Han’s crystal vocals and I.N.’s honey tone with a soothing piano and light electric guitar this song feels like the bittersweet last hug of a lover. The key change after the bridge is the pang of emotions built up by these three where everything feels like it’s falling and leaves you thinking about it hours after you listen to it. The power of their voices with the guitar is really something special that I’m glad they showcased for this album and hope they show off more. I think this is a perfect way to show the world that they are more than the fast tempo box people wish to put them into, they will make whatever they want to and it will always be impressive.

The penultimate track ‘Wolfgang’ at first seems odd but it’s weird in a Stray Kids way that it just sort of works. It is the song for which they won Mnet’s Kingdom with a performance that still plays on a loop in my mind to this very day. The choral singing and organ give this song a gothic vibe and the use of typically rock instruments makes this song have an edge to it that somehow works perfectly. The song talks about the group a wolf pack stemming from not only their Intro stage on the show but a letter written by a fan during the airing of the show and it is amazing to see how fans can inspire all genres of music.

It is a brilliant song to close off an album that will have pressing play again just so you can hear it all again

The final song ‘Mixtape:애’ is a continuation of their mixtape series which talks about youth. With the electro-pop instrumental accompanied by lyrics about feeling foolish and immature in front of a love interest this song feels like the confession scene of a coming of age movie. It is a brilliant song to close off an album that will have pressing play again just so you can hear it all again.

I do not intend to exaggerate what I speak on how great this album is. From lyrics, vocals, rap and instrumentals every part of this album drips in gold. As told by Seungmin, this is them trying to make the sound curated in their first album more distinctive which they have succeeded in doing. There is nothing lacking in this album whatsoever and it is flawless as a cohesive piece of art that reflects the creators and their listeners. After all, isn’t that the purpose of music?

With this album Stray Kids are paving their own way away from the expectations of others and making their music so true to themselves that no one can copy them. ‘I hope that one day Stray Kids will become a genre itself’ and I believe they already are considering how their sound is so distinct from anything else out there. Their music is identifiably Stray Kids because of the energy it leaves coursing through your veins and the addictive aftertaste it leaves burning in your mouth. This album is a masterpiece because it is purely the sound of Stray Kids and I have an insatiable appetite for more.

Rating: 10/10

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