Song Review: Stray Kids – I Am YOU

Stray Kids threw down the gauntlet with March’s awesome District 9, blending hip-hop and rock for a refreshingly old-school sound that turned things up to eleven to harness K-pop’s unashamed energy. The song’s rock elements were toned down for August’s My Pace, and that continues to be the case with new single I Am YOU. I’m beginning to fear that the sound I fell in love with seven months ago was more of a red herring than a signature style.

In the post-BTS K-pop landscape, new emphasis has been put on the idea of authenticity. More idol groups are writing their own material, and naval-gazing lyricism is becoming just as important as a good hook. I Am YOU is clearly designed as a spotlight for Stray Kids’ growing maturity, putting more focus on mood and sentiment than innovative song construction. Those already engrossed in the Stray Kids narrative will likely be sucked in immediately. For those on the fence, the song doesn’t do much to stand out.

I Am YOU’s ever-present electric guitar is its strongest element, even though it’s never positioned as the song’s focal point. This instrumental backbone gives the track a unique texture and adds needed drama to the arrangement. It’s especially effective during YOU’s emotive chorus, which could have just as easily been framed by typical ballad tropes. The chugging bridge is also a standout, hinting at what could have been a much more anthemic track. It’s during the verses that I Am YOU starts to lose me. Yes, Stray Kids is home to some great rappers, and the flow here is assured in a way most idol groups struggle to match. However, much of the song passes by without the kind of carefully crafted hooks that would really drive this passion home. Unlike the quickly-tiresome My Pace, YOU’s restraint might actually end up as an asset in the long run. Still, I can’t help but miss the theatrical energy of the group’s uniquely dynamic debut.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7



17 thoughts on “Song Review: Stray Kids – I Am YOU

  1. I spent the whole song hoping for a standout moment with the guitar in the instrumental. When I first saw the teasers, it seemed like it would be more prominent (I kind of like the first teaser better than I like the song–the muted guitar is teasing, hinting at a huge build, and (I think) kind of epic. That’s the only word I can think of to use). I’m definitely disappointed about that, but regardless, I do keep coming back to I Am YOU for its chorus and bridge. I am YOU isn’t a bad song, it’s just not the song I expected.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Imo My Pace is rocking fun. Not as good as District 9, but District 9 is, after all, unusually good. “I am YOU” is kind of a bore though – not something I was looking for from Stray Kids, who seem to be one of the good emerging boy groups (and trust me, I really don’t like many of them).

    On a more positive note, there’s electric guitar on maybe 3/4 of this album, which is an excellent sign. I’m pretty sure that Stray Kids are gearing up to be kpop’s new B.A.P. in terms of metal-rap-pop, and I’m frankly not upset about it. The experimental nature of the whole I Am You album is actually a joy to listen to.

    Take a track like “My Side.” You might initially write it off as basically the some song as “I Am YOU,” but I would argue that it’s perhaps even in its own genre. Musically, at least, there’s nothing like that one that I’ve heard in kpop. At all. 0325, while an amalgamation of their intro tracks (I think), also has some weird rhythm and texture interplay that I was… surprised to hear, to say the least. I recommend you give the album a listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t had a chance to make it through the whole album yet, but I’ve listened to My Side and — even after one play — have concluded that it would’ve made a much stronger title track. I Am YOU (the song) is perfectly serviceable, but just doesn’t leave much of an impression.

      My Pace was such a weird one. I thought it was reasonably strong back when I wrote my review, but I genuinely dislike it now. The “na na na na na” hook just annoys the hell out of me.


      • “My Side” is a wild ride, and totally would have made a better title track. If you write a buried treasure on it, I’ll rant about rhythms and bass textures.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s much easier on the ears compared to their previous title tracks, though I’d agree that it lacks impact. The post-bridge of the song is arguably the best part, it kind of holds the song together, imo. For some reason I feel like this song brings back to Stray Kids’ roots: Hellevator. District 9 is definitely a standout track, but I am You is kind of their signature sound. It sounds similar to their B-sides like Voices, Awaken and My Side.


  4. One of the worst rookie acts of 2018. If they weren’t from JYP Entertainment, they would probably have gained less spotlight than Noir. There’s absolutely *nothing* in SKZ that sounds or looks 1% original, distinctive and/or interesting: they’re simply an annoying clone of BTS (with a glimpse of Monsta X) without any creative concept.
    At least, I hope they won’t come back again once a month until the end of the year.


  5. This song is a too safe for them, i think it because they want to make more public friendly song and gain more public attention. Because district 9 is really unique and cool song but i see most people doesn’t like it, my pace is good for me. I don’t feel the hooks in this song but the chorus and the last part is nice and felix part for me is the best part of the song.

    I think they are one of the best rookies 2018 because i like the rock-electro rap elements they bring in their album. It just their trilogy album always bring different vibe, i am not is more dark/mysterious so the rock elements is really strong. I am who is more bright/fun and i am you is more soft/melancholy so their rock signature sounds were toned down.


  6. I stumbled upon this song in the “kpop daebak” playlist on spotify, I think its nice enough. I was mildly surprise its them since my whole impression of the group is just that song “my pace.” In comparison to that one, this is much more listenable, though its not that remarkable for me.


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  8. I am You is definity a lighter song that Hellevator, but the rapping has basically the darkest part of Hellevator… I feel that I am You is a more complex song in that it’s not reliant on a droning 4 chord drop that is quite underwhelming. District 9 and My Pace are definitely better songs and project a true style that skz has, but the sincerety that shines through the song, especially, the chorus, bridge and outro thing really resonates with me, which is why it’s probably my most played. That being said, the side tracks are definitely the weakest of all the mini albums and the mixtape, nothing can come above Awaken on “WHO”


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