Stray Kids’ Astronaut arrives nearly a week after it was originally scheduled, and several weeks after the departure of the group’s main vocal Woojin. I’m honestly surprised that they were able to release it as early as they did, given the inevitable re-recordings and edits needed to accommodate Stray Kids’ new eight-member configuration. Ironically, the song is their most vocal-driven single in some time, and you can clearly hear where Woojin’s voice might have slipped in.
After the excellent one-two punch of Miroh and Side Effects earlier in the year, both Astronaut and its predecessor Double Knot seem to tackle one aspect of what made those title tracks so thrilling. For Double Knot, that meant a hard-hitting hip-hop track. For Astronaut, it means fairly straightforward EDM. Stray Kids have explored this sound before on last year’s Mixtape #1, but I’m not sure how many listeners actually heard that track. Astronaut has more meat on its bones thanks to a generous injection of rap. Its standout pre-choruses transfer some of Miroh’s appeal, layering more than one melodic line on top of the other to create a busy, ascending energy.
Elsewhere, Astronaut is more generic. Its instrumental drop – which makes up much of the track – could have been copied from any number of festival-ready EDM bangers. It’s surprisingly reserved, aiming for euphoria but never going big enough to nail that sentiment. I much prefer the moments that are driven by the members themselves, drawing on the guys’ character-filled vocals to imbue the track with that trademark Stray Kids grit. From Changbin’s mile-a-minute flow to the captivating deepness of Felix’s tone, the group does what it can to elevate the song’s generic leanings. If only Astronaut’s production echoed their intensity. It’s a solid, satisfying EDM track, but could have hit much harder.
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