Over the course of their two-year history, Stay Kids’ releases have existed as a pair of trilogies. Last year, the I Am series opened with the dramatic District 9 and concluded with the more subdued I Am YOU. Though the genre elements have changed, the group’s 2019 Clé trilogy has followed almost the same trajectory, introducing itself with a big, bombastic showstopper and closing with an angsty hip-hop ballad.
The difference, of course, is that Clé has pushed Stray Kids’ sound in more experimental directions. The guys are growing as composers, and becoming more adventurous. Musically, Levanter (바람) is the least interesting of their three main 2019 comebacks, but a few smart production touches elevate it above typical slow-burn boy group fodder. Unfortunately, these touches aren’t spread evenly throughout the track. Levanter’s verses are largely forgettable, positioning lethargic melody over an uninspired trap-infused beat.
It’s not until we reach the pre-chorus that Levanter starts to show its hand. A bit of electronic distortion recalls the daring nature of Side Effects as the melody becomes more anthemic. Then, the chorus hits with rock guitar, echoing some of the elements that made last year’s District 9 so formidable. While the arrangement here feels a little too plodding, I love the chorused vocal effect that echoes each line. It’s a punchy, theatrical way to end the Clé era, and feels like something that Ateez would proudly add to their repertoire. Levanter’s dynamic bridge offers a too-short instrumental breakdown that hints at a more energetic take on the track. As a fan of Stray Kids’ upbeat material, I would’ve loved for Levanter to harness more of that intensity. But as a big, emotive finale to a successful trilogy, the song does its job well.
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