Song Review: Stray Kids – TOP

Stray Kids’ TOP has been rattling around for awhile now, but I wanted to wait until the music video was out before offering my thoughts. Though released in several different languages, TOP is essentially the group’s debut J-pop single – at least when it comes to original material. And as with most J-pop singles, it’s paired with an anime. That symbiotic relationship has pushed the group to revisit their more theatrical side, and TOP feels like a middle ground between District 9 and Side Effects.

TOP isn’t as strong as either of those tracks, but it reignites a sense of bombast that’s been missing in Stray Kids’ music for the past few months. The song opens with a cinematic flourish of strings before moving into its hard-hitting verse. The production is suitably grandiose, bolstered by electric guitar and a gorgeous choral backdrop for the standout pre-chorus. I can’t tell if this is achieved through actual voices or synths alone, but the effect is engaging either way.

TOP’s chorus lets the production do the talking. There’s not much of a vocal hook to be found, but the instrumental does its best to compensate. I love the combination of fragmented electronics and taunting strings. It’s sharp and menacing in a very satisfying way, and doesn’t really need the guys’ voices to be a success. A secondary hook (à la Miroh) might have put this over the top, but I’m not quite sure how they would have arranged that. Hopefully, TOP’s daring nature will bleed into the group’s next Korean comeback. After all, Stray Kids are at their best when they go big.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

Be sure to add your own rating by participating in the poll below!


22 thoughts on “Song Review: Stray Kids – TOP

  1. Oh yeah, I’ve waited for this. As for the song I really enjoy it and thought it isn’t their best its a great way for them to start 2020 and make way for their first full album! As for the song I really enjoyed it! The opening does a great job of setting the tone and the guitar along with changbins rapping keep up the energy. The pre chorus has some nice drums and Felix’s deep voice closes that section well. The chorus is great but may be jarring due to that sqeaky mouse sound but its not too bad. The bridge later comes in and reminds me of District 9. Its a nice change of pace and gives the listener time to relax before going crazy in the end.
    Overall I really like this song, I’m givin it an 8.5 and Slump is getting an 8.5 as well. Even with the excessive autotune I really think Slump evokes enough emotion and hits all the right notes on top of a great instrumental. Some might say that Slump is too short but I’m glad its restrained in its variation as it deosn’t get distracted with beat switches and it knows when its charm is wavering.

    Stray kids everywhere all around the world

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Even though I like the instrumental, apart from the pre-chorus the vocal lines are really weak. Kinda kills the enjoyment for me, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Btw there are english and korean versions on Stray Kids spotify page from a week or 2 ago, in case anyone is curious in checking them out. They’ll also probably be in the next album, I guess.


        • Well, I don’t like those songs so I guess it makes sense. I do like other stuff from them, sometimes it works better.


      • Yeah, that’s true. Even though I don’t really care for lyrics, vocal lines play a big part on my enjoyability and give me something to grab on to while I sing in gibberish ahah

        Liked by 1 person

        • Who cares about your thoughts, Those are useless.Everybody knows that some of vocal lines in kpopgroups are not that good or well when it comes in singing. At least Stray kids tried their best to make an inspiration songs even though I’m not a fan of
          them, they got my attention.


    • I totally relate to your comment. I have over 80 anime tracks and ost in my playlist, that’s how much I love them. For this song I was feeling the energy and the buildup when they started and the rappers were doing an amazing job increasing my adrenaline level… But in anime tracks, the point where the vocals really let it out & scream with their raw voices and reach the peak, here it did the opposite ;the energy kinda fizzled out & and that moment I was like argghh! With the current releases going on it’s a very strong song.. but as an anime tracks avid listener it didn’t have the same impact.
      If they have just nailed that moment, I would have given this song an a 9 for sure.

      For the person who said “your thoughts don’t matter”. Its a review & blog site.. that’s how these sites works. She didn’t insult the group in any way so chillax.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I liked it much better than some previous releases.. not only this we differ greatly on Stray Kids music…for unknown reason they just slip away from my playlist after some time. My review on Miroh and Side effects differ greatly from yours.

    But I understand since u love to hear experimenting sounds that come nicely.. but personally I don’t want another side effect. I applaud them for the bravery and meaning and execution,but I don’t listen to it unless I’m watching the performance.

    I have much respect for Stray kids for staying the way they are(yes it’s deliberate) but I am still waiting for a song that I love unconditionally.

    Coming back to this song, I liked the energy in 8 for me.


  4. Stray Kids + debut is really something else huh. First they gifted us with “District 9” which imo is the best debut song in recent years. Now they gave us “TOP” which again imo is one of the best Japanese debut songs by major 3rd/4th gen Kpop artists. Kudos to Chan, Han, Changbin, and collaborators!


  5. First track by Stray Kids in their whole discography that I unconditionally love since the very first listening. The instrumental riff in the chorus is an absolute coup de foudre. Rating 10 and sayonara.


  6. This is great! A little more “dumb fun” than something like ‘Side Effects’ (i.e. their best, in my opinion), but it’s just so nice to hear something with a pulse these days. These guys just keep knocking it out of the park.


  7. Most of Stray Kids’ discography just really isn’t for me, but that instrumental is to die for. Unexpectedly surprised.


  8. It’s pretty cool. The drop chorus works way too well too.

    It’s very nice that it got attached to Tower Of God too, the series are pretty good (Only go for it if you’re in for a long, time-sucking series)


  9. Who cares about your thoughts, Those are useless.Everybody knows that some of vocal lines in kpopgroups are not that good or well when it comes in singing. At least Stray kids tried their best to make an inspiration songs even though I’m not a fan of
    them, they got my attention.


  10. @blinkarie chill a bit yea? attacks like these give the fandom a bad name

    anyway, i’m dead from the orchestral beginning — it promises so much and the later parts of the song 100% lives up to it. The electric guitar/synths in the chorus and the rap!! (hyunjin has been stepping up on his rap game since debut and it shows. the rap maintains and furthers the energy)

    I didn’t notice the pre-chorus choral elements until i read your review, but damn it really is eerie and atmospheric in the best ways. The melody isn’t as catchy as miroh perhaps, but it does its job well with the building drums.

    *can we also appreciate the few (if not none) trap hi hats and auto tune in this song too?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So I was never on the “Miroh is awesome” band wagon until very late, and even then not very much on the bandwagon. This one I feel will be the same.

    The instrumental … the piano key bass line in the 2nd verse. That is cool. It has some good quality moments.

    The vocals: since the rap is mostly shouty rap when the actual sung lines are there they are merely sung at a normal level so they can only be a let done. For example, 0:32-0:47 would be fine for most kpop songs, but right before it 0:11-0:31 and right smack after it 0:48 is all full volume shouty rap. They don’t match. One would either have to tone down the shouty rap, or get the tenors to really boom. But since the line is a milquetoast soft prechorus, it is hard to boom there. Also, there aren’t too many booming tenors in kpop – the casting people tend to select for light lyric breathy tenors.

    … Or go really soft with the vocal prechorus, perhaps. Just not normal level which isn’t working.

    For me, this one is almost under the category “noisy”. It is full on high for the whole song, and doesn’t create the space for all that full on to feel momentous and create tension, even though the volume meter may hit the same number in the end. QV the HeySayJump 「I」that Nick reviewed a few days ago which ebbs and flows more effectively. Or in the Stray Kids catalogue “District 9” or “Hellavator”.


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