Review

Buried Treasure: Stray Kids – Haven

Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.


In an alternate timeline, Stray Kids just released their new mini album “Haven,” with a tracklist that looks like this:

1. Haven
2. Phobia
3. Pacemaker
4. Blueprint
5. TOP
6. TA

And, they simultaneously scored the year’s best boy group mini and title track.

Of course, in reality, they padded Go Live with some fine-but-filler material and released a title track that’s more performance piece than actual song. Of course, I’m thrilled that we got those great songs listed above. But, it’s almost more frustrating to imagine what might have been — especially when the potential exists right in front of you.

From its very first moment, Haven is incredibly refreshing. For a good part of the year, I’ve been questioned whether I was falling out of love with K-pop. A song like this reminds me that when K-pop is good, it’s great. We’re just stuck in a seemingly endless stage where every comeback looks and sounds the same. For those who enjoy the current trends, this must be a great situation. For the rest of us, it’s just disappointment after disappointment.

Haven succeeds because it’s a fully fleshed-out song, with a real chorus! Every time I thought it was going to take a turn for the worse, it went exactly where I’d hoped for instead. Barring a regrettable foray into trap during its second verse, this is a satisfying pop/dance track that builds to an honest-to-goodness climax.

If I sound surprised, it’s because I am. K-pop’s current tropes have beaten me so far down that something like Haven feels like an absolute revolution. It takes Stray Kids’ central message and ties it to a song that dares to be joyous. That chorus is everything I’ve been missing this year, repetitive and straightforward as it is. We’ll see how this ages, but for now I honestly think it’s a worthy successor to Miroh.

 Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 9
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.5

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

23 thoughts on “Buried Treasure: Stray Kids – Haven

  1. Woah it’s refreshing seeing someone actually appreciate Haven!! I had the smallest hope that it would be this time’s hidden treasure, so I’m really happy. I love the influence of the early 2000’s EDM, something about this song sounds so uplifting and hopeful. It would have been awesome as a title track with a cool MV, but I guess it’s not as in your face as God’s Menu so it wouldn’t attract many fans 😦 I like easy too, the production and sounds are pretty addicting

    Liked by 1 person

      • That’s my qualm with Phobia, too. On the upside, at least uninspired verses aren’t the (main) issue plaguing k-pop anymore — while I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I’ve been really into the non-chorus parts of some newer tracks recently!

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  2. Haha, that’s almost exactly how my preferred tracklist would look. The first portion of the album had me really discouraged and wondering what the heck Stray Kids is doing until I heard the latter half.

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  3. Hey Nick! Just wanted to let you know your reviews of skz made me a STAY 🙂 I was a huge fan of infinite’s entire discography and your blog also reflected that and clearly taste carries over

    Liked by 1 person

        • Nope. It’s a great sound for Stray Kids, and a sound that no other groups seem interested in chasing. I simply find it interesting, as Stray Kids has been styled strongly after BTS — not Big Bang. Stray Kids are invested in interconnected narrative music videos and themes of mental health and found family. I honestly think the club-minded aspects of Big Bang’s discography may be a better fit — especially given the groups strength at rapping and crafting high energy choruses. Haven could easily be a track off of Big Bang’s Alive album. That’s really high praise considering that Still Alive is one of the best repackages in K pop.

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          • I agree. I was just listening to it again today and was really struck by the Bigbang similarities. Some of the melody is just identical to their 2012-era material, which is no bad thing in my book.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I knew It!! Haven! was the one! I love the song soooooooo much !! We currently have a lot facing the b-sides contest of 2020. Labrynth , Haven and Drama and New World are awesome contenders and did you hear The preview of Golden Child’s One!! YES! I hope it won’t be just an intro , though!

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  5. I just listened to the album this morning and boy do I love it. The first half of the album is quite underwhelming, yes, but the second half MORE than makes up for it. My bias rookie group did not disappoint 😁.

    Top 5 songs in Go Live:
    1. Haven (9.25/10)
    2. TOP (9/10)
    3. Blueprint (8.75/10)
    4. Phobia (8.25/10)
    5. Ta (8.25/10)

    “Haven” is easily my favourite boy group song this year, and my 2nd favourite song of the year (1st is still Craxy’s “Aria” ahhh I love that song!).
    Thanks, Stray Kids & crew 💛.

    As for you, Hyunjin, I’m excited to see you rock that stage (while looking devastatingly hot)!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I listened to the whole album in the order known as whatever youtube had on the right hand side. Taken as a whole, I thought it was pretty good, at least bbove average but not greatly, although I am grading on a curve versus a few decades of listening to a lot of albums.

    I think “Haven” is very very good, but I prefer “God’s Kitchen” by a smidgeon because of the novelty of Cooking is Cool concept.

    Liked by 1 person

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