True to JYP form, Stray Kids have proven to be real workhorses this year. Just over a month after their last Korean comeback (which they’re still promoting), they’ve dropped the music video for their new Japanese single. All In follows this spring’s standout TOP, and heralds the release of their first Japanese mini album. Like so many tracks this year, All In is a combination of the “great” and the “okay,” all filtered through the group’s undeniable energy.
One thing you don’t hear from K-pop groups much any more is rap verses underlined by high-tempo beats. It’s almost as if idol rap has become its own distinct moment within K-pop tracks. The bulk of a song cruises along its designated groove, but as soon as the rapper comes in the entire energy and tempo of the song changes. This discontinuity often blunts a track’s momentum, rather than building on it. In some ways, All In feels like a macro view of this K-pop trend. Its verses and chorus are distinct in tempo and delivery, making the song feel a bit lopsided.
All In’s chorus is a blast. I love its go-for-broke energy. The percussion pounds with a propulsive drive, supporting a brief but effective hook. In contrast, the song’s verses are hard-hitting but move far more leisurely in their pace. Neither approach is objectively better than the other, but having both in the same song makes All In difficult to fully embrace. Personally, I long to hear Stray Kids’ fantastic rap-line tackle the high-octane beat that frames All In’s chorus. I think it would result in a more dynamic flow, both for the verses themselves and the song overall. We get a bit of this as the song’s diverging approaches come together during its final moments, but too much of All In feels oddly disconnected.