It’s been an unusually long break since Stray Kids’ last Korean comeback. They spent their first three years blitzing the market with music — no less than nine albums’ worth of material depending on how you classify their minis and repackages. Their 2021 has been devoted to Mnet’s Kingdom, which paid off in victory during the series finale. Before their inevitable post-show comeback, the guys tide us over with one of their “mixtape” releases – un-promoted singles supported by indie-minded music videos.
For me, this release strategy is a double-edged sword. It’s always nice to hear new music from a favorite group, and mixtapes often allow for more exploration than a typical title track. But, they tend to be less ambitious in sound, diluting the overall impact of a group’s singles run. Like so many of Stray Kids’ mixtape releases, Oh (애) is pleasant but unassuming. Its biggest legacy will likely be the return of member Hyunjin after his lengthy hiatus.
The song delivers the kind of emotive mid-tempo pop usually heard in idol group b-sides. It’s got a nice generic groove, utilizing elements of EDM to craft the sort of build/drop structure that forges so much of today’s pop music. Oh’s chorus casts a few sparks, supported by brassy synth and a percolating tropical loop. However, the melody isn’t anything to write home about. It’s pretty indistinguishable from any other song of this nature. Oh’s strongest hooks emerge during its verses, which offer a sly series of cyclical melodies that push the track forward. All in all, this is a fine appetizer. But, I think we’re all ready for the main course.