A K-pop group’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. 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.
Stray Kids’ new album is perfectly solid, but I can’t help but be underwhelmed. This reaction comes on the heels of last year’s Go Live, which runs circles around NOEASY. This time around, there are no songs on the level of Haven or Ta or Phobia or Blueprint. Instead, the guys offer a handful of tracks that come across as less ambitious siblings to those standouts. They’re still enjoyable because Stray Kids are enjoyable, but overall NOEASY struggles to uncover killer choruses.
For me, Star Lost comes closest to recapturing the Stray Kids sound I love most. It’s one of the album’s EDM-flavored offerings, pulsing forward on a chugging beat that brings a welcome sense of drive. Guitar joins the mix and creates a sound that feels more organic than expected. In a different world, this could have been their Crooked. Star Lost never dives that far into pop brilliance, but the fact I can even make the comparison is appreciated.
With that said, there are moments of Star Lost that feel like a demo rather than a fully polished track. The climactic chant comes across as a placeholder, waiting to develop into something more complex and rousing. I could also do without the pre-chorus slowdown. I much prefer a streamlined energy to a stop/start structure. But, beggars can’t be choosers, and there’s enough here to make for a satisfying b-side. I love the filtered guitar textures that run throughout the verses. This alt-rock sound has tons of potential. Star Lost’s chorus casts a few sparks as well, moving from punchy chants to delicate falsetto. If I’m making an EDM-influenced Stray Kids playlist, this will definitely be on it.