Japanese tracks by Korean idol groups have been pretty lousy lately, but Stray Kids have the benefit of self-composition. The guys’ production unit 3RACHA has already dabbled in the J-pop market, including the production of a standout track for J-idol group JO1. New single Circus takes a high-concept approach, putting as much focus on its theme as the music itself.
It’s nice to hear something a bit more groovy from Stray Kids. This year’s Maniac leaned in that direction, but Circus boasts a more consistent rhythm. Its verses are playful and funky and leave plenty of room for theatricality. The first is more straightforward than the second, but both do a nice job propelling Circus forward.
The pre-chorus and chorus are more of a mixed bag. I’ve become increasingly annoyed with K-pop pre-choruses and their continual desire to sloooooow down the entire track. In a post-EDM world, pre-chorus builds have become a staple in songwriting, but very few do anything different with the structure. After a brisk, beat-driven transition, the bulk of Circus’s pre-chorus simply spins its wheels. This continues into the chorus, which takes a fragmented, chanty approach that misses the opportunity to put a killer exclamation point on the song. It’s funny, because Maniac was lopsided in the opposite way: great chorus, polarizing verses. We know Stray Kids can deliver a consistently excellent track, which makes this circus feel a little dodgy.