Song Review: Stray Kids – Circus

Stray Kids - CircusJapanese 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.

Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7


21 thoughts on “Song Review: Stray Kids – Circus

  1. An okay song. But no more than that for me. I think it sounds like a brother of Maniac, and the only thing that makes the track different is just the release itself being sung in Japanese.
    I’m giving it a 7.75.

    Just why have both K-pop and J-pop become SOOOOO UNDERWHELMING these days, huh? Someone enlighten me!
    Maybe agencies don’t care about us fans anymore and give idols the comebacks which sound good only according to their producers’ own taste?…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hah! More Speed love this month!

      As I was clicking the link, I thought was this going to be Block B “Jackpot”, Speed “Don’t Tease Me”, or the megafine fan-made video of the Speed song to the Jackpot visual.

      For those new to this, the lead rapper with the best Zico impression ever is Zico’s big brother. As one comment put it “I still think the Woo brothers sat down together, drank one too many bottles of soju, got a bit too crazy and created the circus concept. Then in the morning they didn’t remember whose idea it was, so they decided to use it both.” The songs came out with a couple months of each other.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I actually liked it OK and might listen to it again. That’s not a given for any SKZ title tracks for me. It’s no Don’t Tease Me or even Side Effects, but to reiterate, I liked it OK.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve been thirsting for another Side Effect for over 1001 nights, not lying that I’m losing all my illusions. They’ve tried plenty of different stuff after Side Effects but nothing could hypnotize my mind crazily. They are going on tour for months, so I’m not sure about when the next full-length or just an end-to-the-year single will release, but for my personal security, I need to stop expecting another Side Effects.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. this is fine. i can’t think of anything else to say

    (side note – i actually loved the verses of maniac, and really felt let down by the chorus. something about the synth line and the melody of the verses, and then the driving rhythm & groove of the raps really got me. but where is the chorus!!! stray kids used to sing!!!)

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I know I’m the outlier here but for some reason I actually really like this. I can’t identify why, since none of the individual elements are really showstoppers, but something about this song is scratching my brain just the right way lol. I do wish they had leaned a little bit more into the burst of energy at the end and maybe kept things closer to that level for more of the song, but still, I’m into it

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Maniac and Venom have grown on me immensely. Even the ping pings!
    This song here sounds like leftover filler. Not terrible, but not lead single material.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well I wasn’t expecting myself to like the song after I watched the teasers, but I actually really like it! Some parts are cheesy but all together I like how it sounds. I agree with what you said about the prechorus, though, Nick.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The chorus and pre-chorus was underwhelming considering that their previous releases, all-in(interesting hook) and Top(which is one of skz’s best songs). Its a 8/10 I might as well put this aside and listen to yayaya or winter falls

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, All In and Top were so good. I personally liked the production on Circus. YAYAYA and Winter Falls are good songs but I have overplayed them (my fault 😁)


  8. Okay I am disappointed that the only really circus-y part was a “da da da-da” nod to “Entry of the Gladiators”. I should not have gotten my hopes up for accordion. “Maniac” had more memorable hooks for me.

    You know who I want to see doing a circus/clown concept? VIXX! Their team would do something awesome with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As usual, I adore this. The more I hear Stray Kids the more I like them. I would also like to give a shoutout to all the corsetry, harnesses, and body chains that gave their all to make this production great.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s fun and I prefer it to the moodiness of “Scars,” their last Japanese release. I think these non-Korean releases are good ways to offload some of their material that might not make it onto an album otherwise, so if they feel a little throwaway then that’s probably why, right?

    By the way, unexpectedly I’ve been listening a lot to “Your Eyes,” another pre-release single from this mini album. It certainly is not anything especially unique but it’s a pleasant little tune.


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