Stray Kids’ latest EP, Maxident, confidently maximizes the group’s sriracha-spicy edge and thunderous rock energy. Mixing up drastically different music genres that strike listeners all at once, the EP feels irresistibly creative and thrillingly volatile. Already the K-pop boy group’s seventh record, it supports its bold mashup experiments with skillfulness and attention to detail that testify to the members’ growth as performance idols and music producers.
Strays Kids have a tradition of mixing tracks in an upcoming album into a new mashup track and using it as a comeback trailer. Such a distinct tradition sheds light on how the group’s music often stands out from others for its striking dynamism. A great case study, the EP’s lead single “Case 143” exemplifies how multiple disparate music genres can be combined to a dazzling and electrifying effect.
“Case 143” explodes into blasting rap that unhesitatingly accelerates the pace of the song. Then, at the 24th second, the rapping halts abruptly, descending into soft, soothing vocals. But before listeners get a full rest, the heavy rap beat quickly returns on the chorus. As rapping and singing alternate intermittently, “Case 143” blooms with incessant fun and surprises.
Astonishingly, the song hardly repeats any one of its rap verses or melodies. After the first chorus, Latin-American-inspired instruments appear unexpectedly to accompany new rap verses. On the bridge, the bursting rap and scratching mechanic sounds remind one of Itzy. Each section of the song has a distinct style, but put together, it glows in a strangely captivating way.
Yet, “Case 143” isn’t the most ambitious song on Maxident in terms of mashup experiments. The second track, “Chill,” begins with an R&B-inspired piano solo and a breezy synthesizer, immediately contrasting the exploding heat of “Case 143.”
The most innovative mashup moment comes when a jazz saxophone is brilliantly used to flavor such a pop track. The saxophone endows the song with a mature, nostalgic tinge that strikes a fine balance with the vibrant vocals that shine with youthful energy and cheer.
“Give Me Your TMI” equally showcases Stray Kids’ capability to creatively incorporate different music genres in a single song to their best advantages. The intro is disco mashed with layered synthesizers that lead surprisingly to a brainwashing, biting rap. Unhurriedly, the song takes a stroll and switches its beats and flows unpredictably until a powerful EDM beat suddenly escalates into chorus.
Although crafted as a jumpy dancehall track, “Give Me Your TMI” doesn’t get subsumed by the loud, turbulent music in the background. Instead, the eight members’ vocals remain central and upfront, charming listeners with a raw vitality that will become more prominent when performed onstage.
However, “Super Board” falls short in sustaining the creative momentum built by the three previous tracks. Attempting to mix rock with hip-hop and pop this time, the song utilizes aggressive drums and violent electric guitars that unfortunately outshine everything else. Unable to maintain balance like its predecessors, “Super Board” grows drier and noisier as it progresses.
Like “Super Board,” “Can’t Stop” also tries to arm itself with rock band energy — a rash decision for Stray Kids. Although members I.N and Seungmin both have satisfactory vocal performances on this track, their voices don’t yet have the resonating, bursting power that a rock production requires.
In comparison, Stray Kids have much greater success with hip hop and rap: “3racha” is a bold flex of the three rap-line members’ undeniable talents. Meanwhile, although “Taste” feels unengaging at times when autotunes and dramatic falsettos drain listeners’ focus, the members — especially Felix — manage to charm listeners with their natural swag and magnetic voices.
Despite occasional faults, most tracks on Maxident thrive with compelling, creative power that result from the members of Stray Kids acting as the EP producers themselves — a rare and praiseworthy fact for K-pop idols nowadays. In addition, this EP certainly marks the group’s distinguishing advantage in mashing up different music genres. With much potential to grow, the world stans for a group of on-the-rise music producers.