With every comeback, Stray Kids continue to define themselves as boundary-breaking and constantly evolving. The eight-member group consisting of IN, Seungmin, HAN, Felix, Hyunjin, Changbin, Lee Know, and leader Bang Chan follow their record-breaking album ODDINARY with the return of their second Billboard 200 chart-topping and ninth mini-album, MAXIDENT. The mini-album consists of eight songs that dive into the different elements of love, a new approach in comparison to their previous releases that lightly touched on the topic. Although they deliver something new and an expansion of their niche, the album still rings true to their creative style and character.
The title track, “CASE 143,” kicks off the album with a high-energy ensemble of sounds and melodic speeds to describe the feeling of someone unexpectedly turning your life upside down. The lyrics “Why do I keep getting attracted? / I’m drawn to you like a magnet / I cannot explain this reaction / The only thing I can say is one-four-three” describe the inescapable pull towards another person despite all logical reasoning. The constant contemplation and questions lead to a never-ending loop of thinking about this person, resulting in the realization of love. In comparison to their previous title tracks such as “God’s Menu” and “Thunderous,” which use uses aggression and power, “CASE 143” uses a more melodic and catchy approach to continuously occupy fans’ thoughts.
In a more melancholic approach to love, “CHILL” depicts a relationship bound to end due to differences and lack of compatibility. Written by HAN who is known for his hauntingly sad songs such as “Secret Secret” and “Another Day,” “CHILL” showcases his impeccable word choice and the ability to hide intense emotion behind a bright melody. The group explains working together in order to break apart with the lyrics, “Yeah we gonna break break break together / burning up each others’ valuable time / There’s no regrets even if we let it all go / we’re just letting our frustrated feelings chill out.” The lyrics express a relationship beyond being salvageable, which leads to the painful decision of letting the remaining emotions fade away.
Turning up the energy with a lighter track, “Give Me Your TMI” shares the feeling of wanting to know everything about a person. The song emphasizes the phrase “TMI,” which although in western culture means to give unwanted information, in Korean culture represents sharing unknown fun facts of information about themselves to become closer. By expressing the desire to know this person’s TMI, they fall deeper and deeper. “Why is it that before I realize it / I’m more and more immersed in you / One, two, I wanna know more / I just want to know more about you, Give Me Your TMI.”
Transitioning into a more cyberpunk melody, “SUPER BOARD” explains continuing on despite others’ negativity. A recurring theme for Stray Kids, they express, “Tripping over your words, under my feet is a hoverboard / Announcing an emergency under me, everyone looking up / and I’m just flying.” The track consists of playful catchy sounds such as “ZOOM” revealed to be done by Bang Chan.
“3RACHA“ marks the beginning of the unit songs. Created by the producing unit of Stray Kids, 3Racha, consisting of Bang Chan, HAN, and Changbin, the track highlights their self-sufficiency and their desire to rise above their haters. With a combination of powerfully aggressive drill, the member’s vocals bouncing off each other, and Bang Chan’s strong Australian accent while singing the lyrics, the track provides an impactful punch that proves Stray Kids and 3Racha will continue to break barriers and make a name for themselves. “Our copyrighted numbers won’t be ever stoppin’ / ‘Cause we still constructing, keep it comin’ / Ha, why you mad, brah?”
After the dominating atmosphere of “3Racha,” the album takes a slower, more seductive turn with “TASTE.” The dance unit made up of Felix, Lee Know, and Hyunjin, showcase their skill and sensuality by offering a track full of mysteriously lustful lyrics. “Setting fire to my already tamed feelings / Don’t make me bad, bad / Addicted to you / Once we’ve started, you must be mine,” the trio shows their desire and need to claim what’s theirs. To prove their title as the group’s dance unit, a masterful choreography accompanies the track to heighten the emotion and maximize the intensity.
After the overwhelming experience of indulging in “3RACHA” and “TASTE” back to back, the album gives fans a vibrant and bright ending with Seungmin and IN’s “Can’t Stop.” The vocal line delivers a light, pop track to depict a more playful, young love. The lyrics “Why are you so clumsy?” / You ask me without any context / Why do I answer nervously “What are you saying?” / I can’t hide it anymore,” show the feeling of nervousness after realizing the extent of one’s feelings for another. The track combined with the Korean version of their Japanese title track, “CIRCUS” make for the perfect end of MAXIDENT’s array of stories and essences.
Overall, MAXIDENT touches on the topic of love in a way true to Stray Kids’ aura and character. They make sure to address all dimensions of the concept including, fondness, compulsion, and heartbreak to deliver more raw and authentic messages. The album also touches on Stray Kids’ love for each other as they take on the journey to the top together. Unable to predict their next move, we can’t wait to see what they reveal next.