The Stray Kids universe consists of countless fan theories and the necessity to analyze even the slightest detail dating back as far as their debut year. The moment fans (STAY) begin to believe they have cracked the code or discovered the plot of the story, Stray Kids unveil a plethora of twists and turns to reveal there will forever be more than meets the eye. Giving us another piece of the puzzle, the eight member group consisting of I.N., Seungmin, Felix, HAN, Hyunjin, Changbin, Lee Know, and leader Bang Chan recently released the boundary breaking mini-album, ODDINARY.
Leading up to their highly anticipated comeback, Stray Kids released a number of trailers and teasers, prompting an uproar. Sparking suspicion from even the most minor elements, fans noticed a collection of peculiar connections within each trailer and with prior music video releases and performances. From members missing in certain scenes and Felix seemingly being lured by the “oddinary” (a reference to the “Christmas Evel” lyric “I can see the evil coming, but Felix never bad”), to the music video for “MANIAC,” featuring an upside down world as seen in their debut music video for “Hellevator,” Stray Kids demonstrate their attention to detail and dedication to being omniscient storytellers.
During an online press conference, Bang Chan dove into the story behind the album’s name sharing, “Regular people like us all have something odd about ourselves. It captures the message ‘What’s odd will soon be normal.’” Building off of the statement, I.N. elaborated, “Up until now, we’ve named our various albums ambiguously, or with double meaning. This is an album that emphasizes Stray Kids’ unique way of naming [albums].” Already becoming JYP Entertainment’s first million seller with their previous album No Easy, Stray Kids continue to break barriers by reaching an impressive 1.3 million during presale and officially charting No. 1 on Billboard 200 albums chart.
The group’s success stems from their ability to stay true to themselves while simultaneously showing versatility and duality. At the heart of their discography and image lies 3RACHA (Bang Chan, Changbin, and HAN), Stray Kids’ producing unit. Working together since pre-debut, the trio creates music that improves and matures as they do, revealing the group’s limitless and potential to forever grow without reaching a peak. ODDINARY emanated from this creative maturity as Changbin stated, “Up until recently, Stray Kids’ music focused on explosive energy. In this album, we’ve added a bit of relaxation and control to that energy.”
The story of ODDINARY begins with “VENOM,” a darker track consisting of trap, hip-hop, and Stray Kids’ signature word play. The Korean title “거미줄” directly translates to “web” or “spiderweb,” illustrating the feeling of becoming stuck in an enthralling and captivating, yet dangerous power to the point of losing all rationale, only being left with a overwhelming craving for more. The lines “This spreading venom, this addictive poison / Any sense of feeling threatened has disappeared now,” combined with the chorus’ suspenseful plucking instrumentals (resembling the picking of a web) creates a hypnotic and suspenseful atmosphere.
Next up, the title track “MANIAC” unveils Stray Kids’ sonic development and maturity while also standing by their core values and experimentalism. Previously releasing hard-hitting, explosive title tracks, such as “Thunderous” and “God’s Menu,” “MANIAC” delivers a much more controlled and tempered energy. Although seemingly more melodic, the track includes their signature unsparing raps, high energy bass drop, and unique sound samples. HAN commented, “We made it after being inspired by people in their daily lives. I think that every person has a certain uniqueness within them that’s different from others. We made this out of hopes that people will show themselves to others to their hearts’ content.” From the sound of chirping birds and whirring drills to the lyrics, “Relax everyone, stop pretending to be normal,” “MANIAC” embodies Stray Kids’ creative out-of-the-box thinking and desire to normalize the “ODDINARY.”
“Charmer” follows with mesmerizing Middle Eastern influences and sedative flute refrain. Supporting Stray Kids’ braggadocio aura, the lyrics “I’m saucin’, livin’ in big Seoul City, without showing any modesty / I hang up the imitators on the laundry rack / If we do it, they all fall down like bowling pins,” informs competitors that the group stands in a league of their own, unaware and unphased by those trying to compete with them.
Most resembling their prior turbulent releases, “FREEZE” uses heavy EDM beats and a play on the Korean word “땡,” referencing the Korean version of freeze tag in which players shout “얼음” (meaning ‘ice’) to freeze someone, and yell “땡” in order to unfreeze and resume the game. The track expresses the group’s ability to approach adversity confidently and fearlessly to the point of spooking others with their calm aura, as gestured with “Like this, I’ll be the champion with victory in one hand / They’re all just freaked out / Because of my obvious ease.”
The latter half of the album takes a slower turn, starting with the grunge, rock track “Lonely St.” Stray Kids display a raw vulnerability that discusses the feelings of isolation and loneliness when singing, “I feel like I’ll faint from exhaustion / I don’t think I can go further.” The use of autotune gives the track an extra edge and dimension in an attempt to mask painful emotions, similarly to the brave faces they display to the world.
“Waiting For Us” offers an emotional, full-bodied ballad by Bang Chan, Lee Know, Seungmin, and I.N. The track highlights the members incredible range and power, demonstrating not only their talent to invoke sentimental feelings together, but also their significant individual growth as vocalists. Known for their duality, Stray Kids provide a softer side of themselves with a light, harmonic melody to compliment heartfelt lyrics like, “At the end of a long, long wait / The cold air has ended / And my heart that was frozen melts with your warmth / I’ll melt your frozen heart too.”
Rounding out the album, “Muddy Water” encapsulates Stray Kids’ ability to successfully take on any genre. Exuding ‘90s hip-hop influences, Changbin, Han, Hyunjin, and Felix deliver a cool, melodic rap full of confidence and boastful verses. Beginning with a jazzy piano introduction, the members take turns discussing the need to rid their surroundings of negativity. With “We’re the rainwater that comes after the stagnant water has dried up / I’ll change all the standards of the world / You get soaked without even realizing it,” Stray Kids’ unapologetically announce the necessity to accept their inevitable success.
ODDINARY captures Stray Kids extraordinary essence and neverending ability to surpass the standards they set for themselves. When speaking on desired feedback, Changbin mentioned, “Through this album, I want to hear feedback like, ‘[They are] Really Stray Kids,’ and ‘Stray Kids did that.’ A lot of people have liked the image we’ve been after, saying it is new. This time too, I hope that Stray Kids’ color is emphasized a little more.” Continuing to succeed and transcend their goals, Stray Kids prove they’re only in competition with themselves.
Starting at the end of April, Stray Kids kick off their 2nd World Tour “MANIAC” with a concert in Seoul before making their way to America. With two years of content to incorporate and the significant growth of their fan base, Stray Kids can be expected to produce an incredible show full of exhilarating performances and elaborate stages.
Make sure to stream ODDINARY on all streaming platforms and check out the music video for “MANIAC” below.