Courtesy of Billboard

To honor the promotions of Stray Kids’ new studio album, “5-STAR,” coming to a close, it is only right to dive into a review of this album and unpack what makes this Kpop group so successful. 

“5-STAR” is the group’s third full length studio album, and first release of 2023, following mini albums “MAXIDENT” and “ODDINARY” in 2022. “5-STAR” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and kept its place in the Top 15 for the past three weeks, since its first appearance on the charts on the week of June 17th. Similarly, the title track of the album, “S-Class,” garnered 6 music show wins, tying with previous title tracks of theirs for most music show wins.  

Stray Kids have been consistently seeing success on an international level due to their unique sound and ability to cater to a niche, but simultaneously large audience. This is especially clear in their new album, with their distinct sound shining through. 

The group is known to have a noisier vibe to their music, which isn’t always the most popular among the general public. However, this approach is a huge hit among their fans who gravitate towards the noisy and somewhat obnoxious sound. This distinct and noisy sound is especially present within their title track, “S-Class.” This song features various changes in sound and showcases their strengths in vocals, rap, and production. The song and entire album are written and produced by the group’s production team, 3RACHA, made up of three of the group’s members. 

The lyrics of “S-Class” portray the group’s success and allow them to boast for being some of the most popular idols in the fourth generation. With lyrics like, “Luxurious like I’m an S-Class / Best of the best on first class” coupled with a high energy song and flashy music video, it’s clear to see that they are proud of the hard work they have put in to reach their current level of success. They are known to be relatively humble and constantly striving for bigger and better things, so it is refreshing to see an album themed around celebrating their success as a group.

The album contains 11 other tracks, with songs like “Hall of Fame,” “TOPLINE” and “GET LIT” having similar sounds and themes as “S-Class” and songs such as “FNF,” “DLC” and “Youtiful” having softer sounds and sweeter themes. 

As an introduction to the album and the preceding track to “S-Class,” “Hall of Fame” certainly sets the tone for the album. This intro track consists of powerful instrumentals and lyrics comparing the group to various famous artists to prove how their music has made an impact on the industry. Additionally, with lyrics such as “Hear the people call my name / Here, I’m on the Hall of Fame,” it’s clear to see the group is confident in their work and aren’t afraid to express that. 

The album has some themes of pride and may come off as a little bit arrogant, but actually also explores a lot of other themes relating to letting loose, being yourself and not letting the opinions of others affect you. 

For example, “DLC,” or “Dance Like Crazy,” is a song about letting loose and enjoying your hobbies without worrying about the opinions of others. The song includes lyrics about feeling trapped in a life you do not want to live in and wanting to escape bad memories and the judgment of others. It is paired with a music video that features scenes of a boxer whose actual passion is dance, encouraged by his friends to follow his true passion and give into his desires, despite the risk of being judged by other people. With an upbeat and danceable sound, this song is a perfect reminder of the group to dance like nobody’s watching. 

The words of encouragement don’t stop there, with the song “Youtiful” dedicated entirely  to their fans as a way to give back all the love and encouragement they receive. This song is a reminder to their fans that they are never alone in their struggles and that they are perfect just the way they are. The song is one of two entirely English songs on the album, done purposefully to make the song more accessible to all their international fans. A lot of the album includes star imagery, relating to the title of the album, “5-STAR,” and this song is no exception with lyrics, “Cause, know that all the stars are by your side.” Overall, this song is one of the most comforting on the album and a sweet gesture from the group.   

Another interesting aspect of this album is the feature of Tiger JK on track five of the album, “TOPLINE.” Tiger JK is a Korean American rapper, a founder of the group Drunken Tiger and overall a huge inspiration and influence for rappers in the Korean music scene. Thus, his feature on this song and album is notable and incredibly important to members of Stray Kids that look up to him as a role model. 

In combination with this impressive feature, the lyrics and more aggressive energy of the song allows the group to directly address those who criticize their music for being obnoxious and prove that they have the support of millions of fans and various industry legends. 

Overall, this album does an incredible job at showcasing Stray Kids’ different strengths as a group while also allowing them to explore a variety of sounds and themes and expand the genre they have found themselves in. Although their noisy sound may not appeal to all, its uniqueness shines in this album and it is definitely worth checking out. 

Rating: 9/10