K-pop group Stray Kids embraces ‘noise music’ in new album ‘NOEASY’

album cover of "NoEasy" by Stray Kids

Released Aug. 23, Stray Kids’ second full length album “NOEASY” has been quickly climbing the charts, debuting at number five on the Billboard World Album Chart as of Aug. 31. Credit: Gabe Haferman | Assistant Photo Editor

Released Aug. 23, Stray Kids’ second full-length album, “NOEASY,” has been quickly climbing the charts, debuting at No. 5 on the Billboard World Album Chart as of Tuesday.

Stray Kids, the eight-member K-pop group under JYP Entertainment, started promoting their new album July 21, dropping song teasers and “Unveil” trailers that created a vivid storyline of unlikely heroes battling an ominous “sound monster.”

Written and produced by the group’s leader, Bang Chan (Christopher Bang), alongside band members Seo Changbin and HAN (Han Jisung), “NOEASY” features a range of fast-paced chart-toppers, sultry anthems, serotonin-boosting bops and heartbreaking ballads, all incredibly on-brand for the self-produced idol group. 

The title track “Thunderous” currently sits at No. 3 on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales Chart. Featuring clever, fast-paced and powerful rap verses, “Thunderous” combines heavy beats and synths with traditional Korean instruments and other sounds, such as car horn noises, all while supporting lyrics about originality, noisiness and not caring about what others think. The music video for the song already has over 53 million views.

The first song on the album is “CHEESE,” which is intense and a bit jarring at first, followed by “Thunderous,” “DOMINO” and “SSICK.” All of the first four songs adhere to the bold, bass-heavy, aggressive style signature to Stray Kids.

Next comes “The View,” a song that makes life feel worth living with its lighthearted, addictive melody and upbeat pacing between verses. Beginning with a soft, tentative verse from Hwang Hyunjin, the song touches on pride felt as a group that has overcome struggles in the past and seems to bask in the comfort of their growth. 

“Sorry, I Love You” slows things down, making a complete 180 from the mood previously set by “The View.” A song about intense, unreciprocated feelings of love for someone, this vulnerable hip-hop song features smoother, more melodic vocals and arrangement, drawing on the more emotional side of Seo’s songwriting.

Similar to their previous album “IN LIFE,” this album also includes unit songs –– which typically feature only two or three members instead of all eight. The first of which is “Red Lights” with Bang Chan and Hwang. While not listed as explicit, the melody and beat leave little to the imagination, and the lyrics, for those brave enough to translate them, paint a vivid enough picture. 

“Surfin’ ” features Lee Know (Lee Minho), Lee Felix and Seo in an upbeat, dance-worthy pop song. Playful lyrics accompanied by steel drums make this a perfect song for summer, albeit a bit repetitive.

Featuring only HAN, Kim Seungmin and I.N (Yang Jeongin), “Gone Away” is a nice change of pace following “Red Lights” and “Surfin.” The heart-wrenching ballad features an unexpected, well-placed key change and stunning vocals.

Second to last is the feral hip-hop song “WOLFGANG,” initially released for the K-pop survival show “KINGDOM: LEGENDARY WAR,” which Stray Kids won back in June. Re-released and featuring Hwang, who was on hiatus during its initial release, this song is dark and intense, both lyrically and musically. Accompanied by the sound of howling wolves in the background, the continuously building vocals, catchy chants and gritty rap verses present “WOLFGANG” as a shocking example of unexplored potential for Stray Kids.

Those familiar with Stray Kids would already expect loud and boisterous music accompanied by creative and meaningful lyrics, leaning into the phrase “noise music” to produce something fun and innovative. This album brings together quick and clever, borderline angry rap verses, soulful and heartbreaking power ballads and feel-good pop songs to create yet another album that is both new and exciting and par for the course for Stray Kids.

However, unlike uneven line distribution among members on previous albums, the vocals of each Stray Kids member shine through in unique, never-heard-before, and occasionally dramatic, ways on “NOEASY.” 

With essentially unlimited free reign over the writing and production of their own music, Stray Kids fully utilizes the individual talent of each member on this album as they continue to push boundaries and expectations for K-pop, while testing the limits and creative devices of their own sound. Little is left to be desired from the 3-year-old group. 

Rating: 4.5/5