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The Top 10 Stray Kids Songs Based On Written Quality

by Alisan Keesee about a month ago in list · updated about a month ago
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Stray Kids, Woo!

Two of my lifelong loves include words and music. At one point in my life, I wanted to combine these loves by becoming a singer-songwriter myself. However, after deciding that trying to teach myself guitar, that I ultimately didn't have the patience, and my social anxiety made me unfit for too much public attention, I am now here doing a literary analysis of some singer-songwriter's songs.

First, even though some of what I point out here will be objective, this is still biased by my preferences and opinions. Even if a song is not listed here, that does not mean it isn't "good" or "meritable". Additionally, I may mention some aspects of production as that does go hand-in-hand with the lyrics and creation of the overall art. However, I am far from a composer or musical expert.

With that said, I am a professional and published writer with a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. Therefore, I do have some expertise when it comes to the actual words. Without further ado, let's get into the article.

Who Are Stray Kids?

Stray Kids is a Korean pop boy group under JYP Entertainment that also manages Twice, Itzy, and formerly Wonder Girls, among others. As one of the most successful companies in K-pop, the majority of their acts do not write their own songs, or have a minor hand in it. Stray Kids are the exception.

Many songs have lyrics and music written entirely by the members themselves with lesser production or lyrics credits going to staff or others for more tedious aspects of song creation (mostly arrangement and occasionally they will outsource the production). They even have worked on Japanese singles (which the most famous self-produced boy group, BTS, does not do).

All of this is to say that Stray Kids are a rarity in K-pop. Now, while the eight piece group all have writing and/or producing credits, there are three members who each have over 100 credits. (Statistics taken from the Korean Music Copyright Association and a Koreaboo article).

Bang Chan: 122 songs

Changbin: 109 songs

Han: 105 songs (manually calculated to include the most recent album)

These three are the primary songwriters and producers of Stray Kids. Each has a unique style and solo songs. At least one is attributed to all of the songs on this list via lyrics, production, or both.

Note: In my analyses, I am using the English translations and have conducted some research into aspects that may be lost in translation. However, since I only speak English, it is possible I may miss aspects present in the original song.

Now, onto the list.

#10: District 9 - I Am Not

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

Stray Kids' first official debut song came out in March 2018. Debuting with a rap-heavy song was a risk, but thankfully, K-pop has become more rap friendly. This song contains themes of non-conformity, independence, and rebellion which marks many of the themes of the group and their music.

The title of a song is a reference to the original nine members and uses the number nine as a way to define themselves and what makes them different. The song is not overly technical, but carries a lot of strength in the overall sound. It builds to the chorus in under 35 seconds which is unique and contributes to the overall writing and build of this song. The technical features of the opening rap allow the chorus to hit immediately with both a sense of suddenness and urgency, but also excitement.

They just look us as a bunch of troublemakers/It won’t be an easy task to change their views/But we won't get down on misconceptions and bias/It’s our mission to prove who we are

As a fourth generation K-pop group, most of the members belong to and align with Generation Z and younger Millenials. Therefore, the themes of rebelling against prior generations and carving out your own identity are strong with their music and contribute to their success and resonance with people around the world.

Stray kids everywhere all around the world/Don’t wander, get yourself over here/Stray kids everywhere all around the world/Their footsteps are getting louder

Referencing the group name, these lines call upon those who don't fit in and rebels to join "District 9". It is a call for those who feel astray and like they do not belong to come together because ultimately our voices are louder together.

#9: The Tortoise and the Hare - Go Live/In Life

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

Even among fans this inclusion will be controversial as this song is extremely experimental and not necessarily universally loved. However, I think this song deserves a place on this list for its experimentation and clever writing/production. For this song, I think it is important to look at both the Korean and English lyrics to get an idea of how it all comes together.

Firstly, this song references the Aesop fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" which teaches the value of going slow and steady instead of wearing yourself out and getting distracted. Stray Kids use this well known fable to comfort their fans (and themselves) that its okay to go at a slower pace than everyone else and not to beat yourself up about it.

English:

The tortoise said "Faster! Faster! Faster! Faster!"/The hare said/"Too slow, too slow, too slow, too slow/Too slow, too slow, too slow, too slow/Too slow, too slow, too slow, too slow/Too slow, too slow, too slow, too slow/Too slow, too slow, too slow, too slow/Too slow, too slow, too slow, too slow/You're just too slow, you're driving me crazy…/(I'm out of breath, I should take a break…)"

Korean (Romanized):

Ppalli, ppalli, ppalli, ppalli/Tokki wal/Neuryeoneuryeoneuryeoneuryeo, neuryeoneuryeoneuryeoneuryeo/Neuryeoneuryeonеuryeoneuryeo, nеuryeoneuryeoneuryeoneuryeo/Neuryeoneuryeoneuryeoneuryeo, neuryeoneuryeoneuryeoneuryeo/Neuryeodo neon neomu neuryeo neo ttaeme nan sogi teojyeo/(a, sumchanikka jamsi swieotda gayagetda)

Okay, so first, let's note that the four "fasters" are sung by I.N. and take 11 seconds to complete. While that may not sound like a long time, Han says all 24 "too slows" in five seconds. This is ultimately done to embody the characters. The tortoise speaks slowly and the hare speaks quickly.

Within the Korean romanization, you can see that "too slow" or "neuryeo" is all squished together because within the song there is little to no space between the beginning and end of the word. This is clever and seen outside of music in poetry as well to indicate fast, distracted, slurred, etc. speech.

They also make a few Korean specific references a Joseon-era folktale and an old, cheaper class of train in Korea. Both of these references value moral goodness over riches or taking the easy route in life.

Also, I have to appreciate their dedication to the meme with:

To the end of this struggle I go/I know, you know, we know, we know/Following the flow of time/I know, you know, we know, we know/To the end of this struggle I go/I know, you know, we know, Lee Know/Following the flow of time/I know, you know, we know, we know

Lee Know is the stage name of one of the members who also sings that line. Makes me laugh every time.

#8: Maniac - Oddinary

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

The most recent single from a non-Japanese album, "Maniac" is a song after my heart by referencing one of my favorite books of all time, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The song criticizes the idea of "normal" and posits that no one is truly normal.

While the explicit Frankenstein references come mainly from one line in the chorus and the overall concept, there are some more subtle ones.

The real self has been released (Yup, yup)/Barely holding on (Yup, yup)/After blinking once, back/Again, back to cosplaying as what society/Defines normal to be pow

This section could be read to reference the monster's longing to fit in, but eventual and simultaneous resentment of needing to fit in. On a darker note, it could also refer to when the monster kills and then returns to his normal self afterward.

Mash up, mind blown put my mind on back up/Prototype, on the inside I’m always a freaky monster/Kindness is no longer trеnding, now rotten/You can backbite me as much as you want, I'll ignorе them anyway

Han's part is a clever mash-up of the themes of Frankenstein with technological terminology. For example, the monster is a human "prototype" of sorts and perhaps Victor Frankenstein could put his brain on back up? "Kindness is no longer trending" can refer to when the monster decides to stop trusting and looking for the good in humans and rather focuses on getting revenge on Victor.

A few more lines that contain literary devices or that I just like:

Like the seam of a torn doll (Ha)/Eventually, you'll expose your real self

Simile

This street I'm walking on is a minefield/Like a dormant volcano, never know when it'll all explode/Never know when the calm winds will change/Everyone lives hiding themselves like a sealed tornado

Metaphor, simile, simile plus metaphor (Changbin is one of the members most skilled in wordplay and literary devices in my opinion. Many of his verses are extremely skillfully written. Props, Changbin).

Eyes filled with lunatic/All senses are tense

Nominalization followed by personification.

#7: Winter Falls - Christmas Evel

Written by Han

The first thought I had when listening to this song was, "Oh my god, it's so beautiful." I.N.'s chorus sends shivers down my spine even when now. Beyond that, this song uses several literary devices that contribute to why it is so beautiful. Note that much of the chorus is in English.

Winter Falls, the snow falls/Purer than anything/Falls, I'll try to erase everything about you/That still remains with me/I loved you, loved you, loved you/As you did, loved you, loved you, loved you/Again it falls, the snow falls/We fall apart

"Fall" is used in several different forms here. The title itself could be interpreted in several different ways. It could be taken literally as in a "Winter [Water]Fall", but within the context of the song, it seems that it takes on more of a personified meaning as in winter is falling onto the speaker and bringing back sad memories. The falling here is an action that the speaker cannot control hence the emotional resonance of the song.

Beyond this, fall is also used traditionally as the verb to describe snow falling. And, finally, as a metaphor in "We fall apart" for the end of the relationship. Wrap this all together and you get absolutely beautiful imagery of reminiscing on an ended relationship as the snow falls. It is one of the most subtle songs on this list that focuses on the technicality of words and vocals to create the story. It uses a good mix of imagery and straightforward words to craft the narrative.

A few examples and lines I like:

Hiding under the silent sky, I try to empty my mind/Because It's easier to push than to forget, right?/Whether it's the old days that I miss, or it's you that I miss/I don’t know why but I still have lingering feelings for you

Personification and metaphor followed by more straightforward lines.

Ah-la-la-la-la-la, la-la-la/After burning everything, burning everything/Ah-la-la-la-la-la, la-la-la/Let's end this as it is, all that remains at the end is ash/Ah-la-la-la-la-la, la-la-la, la-la/I'll burn your heart along with the winter wind/Ah-la-la-la-la-la, la-la-la/And fly it far away, now instead of us only I remain

Ending three metaphorical lines with a non-metaphorical statement that furthers the imagery.

My heart has lost its warmth from mere regrets

This one is just pretty, but also contains the metaphor of having a "warm" heart.

While not confirmed, the themes of the song do remind me of a much more somber "Last Christmas". Regardless, it is my favorite song from the Christmas Evel album.

#6: Muddy Water - Oddinary

Written by Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix

The purely rap song on their 2022 album, Oddinary, took a while to grow on me. However, I did always find the title interesting and as I listened to the song more, I began liking it more and discovered some cool language tidbits.

The song itself seems somewhat related to the several sayings and idioms related to mud. Whether it be "Never wrestle with a pig--it's covered in mud and the pig likes it," "clear as mud," "drag one's name through the mud," or "happy as a pig in mud," there are countless references to mud throughout both the English language and others.

"Muddy the water" may be the key saying to understand this song. It typically is used as a way to say "let's stop focusing on unimportant things." The song goes on to criticize this by saying that it is dismissive of young people's ideas and they are happy to play around in the muddy water.

Energetic youngster like me loves playing in muddy water/Looking back at what you said behind my back

I'm breathing, working, moving, sit down and listen for once/We're the rainwater that comes after the stagnant water has dried up/I'll change all the standards of the world

Like many rap songs though, the true magic is in the technicality. Let's take a look at the Romanized lyrics to exemplify this.

Feelin' so fly, feelin' so fly/Feelin' so fly, feelin' so fly/This my lifestyle, this my lifestyle (Hey)/I'm breathing, working, moving, sit down and listen for once/Urin goin muri mareun hue naerineun binmul/Da bakkwo nochi i sesangui gijun/Neodo moreuge heumppeok jeotji/Takan gonggi daesin malgeun gonggi seopchwi, brr/(heultangmul) Muddy, muddy, muddy, muddy water/(heultangmul) mul heuriji malgo meolli kkeojyeo/(heultangmul) goinmureun gara goin' water/This is our flow, just step off the show

The pre-chorus and chorus above have several examples of assonance (strikethrough) and consonance (bold). Similar to rhyming, you can find these literary devices in nearly every rap song. However, there's a few cool things to point out here:

1). The assonance and consonance crosses language barriers. This is common in K-pop. Many of the Korean and English words have the same or similar sounds to create a cohesive, rhythmic, and poetic effect.

2). You may notice that I marked "muddy" and "water" as assonance. However, in an American English accent, the "uh" sounds in both words are different. However, for Felix--who is Australian--the "uh" sound is the same making it assonance.

Also, Hyunjin's verse references their song "Double Knot" which I am going to count as an allusion.

#5: Phobia - Go Live/In Life

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han), Versachoi

This song opens with personification:

As you face the trembling sky

I particularly like this one because of the image. In my mind, the sky is trembling because there are tears in the looker's eyes. One small line can have so much meaning behind it which I think describes my thoughts about this particular song.

Firstly, the entire song is a metaphor for the fear that comes with a crush or realizing you like someone. The speaker cannot overcome their phobia and feel like distancing themself despite not wanting to.

Even if I treasure you/You're so precious it isn't enough, you're radiant/The more you shine, the more I tremble as I get closer/The moment when the uneasy shaking/Changes to butterflies in my stomach is getting closer

The lyrics to this song are not overly complicated or fluffy. I feel like most people could understand them without trying which I think can be a sign of something that is well written. Again, "trembling" and "shaking" are themes throughout and they also happen to be symptoms of panic induced by a phobia.

Ironically, while this song has the emotional range of a ballad, it is an upbeat EDM song. To me, the combination of the lyrics and production represents the fine line between excitement and anxiety. This dichotomy in particular is one I am obsessed with personally since I suffer from multiple anxiety disorders. Thus, this song and its imagery resonated with me. (Remember when I said this would be biased?)

#4: Silent Cry - Noeasy

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

We all have wanted to cry or felt sad without showing it and that is exactly what this is about. Except, instead of focusing on the speaker's emotions, the song is aimed at the listener.

This song creates a word for something I think many of us have experienced. The title itself is personification and the lyrics focus on metaphors and personification to create beautiful imagery and an overall comforting, beautiful song.

You, *pretending to be unaffected, just like that*/(You) are smiling but I can hear it in your words/You always say "I'm okay" but I can see everything/How your heart sobs when you're alone

Something unique here is the use of asterisks to indicate action. This is a fairly new punctuation largely seen online. I doubt this was meant to exemplify the group's modern and Gen Z sound, but it certainly bolsters it. This is then followed by personification in "your heart sobs."

In reality, your eyes are dry, ayy/I can't find an oasis in your heart/You're still wandering, ayy

The metaphor of not being able to find an oasis in their heart is gorgeous and goes perfectly with describing dry eyes. It's a desert where things are dry, but you still struggle on the inside. Themes of being lost are abundant in the song. These subtleties are the genius behind this song.

#3: Secret Secret - Noeasy

Written by Han

Okay, I will fully admit that I am somewhat biased with this one because it is about Han's social anxiety--a condition I also have. Therefore, this song personally means a lot to me. However, as Han has proven earlier on this list, he is an extremely adept songwriter and I am certain this song would be included on several other lists of people who do not have social anxiety.

I can't say anything/Words just linger in my mouth/Sometimes I get scared/Will someone notice?/I shout louder in the sound of rain/I'm afraid all my words will be buried/The sky is getting cloudy

I had to mark up this one because there is so much. The bold are examples of personification. The underlined portions are descriptions that serve much larger purposes. Not to mention, "the sound of rain" and "The sky is getting cloudy" juxtapose each other. If the sky is just getting cloudy, it is not raining. The fears and rain are all taking place in their mind and eventually influencing real life. A perfect and beautiful metaphor for anxiety.

All of my frustrated thoughts/I want to throw it away in this rain, so I take it out

A nice metaphor involving throwing your thoughts in the trash. This is strengthened by "I want to throw it away" and "I take it out" both of which reference trash without explicitly saying it.

Overall, the song uses a rainy day as a metaphor for social anxiety. However, it goes a step further. The title "Secret Secret" is never mentioned in the song in Korean or English. To me, this represents the speaker's desire to keep both his social anxiety and true self a secret and continue portraying their funny, charismatic persona.

#2: Mixtape: OH - Noeasy

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

This is another song where the title of the song is not explicitly mentioned and for good reason. First, this is part of their Mixtape series and the title has a dual meaning in Korean. The Korean title "애" can mean both "kid" and "love." Thus, this duality creates the main themes of this love song.

When I hold your hand, I keep looking younger/Don't look at me like that/I look you in the eye and take another step towards you/Even if I make plans, in front of you, I'm still a kid

The chorus is the perfect example. The speaker constantly feels like a kid in front of their love interest and like they don't quite understand love yet, despite being an adult.

I know this isn't meant to be wasted/I know better, this is more than that, you are my everything/My heart wants you, I want your heart more/This heart is poisoned, only you are the antidote/My heart is certain, but it doesn't work out the way I want/Silly expression, behavior, manners/A grown-up person, a grown-up love/Things that seem easy for a mature man/Everything is difficult in front of you

Changbin's verse uses some metaphors and personification to lament the feeling the speaker has around their love interest. However, I think it is also worth looking at the romanized lyrics to see the artistry behind the verse.

Ara igeon ttesseundago doeneun geo anin geo/Jal ara igeon deo nae meoritsok neoga daraneun geo/Nae mami neol wonhae, ne mameul deo wonhae/I mameun kkwae dokae, neomani haedokje/Nae maeumeun hwaksilhande tto mamdaero andoenikka/Eorisukan pyohyeon haengdong maeneo bogien ajik aenikka/Eoreunseureoun saram eoreunseureoun sarang/Eoreunseureoun namja swiul geot gatatdeon geotdeul/Ne apeseon modeun ge eoryeopda

I know it was nearly impossible for me to catch everything there. Like above, the bold is consonance while the strikethroughs are assonance. One exception to this is "sarang" and "saram" which translate to "love" and "life" respectively and are noted similar words in Korean. This similarity is also seen in a BTS song that will be included on my BTS list in the future.

Something interesting is that Changbin is moving up and down the Korean consonant and vowel charts expertly. This is seen in all languages, particularly in rap and poetry. To make my point easier, I referred to the charts on this Korean language learning blog concerning pronunciation.

Changbin notably does not use any aspirated consonants in his consonance. This is likely for ease and simplicity. However, he often will use plain and tense consonants and move between them. For example, he starts out with primarily plain consonants such as g, k, and d. Later on in the verse he uses their tense counterparts, kk and tt.

If you look at the translation, he tends to use the tense vowels where the emotional tension is highest in the lyrics such as in the lines "This heart is poisoned, only you are the antidote" and "My heart is certain, but it doesn't work out the way I want."

Pretty cool, right?

#1: Wolfgang - Noeasy

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

I fully expect to get some shit for this one considering the post-chorus of this song is:

Wolf gang (Woof, woof)/Wolf gang (Woof, woof)/Wolf gang (Woof, woof)/Grrah, we go wild/Wolf gang (Woof, woof)/Wolf gang (Woof, woof)/Wolf gang (Woof, woof)/The world is ringing, howling

This is not a translation. This part is 100% in English. However, hear me out. The concept and writing of this song are actually quite clever.

The song is inspired by the well known composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's name. In this song, the writers separated out "Wolfgang" and to create a wolf concept. From there, there are several allusions to music and composing. Stray kids routinely mix wolf and music terminology to create a unique and honestly revolutionary song.

The song opens with wolf inspired lyrics:

The world is colored away/It is colored red/I endure the pain, I try to be strong/In this moonlit night

Then, in the pre-chorus, we come to the true juxtaposition of the song:

In groups like thеse we have to stick together to live/We are the maestros who lead the world

Like many other Stray Kids song, this one calls for people to stick together and rise up against oppression and opposition. Along with the lyrics referencing both wolves and maestros, the production itself mixes classical and EDM elements which create a sound I would describe as almost gothic.

There is a lot of hidden depth in this song that I continue to discover. Here are a few more lines that I think exemplify the artistry of this song:

A starving hunter, a starving hunter/Without mercy, I bite your throat at once/Chew it all up and eat it/I bury my guilt in the world of the weak meat/The rising music as well as our howlin'

The sound of our steps is like an orchestra/There's a crowd shuddering at the sharp melody/In a thoughtless hunt, run in groups

Watch the performance and understand why this song was ultimately what helped win them win the Kingdom competition and remains one of the favorites among fans. While I may not have pointed out specific literary devices in this song, I believe the song itself is such a beautiful marrying of opposing concepts, contains beautiful and disturbing imagery, and shows expert use of words and music.

Honorable Mentions

Speed round!

Thunderous - Noeasy

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

I wanted to include this one purely for Changbin's rap that is meant to sound like thunder and lightning cracking and absolutely nailing it. This is also my favorite Stray Kids music video.

Red Lights - Noeasy

Written by Bang Chan, Hyunjin

The ✨ metaphor ✨

The View - Noeasy

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han), Krysta Youngs

This song tricked me into believing it was a love song before I looked up the lyrics because the chorus and the few Korean words I know seemed to be a sweet love song inspired by the cliche, "The view is so pretty." "Yes, you are."

Yet, it's actually just about a pretty view. However, it is often used in concerts by fans and the group to express their happiness and love for one another.

Star Lost - Noeasy

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han), Earattack, Callous

Inspired by a line in The Little Prince, this song shows a love for words and their construction. Also, it's just cute.

Levanter - Clé : Levanter/ SKZ2020

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han), J.Y. Park "The Asiansoul", Herz Analog

Taught me a new word! Also, a fan favorite.

Levanter: a strong easterly wind in the Mediterranean region.

Wow - 3Racha

Written by 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, Han)

iykyk 😉😂

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About the author

Alisan Keesee

I am a 25-year-old Seattle based writer who lives with my cat. Originally from a small, unincorporated Washington town, I have a penchant for boybands, black coffee, and true crime. I am a graduate of Western Washington University.

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Comments (1)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran16 days ago

    I enjoyed the playlist you put together here and loved reading all your thoughts. A very interesting read

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