It has been awhile since I listened to Stray Kids, so to be recommended their Japanese release, “All In”, and see how far they have come since their debut days, I was utterly blown away.

Their sound has most definitely changed since I AM: and they have become more experimental with tracks like “Side Effects” and “God’s Menu“, but I did think that their music was somewhat lacking. Maybe it was the lack of an emotional connection with their music, or it just was not the kind of music I was used to. Times have definitely changed since their debut: their recent tracks are more charged and powerful, they are establishing a sound that is uniquely theirs, and lastly, Felix and Lee Know have a lot more lines now.

One of my favourite tracks by Stray Kids has to be “My Pace”, due to its upbeat nature and catchy youthfulness. The MV was fun, and it was exciting to join Stray Kids on their journey through self-exploration. “All In” literally goes all in, with its lyrics implying that Stray Kids will not give up or stop even when facing adversity. The lyrics are paired with high tempo beats to create the idea that this is a high-stakes game with a lot of risks.

Even the MV reflects the stakes, with WANTED posters of the members appearing after the chorus, the members looting gold bars from a storage room, and gambling with high rollers during the bridge. As I look back on these examples, I do find it a bit weird that these young men in their early twenties are already engaging in criminal activity, which may not be the best example to show young, impressionable audiences, but hey! Stray Kids are the good guys. The MV has a scene where they talk to the media, and we are led to believe that they have been framed. That aside, the risky activities that the members engage in, make the song a lot more exciting. 

There is a dramatic flair to the group’s performance throughout the MV, with the burning cloth behind them, and making it rain with gold coins as Hyunjin raps. The use of fast transitions and quick camera movement keeps the viewers on their toes and before you know it, the song is over and you are reaching over to play it again. 

I have one gripe with the song, and it is the disconnection between the rap verses and the pre-chorus. Han, Changbin, and Hyunjin’s raps are pretty high energy and have a fast tempo, so for it to be followed up by a significantly slower pre-chorus makes it somewhat jarring to listen to. Especially when paired with the visual overload in the MV, the disconnection between the two is even more apparent.

This is not to say that they should have kept everything at a fast tempo, as that could make the song monotonous, but either slow down the rap or increase the tempo of the pre-chorus. It would good to find a balance, for the chorus is fast-moving as well, causing the pre-chorus to stick out like a sore thumb.

Stray Kids has gone through a multitude of changes since their predebut days up till now, and it has been interesting to see how their music has grown and evolved while maintaining the same message that we should always stay true to ourselves and never give up. Although I had my doubts at first, I genuinely enjoyed listening to “All In”, and I should probably give Go Live another listen.

YouTube; Images via JYP Entertainment