Liner notes: Stray Kids’ MAXIDENT aims to bring maximum fun


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

The album released Oct. 7.

Olivia Abeyta, Illustrations Editor

Six months after Stray Kids’ last album “ODDINARY” and accompanying world tour, the octet’s newest mini album “MAXIDENT” released Friday along with a music video for the title track, “CASE 143.” 

“MAXIDENT’s” theme — love — is a concept the group has never explored before. Its past songs, such as “Thunderous” and “God’s Menu,” tend to focus on being different and coming into your own identity. As a fan — or a part of their fandom “STAY” — since before Stray Kids’ debut, I was interested to see how the group would tackle this sweeter theme. 

And, well, it was a little hit and miss. 

The project’s eight songs are bright and youthful, while still managing to maintain the group’s experimental and high-energy musicality. It’s a complete turn of the coin from the dark and powerful aesthetics of “ODDINARY.” 

However, the weakest part of “MAXIDENT” is the title track. My main issue with “CASE 143” is the busy instrumentals cluttering the background to the point where Han, Felix, Hyunjin and Changbin can barely be heard from underneath the auto tune in the first 30 seconds of the song. I enjoy how the pre-chorus rises and falls with the lyrics, but the way Felix’s opening sounds is too choppy and lacks the power that packed a punch from “MANIAC” on “ODDINARY.” I also like Bang Chan’s part in the final chorus that uplifts the song with a catchy chant.

“CHILL” follows “CASE 143” in the track list as refreshing change from the title track’s jarring pace. The backing piano and fresh vocals make the song feel like the opening to a slice-of-life TV show. Its abrupt ending leaves a feeling of nostalgia, fitting for a break up song. 

My roommate summarized “Give Me Your TMI” in the best way: It’s a final boss song. The retro style and beats make the song action-packed while staying grounded thematically. The final minute is an epic explosion that renders visuals of an emotional final battle, a creative choice given the song is about talking to your crush.

The instrumentals in “SUPER BOARD” are among my favorites on the album. The bass is an amazing anchor for the synth that rises and falls throughout the song. The light electric piano brings the song some clarity. However, the chorus lacks length and variety, making the song feel summed up by the members repeating the title. 

“3RACHA” was among my disappointments on “MAXIDENT.” The track sounds dated and like a step back from Stray Kids’ last subunit song, “We Go.” The backing instrumentals feel empty, and the rapping from all members isn’t top form, both rhythmically and lyrically. The raps, which usually have great versatility, all follow a similar style. 

“TASTE” was a song I was looking forward to and I was not disappointed. Lee Know’s high, icy vocals foil Felix’s base beautifully. Hyunjin meets the two in the middle, giving the song an amazing range. The beat pace speeds up, slows down and halts, making for a sensual roller coaster. 

The vocalists help close out the album with “Can’t Stop,” a cute song that fits both Seungmin’s and I.N’s voices well. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual slower songs the vocalists headline, like “My Universe.” The hard-hitting electric guitar and drums contrast the voices’ high and soft tones. 

The last song on “MAXIDENT” is the Korean version of “CIRCUS,” a song on the Japan EP of the same title released back in June. It’s fun and lightheartedness fit the overall tone. 

I could tell that maximum effort went into making “MAXIDENT.” The mini album was like nothing I had ever seen or heard before from Stray Kids. No two comebacks are the same, and the group continues to push new boundaries. Though sometimes that can lead to mishaps, I’ll be eagerly awaiting their next release. 

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