Stray Kids' new album GO LIVE opens with lyrics that truly capture their core message: "You don't have to go fast, you don't have to go slow... My tempo in time is more expensive than gold." Just like the group's name, the lyrics are evocative of breaking free of society's norms to follow one's own path. As for where, exactly, Stray Kids' path leads, Bang Chan, Lee Know, Hyunjin, Changbin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N are still figuring that out, and their fans — called STAY — are along for the ride. With the June 17 release of GO LIVE, the group's first full-length album, Stray Kids have perfected the recipe for success, and its key ingredient is their genuine connection with fans.
Of course, every recipe has more than one ingredient. For Stray Kids, the first was, well, its members. While company executives and talent scouts usually decide which trainees end up in a new K-Pop group, Stray Kids' leader, Bang Chan, personally took part in the member selection process, and his decisions on who made the cut all came down to trusting his gut.
"You know that feeling: 'I don't know this person that well, but something keeps me attracted to them. Something just wants me to go with this person forever.' When I was picking out the members, I had those feelings," Bang Chan tells Elite Daily. "It might sound cheesy, but I think destiny brought us all together."
Taking Bang Chan's lead, the group continues to follow their instincts with every release. Over the course of two years, they've dropped six EPs, all primarily written and produced by the members themselves. But, out of all their projects, they think GO LIVE is their most honest yet.
Therein lies the group's second ingredient for K-Pop domination: authenticity. "We wanted to show... our natural thoughts, our natural music, something that's just really natural for us. That's the color we really wanted to show through this album and that's the message Stray Kids will always be," Changbin explains.
Stray Kids' hip hop sub-unit 3RACHA — consisting of members Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han — is credited on every track on GO LIVE. Because Stray Kids are so thorough with their work, they literally compare their creative process to cooking in their lead single "God's Menu."
"All our dishes taste so strong / We want it 'til we serve them all," Han raps in the first verse. "Do research and cross boundaries / There's no limit, we create our sound."
Bang Chan and the rest of the group carries that cooking metaphor into the music-making process as a whole. "For me, I always liked to relate producing music to cooking because they're both really similar when you make something for the people to feed on and listen to," he says. "It really shows how much we think about others and how much we really want to show them what our flavors are."
Han thinks their authentic song-writing process keeps STAY coming back for more. "It's through our music we can relate to each other's problems or what we're going through," he says. "STAY can find comfort [through our music] and they feel comfortable being with us."
Another key ingredient to a Stray Kids song is inclusivity in lyrics. In addition to mixing Korean and English lyrics in their songs regularly, they also incorporate different languages in their album titles, like Chinese in "GO生 (GO LIVE)" and French in their Clé series.
"We really want to emphasize the importance of language because we have a lot of fans all over the world, not only in Korea," Seungmin explains. "We use diverse language terms in our music to reach out to our fans, so we thought it might be really cool to put some [different] languages here and there."
One of the final, and most important, ingredients Stray Kids bakes into every project is eye-catching visuals. They bring their messages to life by connecting their music videos together to create one overarching narrative about self-discovery and acceptance.
"To STAY, it kind of seems like there are hidden messages or hidden easter eggs [in our music videos] so they want to find out more," Felix says. "There's always a big meaningful message and that's what keeps STAY's attention."
While the guys have their own ideas about what the music videos mean, they encourage fans to create their own theories. "We do want our fans to interpret the music videos however they want, whatever they need for them, that could be their own special anthem," Bang Chan says.
Well, STAY truly love what Stray Kids have been cooking up, and that's why their followers (a collective 15 million across their various social media channels) continue to support the boys every step of the way. The group doesn't take that for granted. "From the start and still to this day, we're still confident and we're just very happy to have STAY beside us," Felix says.
Stray Kids' new album GO LIVE is available to stream on all digital platforms now.