Between comebacks, Stray Kids have done a nice job maintaining interest through a series of Mixtape releases. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of self-producing so much of your material. Not all of these tracks have been title track-worthy, and few have felt like actual standouts. But, something is better than nothing, and it’s always nice to hear new music from the guys. Presumably, On Track (바보라도 알아) precedes the release of an upcoming comeback, though with the current state of things it’s hard to know what idol group schedules will look like in the next few months.
As a possible pre-release, On Track is just enough to tide fans over. It’s not a particularly momentous track, and its teen drama music video favors sentiment and story over big-time production. Right from the beginning, the song has the air of a classic YG Entertainment hip-hop ballad, even though Stray Kids hail from JYP. Given a shot of galvanizing melody, this template can be quite formidable. On Track attempts a bit of anthemic heft during its chorus, but overall its hooks are more languid than emotionally compelling.
Of course, languid doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Stray Kids already took advantage of this mood quite well with 2018’s fantastic Grow Up. And like most of their more subdued work, On Track has moments of real propulsion. Stray Kids’ bridges are always strong, and the pounding percussion here gives On Track some needed urgency. On the other hand, there are way too many trap hi-hats drenched over the track. Their tinny presence doesn’t jibe well with the guys’ vocals, which are well-arranged and more resonant than I expected. All in all, this feels like a standard Stray Kids b-side, no worse or better than many of the tracks that fall between the group’s undeniable standouts.
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