[Review] Stray Kids’s “My Pace” goes for hype but suffers with erratic sound

Rookie group Stray Kids released my favorite debut of the year with March’s “District 9. That track positioned them as an exciting new force in K-pop, blending trendy hip-hop with a bombastic rock edge that felt unique and disruptive. It was always going to be a difficult song to follow up, so it makes sense that new single “My Pace” feels a bit underwhelming in comparison. Even so, the track retains the group’s core elements with a few new twists.

I was concerned to see “My Pace” pairing Stray Kids with producers Earattack. This may be controversial to say, but I partially blame Earattack for destroying GOT7’s post-2015 sound. I find much of their work for boy groups to be lacking in melody with an over-emphasis on acting hard and tough. Stray Kids are too promising to get caught up in that cliché. Luckily, the guys compose all their own material, and excel at bringing a welcome sense of hookiness to even the most swag-filled hype tracks.

Right off the bat, “My Pace” returns Stray Kids to rock territory. A gritty guitar riff and rollicking vocal hook kick off the track. The delivery here feels a little cheesy, but promises better things down the road. Before that, we shift to a hip-hop verse. The rap here is more structurally diverse than “District 9”, but never quite matches the sustained, aggressive energy that made that song such a showstopper. “My Pace”’s chorus enlists distorted guitar and pairs it with surprisingly bright synths and chanted vocals that lead back to the track‘s opening hook. It’s a dynamic blend of elements, even if it lacks some of the punch I was hoping for. Overall, “My Pace” feels less focused than expected, and I’d chalk that up to the kind of natural growing pains any rookie group experiences.

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