This year was not ideal for the entertainment market. Unfortunately, in a year when everyone was looking forward to the world tours of their favorite K-Pop groups, the COVID-19 pandemic undid all plans and contracts that were already signed. We had artists canceling entire tours, groups postponing concerts until next year, and all based on uncertainties and promises that may not be kept. Unlike the western music market, K-Pop still survives largely with the sale of physical albums even with streaming platforms, but it is undeniable that its biggest profit comes from international shows. Some of the greatest K-Pop artists who sell out venues around the world are not in such demand within South Korea itself.
This is the case of the boy group of one of the largest Korean entertainment companies, JYP Entertainment’s Stray Kids.
With no tours in sight, Stray Kids released this year the compilation with re-recorded songs ‘SKZ2020’, the single ‘Step Out of Clé’ with English versions of some songs, the Mixtape ‘On Track’, made the soundtrack for the anime Tower Of God (with ‘TOP’ and ‘Slump’), the song ‘Hello Stranger’ for the soundtrack of the drama Pop Out Boy!, released the full album ‘GO LIVE’, it’s repackage ‘IN LIFE’ (with 8 new songs) and their first Japanese album ‘ALL IN’. Not to mention the countless lives and MVs that the group launched, leaving Stay – name of the fandom – quite busy and entertained during the quarantine. With all these new songs and performances in hand, Stray Kids last month announced their first online show on the Beyond LIVE platform.
Beyond LIVE is a partnership between SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and NAVER that was established in July this year. The platform offers multi-camera technology, augmented reality, and interactive aspects that make the online show much bigger than a simple live. With tickets at $ 29.99, ‘GO LIVE IN LIFE’ was attended by fans from around the world, one of the advantages of events held online.
It was three in the afternoon in South Korea when Stray Kids opened the show, using a tour VCR and performing the iconic ‘District 9’, their debut song. The presentations followed with a version of ‘Side Effects’ with vampire and theatrical themes, followed by ‘Victory Song’. That was when the group paused to talk to the fans, both those who just watched and those who were lucky enough to enter the draw that put them on the screens around the stage. In fact, the fans were a separate attraction, with a Stay in a Cookie Monster costume – an inside joke with the group – and one using cardboard and face paint to create a personification of the group’s lightstick. Less than ten minutes from the beginning of the show, and the names of all members were already among the most talked about subjects on Twitter.
The group continued the show with ‘Double Knot’, ‘M.I.A’ and surprised fans with the water performance of ‘Wow’, a song performed only by the Stray Kids dance unit (Lee Know, Felix and Hyunjin). The group’s two main vocals – I.N and Seungmin – along with rapper Changbin performed ‘My Universe’, and the group reunited in a pirate ship scenario to sing ‘Mixtape #4’ and ‘Blueprint’. These were pre-recorded performances and were followed by another VCR of the tour, giving them time for a costume change, a water, and a calming pause for fans who would lose their breath as soon as the group returned.
It was the turn of ‘God’s Menu’, which will probably be the most talked-about presentation of the show along with ‘Wow’. Known for receiving constant criticism about their most experimental and unusual sound, many say that Stray Kids’ songs are just a heap of construction noise and pounding pots. And it was using this criticism that the version they presented of ‘God’s Menu’ intelligently included percussion made with pots and knives on wooden boards. Coordinated and without missing a beat, the group impressed and pulled off the chair whoever was watching. The level of creativity made the show an interesting performance, and not just a live reproduction of the tracks recorded on the albums. For two and a half hours Stray Kids left the viewer on the edge of their seat, waiting and longing for surprises and changes in the songs already so well known to the public.
Another novelty came with the Korean version of ‘ALL IN’, originally in Japanese. Another song that doesn’t let anyone standstill, with a fast pace and rhythmic changes that fit perfectly within each other. The group rested a little in the wake of a conversation with the fans. The facial expressions of the members of Stray Kids were of complete happiness, showing rapport and charisma, not only towards the fans but also among them, giving the feeling that they were having more fun than working. Unlike most groups where the company chooses who will work together, Stray Kids has chosen itself.
The eight members already trained together by choice before they could debut. It started with the trio of producers – Bang Chan, Han, and Changbin – called 3RACHA, and then with the other members joining them. Stray Kids was chosen to debut after a battle with what is now the girl group ITZY, from the same company. Initially with nine members, Stray Kids has been a group of eight since the end of 2019.
To change the mood a little, after the ment the ballads ‘EX’ and ‘I Am YOU’ brought tears to the eyes of many fans, who soon dried them to watch another pre-recorded performance, ‘We Go’ by 3RACHA. Then we could see the performance of ‘Easy’ and the fun version of ‘My Pace’, with the Stray Kids boys having vibing to the song and playing with each other. The next break was used to read the messages from the fans, talk about how sad it was not to be physically together with Stay, ask what they were eating while watching the show, read the message boards, and take pictures with the screens full of fans. It was a farewell, after that they would end the show with ‘Back Door’, ‘Boxer’, ‘Hellevator’, ‘Miroh’ and ‘TA’. At the end of the performances, fans were given the videos of the Korean version of ‘ALL IN’, and the video of the performance of ‘TA’. After the show, the group still spent time chatting with fans on an exclusive live. For those who bought the concert ticket, the replay will be available around January.
Stray Kids’ first online show ended with a taste that this was just the beginning. The feeling was not that of watching a concert behind a screen, but one of being in an audience, seeing the artists from a few meters away. The interactions, playful tone between the artists and the audience, the scenarios, and the affection present in the eyes of each one when talking Stays was more real than a simple live. It is possible to understand why Stray Kids grows more with each release, because their music speaks directly to fans, and gives out a feeling of honesty and authenticity that are unique to a group that wears their hearts on their sleeves.
May 2021 come, and may Beyond LIVE go on to provide fans who don’t have access to tours more moments like that.