Hyunjin began writing a love song for Stray Kids’ upcoming album in the early summer. He recognized this wasn’t the glowing love portrayed in his favorite romance flicks. It was deeper, sexier, and a touch frightening, like a lovely red rose with thorns. “I wanted to express a deeper sense of love in the song,” Hyunjin explains to PAPER, adding quickly, “In a sexy way.”
That seductive music evolved into “Taste,” a unit song by Hyunjin, Lee Know, and Felix on the Korean group’s most recent EP, MAXIDENT. There aren’t many explicit sensual songs in Stray Kids’ discography, but Hyunjin is determined to change that. The group’s most-streamed b-side on Spotify is “Red Lights,” a 2021 duet between him and Bang Chan. The song is so popular among fans that it was included to the repertoire of their Maniac global tour and rewritten to incorporate all eight members. With “Taste,” Hyunjin’s characteristic sound has evolved into seductive, ambient R&B.
“When I was creating the melody and top line, I wanted to create a profound and mysterious atmosphere,” he explains. Lee Know and Felix join him to discuss the track’s creation. “In particular, I wanted to capture a longing desire for love in this song.” It’s not only a song about lingering sentiments and yearning; it’s about wanting something unhealthy – love that pains. Lyrics such as “Kiss me or leave me,” and “Kiss me or hate me,” suggest a more adult image, “in contrast to a more bubbly, cute idea of love,” he adds. This love is burning, and he longs for it.
Hyunjin gave the sample to Lee Know and Felix so they could put their own personal touches to it. A unit piece is a collaborative effort that allows each member to participate artistically, write their unique storylines, and hone their songwriting skills across genres. Their creative method wasn’t complicated.
They know how each other works best because they’ve written past songs together (including 2020’s “Wow,” an R&B jam you can swagger to). “I feel like we really know what we’re doing now, even though we don’t know what we’re doing,” Felix quips, his thick Sydney accent heavy. Throughout the interview, he interprets for Lee Know and Hyunjin, with the latter occasionally expressing his ideas in English. Felix is like that, sensitive to the needs of others.
There are no assigned roles in their unit. Nobody is a project manager or a peacekeeper. Only accountability and communication are present. There wasn’t even much back-and-forth when working on “Taste.” They all did what they needed to accomplish. “This time it was very simple,” says the freckled rapper. “Hyunjin gave us an idea of what ‘Taste’ should be like, and we took it from there.”
He and Lee Know contributed new lyrics, with the elder also providing some melodies. (“He’s really good at that,” Felix exclaims.) Lee Know speaks with a casual air — a serenity that he brings to professional circumstances like these. “The melody has to match the mood of the song,” he explains. “In this song, we wanted to express a more deep, mature love, so I had to consider that aspect when writing.”
Hyunjin concentrated on including “specific parts that would enhance each member’s unique vocal colors.” He intended to create tension by juxtaposing filthy bass with haunting falsetto. The end result is both severe and enticing. Lee Know gives his most passionate and sensitive vocal performance (“I’m addicted to you,” he roars on the hook).
“When we were recording, I wanted to express the longing and desire in the song, because that’s what the song is about,” Lee Know explains bluntly. “I attempted to put myself in a position where I desired something. So when I needed to yell, I just did it.”