On August 30th, 8-member boy group Stray Kids dropped the Japanese track, ‘Social Path‘, featuring one of the most sought-after soloists in Japan, LiSA. It serves as the lead single of the group’s first Japanese EP, “Social Path / Super Bowl -Japanese ver.-”, slated to be fully released on September 6th.
‘Social Path’ is a harmonious fusion of soulful vocals, powerful bars, and heart-wrenching and empowering lyrics over a rock-influenced tune. The song runs for a little more than three minutes, but it is enough time to move people to tears, get them up from their seats, or a mixture of both.
Bang Chan, the leader of Stray Kids and main composer of the song, detailed the inspiration behind the lyrics. As mentioned on the Stray Kids Japan website, ‘Social Path’ is an anthology of Bang Chan’s experiences, of him chasing his doubts away as he chased his dreams at such a tender age. Bang Chan also revealed that, more than sharing a daunting story, he wants to inspire people who might be going through or have gone through similar hardships as him.
Having trained for about seven years before debuting with seven other people who share the same aspirations as him, Bang Chan is no stranger to making sacrifices for the sake of satisfying his heart’s desires. While it is a bitter pill to swallow, time and effort are one’s biggest investments when it comes to turning dreams into reality. It was not sheer luck that Stray Kids, as a group and as individuals, became successful in the industry.
The song starts out strong and tosses our emotions into the air as Felix sings the intro about giving up his youth for his future. By then, the listener already has a rough idea of how the song will go. It then progresses with ChangBin and Han exchanging lines about people chastising them for their decisions and how each and every voice that tried to wear them down has, at one point, tempted them to give up. Thankfully, it was not enough to fully deter them.
This continues up to the pre-chorus, where HyunJin, and SeungMin on the second pre-chorus, sing about being the “alien of the town”. This comes from an outsider’s perspective, as their tireless dedication to achieve their dreams might seem absurd and futile. Despite all of it, their determination to push forward, as declared in the chorus, has earned them a trail of ashes that they can look back on as proof that their “passion always burns eternally”. In the end, no matter the trials they had to deal with, they got to where their souls longed to be, so there is no room for regrets.
This is a familiar story among millions of people who fight for their dreams and have to endure the harsh “blast furnace” that life puts us through before eventually transforming into a stunning, formidable crystal that bears with it a complex history and marks of its formation. But it is hard to endure such a chamber of fire without arming ourselves with passion. Passion is indeed a strong word—often burning—and has the capacity to burn us until we reach our desired form at our own discretion. It is the catalyst of our becoming and the foundation of the reason for our existence.
Truly, there is comfort in dreaming, in conjuring our ideal selves that we wish to manifest into the real world. It is a bubble that safeguards us for the time being against the truth knocking from the outside. But eventually, we have to do more than just live in our own heads and actually turn our dreams into reality. This is where burning passion’s vital role comes in.
In retrospect, passion does not exactly make things easier or prettier; it is what feeds us the reality that we need to brace for. It is what drives us to come up with plans or to get us moving, requiring a tremendous amount of effort and sacrifices that push us to make hard decisions. It is a chilling reality, indeed, that we need to go through some rough patches here and there to build our character, hone our skills, and craft our respective futures. After all, to some extent, we are all doomed to pay a certain price for something that we truly want. The phrase “burning passion” has the word “burn” in it for a reason.
However, in another light, this passion that we carry in our hearts undeniably burns us brighter, even though its intensity can occasionally burn us (out). Passion illuminates the path we believe we must brave to emerge victorious. Passion gives life meaning, which humans naturally seek as they try to make a mark in this world and in this lifetime. Passion, to quote the song, helps us realize that a path is meant to be our dream.
Oftentimes, we pray and wish that we, and other people for whom we care deeply, walk only on a flowery path. That our road to success is smooth sailing—almost too good to be true. But here, in ‘Social Path’, Stray Kids and LiSA turned the wheel and took a different route. To them, the journey to success can also mean leaving ashes coming from the soles of our feet.
Personally, I think there are two plausible meanings behind it.
Firstly, the song is a vocalized “pat in the back”, telling you that it is perfectly normal, acceptable, and human to struggle. It happens a lot, even to the best of us—more than you could ever imagine. You are not alone in experiencing this. Struggling is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it is proof that you are still trying. Turning into embers does not always have to mean fading into nothingness, especially when you have the passion that can fuel your fire. Progress is never linear anyway, so do not be too harsh on yourself. Also, if a trail caters only to your comfort zone, how will you grow and turn up as the best version of yourself? Slowly, try seeing every challenge as a chance to blaze a trail, and you will notice a huge difference.
At the same time, while walking down a flowery path screams perfection (and it is, as this phrase is derived from Kim SoWol’s poem, “Azaleas“, which talked about him scattering flowers that one can walk on as they please), the song believes that there is also beauty in personally leaving traces of yourself on the very road you walk on. The traces serve as a reminder of your capabilities and the progress that you have made, especially when you need help winning the battles waged by the forces around you and by the voices in your head. One day, you will look back on it with a relieved smile etched on your face as you congratulate yourself on your feat.
But at the end of the day, the road to success is not one-size-fits-all. Therefore, it is unfair to keep comparing your own path to others. So, take a deep breath and turn around. Take your time observing and appreciating the mark you have left so far—regardless of whether it is still within an arm’s reach or several miles long — and take pride in it. Strap your backpack on and fight the doubts swirling in your head. Like Bang Chan and Lee Know said in the song, you only get to live one life, so there is nothing to lose.
And, if you need a little morale booster, there is no harm in listening to ‘Social Path‘ on loop.