Stray Kids - Hellevator
It's been just over two years since JYP Entertainment has introduced us to a new boy group, and if you don't count DAY6 since they're technically a band, then it's just shy of four years. It's safe to say that there's always an air of hype around new groups from any of the big three companies, so the members of Stray Kids had some expectations to meet even before they were even set to be a group. From the teaser it sounded like we would be getting a sort of mish-mash of genres slammed into the same song, so that's what I expected going into this music video.
The song starts off with a soft piano, similarly to the teaser although this time it's layered beneath nearly whispered vocals. It barely takes any time for the song to suddenly shift into heavy fluctations of bassy synth slapped beneath an impressive rap verse. The drums are barely present, and they fade completely as we hit the pre-chorus which is almost entirely comprised of piano and a spacious synth sizzling in the background. The drums return midway through it to build up to the chorus, which is mostly just a drop while the boys sing about them being in a hellevator on top of it.
Let me start off by stating that this is a pre-debut music video, so there are key differences in what the aim of this is. A pre-debut song is supposed to rouse interest in the group. Whether that is by showcasing a unique sound or style, by including some kind of quirk that would be of interest to viewers or listeners, or just by hammering raw talent into your face. Regardless, the point is that this song isn't supposed to be something that's going to dominate the charts. I don't expect it to in the least, really.
I don't think there's really anything in this song that's very catchy, and it certainly does not strike me as something that I'm going to put on just to listen to. It manages to continue the trend of disjointed pieces that are two genres poorly combined that never come to a semblance of unity or coherence, which is something I'll likely never be a fan of. All of that being said, I think that the song serves its purpose in showcasing the talent that's there. The raps are incredibly well done, especially for a group that has not debuted yet. The vocals are not the greatest, but you can hear the potential that's there as a base. In terms of displaying the promise of the group, I think that "Hellevator" does an excellent job.
The video has pretty high production values considering it's only for a pre-debut. There's tons of interesting venues that the boys are in, and each feels coherent to the overall feel. There's a pretty heavy red draped over a lot of the scenes which is probably to be expected from a song about a "Hellevator". In terms of what our plot is in this video, I'm absolutely clueless. As far as I can tell it's mostly symbolic imagery of the boys descending into what I thought would be hell. However, they end up running in some field that honestly doesn't look so bad, though at the end of the video it turns out that the sky is a city that's upside down?
I have honestly no ideas as to what goes on in this video other than some dance moves and somehow the Stray Kids ending up in some kind of inverse world, which I guess is where the Hellevator took them. I'm sure there will be a much better guess and explanation elsewhere that will make some sense of the video, but from a few watches I'm still lost as to what happened at all. Still, it is an interesting video with a ton of beautifully eerie scenes that keeps you captivated for its duration. Even with my lack of understanding for what all it actually means, and my lack of fondness for the song itself, I still found it entertaining and enjoyable.
Stray Kids have a lot of time to improve on what's been laid out here in their pre-debut. The dancing looked a little stiff, but that's something they can quickly rectify. The vocals weren't at mindblowing levels, but they were more than enough to power through the song. The raps are easily the strongest part of the group at this point, sounding like well-practiced veterans rather than trainees that haven't even debuted yet. Again, a pre-debut song is supposed to garner attention, curiosity, and hype for a group. "Hellevator" does exactly that, and even though some (including myself) might have been expecting more, the song still gets Stray Kids out there as a name to look out for.