Stray Kids’ newest MV, “God’s Menu” is full of metaphors, variety, and symbolism that seem to turn a complete 180 from the recently completed Clé series, both musically and visually. The visuals are abrasive with a chaotic array of settings, outfits, and characters.

Much like a dish that satisfies “all five senses,” Stray Kids have cooked up something for everyone to enjoy, pun intended. The MV focuses on three main themes: construction/creation, experimentation, and competition teetering between god-like control and profound chaos throughout the song.

An extended cooking metaphor (not surprising given the title) is used to represent creating and producing new music. With an in-house producing team, 3RACHA, this metaphor is hardly an exaggeration, and the MV demonstrates that. The lyrics assert that there is something for everyone on their musical menu, it entices all five senses, and they need no secret ingredients to accomplish it. Cooking is the central piece that ties the video together as a metaphor for music composition and production. There are frequent references to mixing, a repetitive “tang tang tang tang” in the chorus as an onomatopoeia for adding ingredients or spices, and talk of a desire to satisfy tastes.

The first scene of the music video slaps you across the face with a “yes sir or madam” before transitioning to a chaotic kitchen with Changbin rapping amidst his fellow members and other instrumentalists wearing marching uniforms. It’s almost difficult to catch all of what is happening with the members fuzzed into the background of the shot. This shot is something more akin to The Matrix rather than a typical K-pop music video. Camera work often focuses on the group, but here the members are utilized almost like extras in the scene rather than key players. It’s a small detail, but it feels fresh and makes Changbin’s lyrics more impactful when he talks about their god-like musical powers.

“No limits, like a creator, I make sound.”

The transitions throughout the video are one of the highlights. They keep the viewer on their toes and follow precisely on beat, no easy task. It gives both the music and visuals incredible impact, and makes the divine power seem more like fact than fiction. Following the first half of the verse, Changbin pulls a screen up to reveal Han in a construction site, another major setting.

Construction and experimentation fit hand-in-hand with the process of composition and production of music. What is surprising visually is the mix of construction and assorted lab equipment. Felix takes the forefront while workers mix chemicals in beakers and test tubes. This seems in line with creation both in terms of music production and spontaneous creation of animate and inanimate objects and composition evident as a double entendre. The construction site is a more literal nod to this, juxtaposing hands-on creation with spontaneous god-like creation, while the testing is more similar to the process of experimentation and hybridization. The percussive build in the pre-chorus builds intensity as it gradually melts into the chorus like a chemical reaction.

While these connections to their main point seem more deliberate, what seems to come out of left field are the scenes at the race track. It is a little confusing at first glance given the concept which paints the group as beyond the competition and in a league of their own. Though their car races above the rest and stays ahead, it’s still competing as they’re still “playing the game.” In the music industry, competition, consumption, and sales are integral parts of music-making. It is almost impossible to be completely apart from the competitive nature of the industry, especially in popular music. With that being said, it is possible that the concept of competition here is being subverted and meant to depict their presence in the industry (and the “game”) as a necessary evil to share their music while staying in their own lane from the very start.

At the race track, the music is more chill with slower, thinner vocal tracking. It contrasts both the verses and the music that would typically accompany that kind of environment. Race tracks are loud and usually packed with large crowds. Instead, the one shown here is nearly empty except for the pit crews and racers, and the music is subdued. This subversion of the typical sounds makes the impact of this comparison striking. Although they are still playing the game, they are recreating what it means to communicate and navigate the industry, while riding the track at their own pace.

The double entendre of the track is more subtle and could be the link between these three themes. But while there are some connections that can be tied to the race track and competition themes, it seems like these might not land as reliably as the allusions to cooking, creation, and experimentation. Maybe it is because the symbolism is more literal rather symbolic, but it sticks out from the menu imagery that creates a framework for the rest of the MV.

Further perpetuation of this god-like creative paradigm is evident in the cinematography. The camera angle is partially controlled by the members at times, whether deliberately or by a very suggestive cut of the eyes. Sometimes it is more deliberate, like Changbin’s transition in the beginning or Bangchan’s covering of the camera in the first pre-chorus, and other times it is more suggestive. During Felix’s pre-chorus solo, he cuts his eyes and the camera remains at his eyeline, and moves to Seungmin and IN’s eyes when the screen pans and Felix turns away. The cinematography being partially controlled by the members accentuates the feeling of an omnipotent eye being willed by them, much like the creators they claim to be. There does not seem to be a deliberate “god” they are referring to, but rather a being that is apart from the rest of humankind – something special and unique.

Overall the combination of the camera work, transitions, contrasting musical sections, and reoccurring themes make this MV simultaneously diverse and chaotic, reinforcing the notion that Stray Kids really do have a special skill to satisfy everyone. If you want a hard-hitting rap track look no further than Changbin and Han’s first verse. Honey-sweet vocals and a moment of calm? You’ve got Seungmin and Bangchan’s pre-chorus melodies for that. Clear and precise dance moves? Hyunjin and Lee Know are already ahead of you.

The visuals and music are exciting and surprising until the very end, albeit a bit overwhelming, and sometimes confusing. For any other musical group, one could argue that this is too much in one three-minute song, but because Stray Kids are used to undertaking tougher, more raw or chaotic topics and styles, this track is not too far away from their usual output. There is honestly endless symbolism in the small details, but the themes are clear: Stray Kids really are a cut above the rest, continuing to create and innovate with almost god-like efficiency.

(Youtube, Images via JYP Entertainment)