ellihn captivates on his genre-bending single “Not There”
ellihn, the moniker of Singaporean musician John Tan Jon Young, certainly knows how to make a bold first impression. Diving into “Not There,” the nineteen year old’s debut single, it was hard to know what to expect. Pop, perhaps? Electronic? The answer, as it turns out, was all of the above and more.
Taken as a whole, “Not There” is a curious beast. Melding traces of brooding pop, lightly-throttled EDM, and–most surprisingly–flamenco-inspired melodies, “Not There” brings together a collage of unlikely sounds that curiously captivate. As ellihn takes you through this somewhat jarring musical journey (complete with chaotic phone rings and a pseudo-EDM drop), an air of mystery lingers thanks to his strange concoction of sounds. Although it’s a song that might be trying to do too much in such a short amount of time, it’s unabashedly gutsy.
In a press release, ellihn writes that “Not There” is a song about continuing to pursue one’s dream despite past regrets. But despite that clarification, “Not There” seems to be more lyrically complex than that. It’s unclear whose perspective ellihn is writing from–“Not There” features a few lyrics that don’t particularly line up with what the artist claims his song is representing (“I’m alone again / Killed two men / With one hand / Oh my mind / Do you want things to end?”), and there are few instances of the artist’s claimed theme throughout (if at all). My theory? ellihn is writing from the POV of a spy in a thriller where they disobey their boss and are temporarily relieved from their line of duty. Forced to face themselves as who they are without guidance, “Not There” is the song that soundtracks that specific moment–giving our protagonist time to reflect on their brutal past and the courage to get back into action. Given the stylistic cover photo (one that reminds me of another Bond themed song, if I may add), the limbo-esque music video, and the song’s specific lyrical imagery, I don’t think that that theory is too far-fetched.
But whether its soundtracking the next spy-thriller blockbuster or as a metaphorically inclined portrait of courage, “Not There” is an interesting taste of what ellihn is capable of… and the eclectic sounds that we’ll be hearing from him in the future.
Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!