Review: Russian Roulette by Red Velvet

Russian Roulette by Red VelvetRed Velvet somewhat accidentally fostered a reputation as SM Entertainment’s quirky girl group, in contrast to Girls’ Generation‘s straightforward bubblegum leanings and f(x)‘s more electronica-tinged output – but their last mini album, The Velvet, sputtered its way through the promotional cycle as it attempted to show off the group’s vocals. Not that they don’t have it, but Red Velvet is built on personality; I couldn’t help but think The Velvet was a blotch on their reputation (unless you’re a die-hard fan). Russian Roulette is an attempt at course correction, and to an extent it works: the title track is an irresistible little thing, an earworm on the very first play. It’s filled with songs that are light enough to be Red Velvet but not too pop to be like their sunbaes. Yet it feels like SM is trying to shoehorn the group into a more generic sound. Not that they’ve always been weird – The Red, their “pop” mini album, was very much a child of the 90s, as is this new one – but on this record Red Velvet feels terribly tempered down. I kept looking for that something, as much as I enjoyed the songs. May it only be a glitch rather than a sign of things to come. [NB]3/5

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