Review: Perfect Velvet by Red Velvet

Perfect Velvet by Red VelvetRed Velvet was supposed to be one of those K-pop groups that this blog will take a keen interest in, alongside Twice, GFriend and Mamamoo (for obvious reasons). But I have been really frustrated with their last few releases, to the point that I skipped their last mini: The Red Summer is their lowest point, a bunch of shit songs that doesn’t even attempt to capture their quirky pop reputation nor make the most of the group’s vocal chops. Perhaps it’s the low expectations that’s making me happy about Perfect Velvet, their third full-length after The Red, the benchmark to which all of their other work will be compared to. But then it’s an unfair comparison: the sound is clearly a callback to The Velvet, the mini designed to prove they’re not just quirky pop with unintentional sexual references on their songs. Shrewdly, this isn’t all weepy piano ballads: Red Velvet (and their cabal of producers) finally, successfully, merged the group’s two faces, resulting in an album that combines 80s sensibilities (“Look”), some good harmonies (“Kingdom Come”) and their trademark quirky pop, albeit not cloyingly so (“Attaboy”). Sure, it flags towards the end, but it’s enjoyable enough. Is this the album Red Velvet were long supposed to have? Why did it take them so many tries? They did seem stretched throughout the year – maybe we all should have been spared this pain for a fleeting glimpse of, well, perfection. [NB]3/5

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“널 어떡해야 좋을지 잘 모르겠어 난.”

“Dumb Dumb” by Jang Jae-in, Giantpink and Perc%nt | Before I overplay this song and it loses its mystique, I’ll write about this. Yes, for the eagle-eared out there, this is a cover of Red Velvet’s signature song. Apparently, there’s this web series where two entertainment companies, S.M. and Mystic, do cross-pollinating stuff like this. I bet it’s only the case because the former bought a majority stake on the latter, though. (Red Velvet did this song the same week, which, well… but then I am not familiar with the original.) I haven’t heard of Perc%nt before, but I know Jang Jae-in for her soundtrack work, and Giantpink won the last season of Unpretty Rapstar, a show I of course haven’t watched, but know of because it brought us Kisum. So this one – this one’s sexy. Sure, it might wear off its welcome soon, but considering the original is the distillation of Red Velvet’s quirky pop concept (one they can’t seem to get a grip of now, which is a shame) you would have never thought an approach like this one would work, but it did. So, there. Enjoy. [NB]

Review: Rookie by Red Velvet

Rookie by Red VelvetIt wasn’t a glitch like I feared the last time. Red Velvet is in a rut. My unofficial second favorite K-pop group is in a rut. Rookie is their third mini-album in eleven months, and knowing that, I couldn’t help but wonder: “do we really need this?” The girls are becoming as overworked as Oh My Girl, who pulled off the same feat last year, and the strain is showing. The title track forces the group back to the quirky hole (after Russian Roulette seemingly forced them towards a more generic sound) but it’s a mediocre, unmemorable song, if not terrible, even. You’d expect the group behind “Dumb Dumb” to do better. The other tracks seem to be afterthoughts of weird decisions: “Body Talk” meandered to no resolution, while “Little Little” and “Last Love” attempted to showcase their vocals again, but, again, nothing memorable. Could it be that the songs are terrible, or that the girls have stretched themselves too thin? Well, if Rookie was released a year from now I would still think it’s a passionless mini. But the timing of this release, so soon after Russian Roulette attempted to regain lost ground, just highlights where things are going very wrong. [NB]2/5

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

Review: The Velvet by Red Velvet

The Velvet by Red VelvetRed Velvet is decidedly two-faced. I don’t mean that in a bitchy, crazy way. I’m pretty sure they want listeners to see them as a bunch of quirky musicians who are also very feminine. Their previous release, The Red, is a literal quirkfest, what with “Dumb Dumb” playing out in a jumpy tempo and a clappy beat underneath. I regret not reviewing the album itself because it is something that you listen to as a whole. The Velvet, on the other hand, starts off with a soft sweepy single. I sadly am not a sweeping music person, despite years of playing the violin. I admit I was very intrigued when the teaser images were released, and even more curious when I saw the teaser video. I was almost certain they’d release a soft mid-tempo track they can dance to like “Be Natural”. The next few tracks were pretty upbeat, but they’re doing nothing for me so far. They go back to sweeping with “First Time”, which I actually love. That track is more outgoing than “One of These Nights”, with more solid vocals and a steady beat. I love that the songs in this mini are a little bit of this and that, but nothing overwrought. They’re just… soft, very soft. They included different versions of the single towards the end. I enjoyed the Joe Millionaire version. It’s something you play between Ladies Code‘s “Galaxy” and SoljiHani’s “Only One”. [SY]4/5