Album Review: Red Velvet – Perfect Velvet

Release Date: Friday, November 17, 2017

Tracklist:

  1. Peek-A-Boo
  2. Look (봐)
  3. I Just
  4. Kingdom Come
  5. (두 번째 데이트) My Second Date
  6. Attaboy
  7. Perfect 10
  8. About Love
  9. (달빛 소리) Moonlight Melody

Total Runtime: 00:30:58

Recommended for: ReveLuvs; fans of ’90s R’n’B; those with a soft spot for synth pop and disco influenced tracks; people who like experimental EDM and Hip Hop sounds; ballad fans; fans of like softer uptempo sounds

NOT Recommended for: People who do not like any of the above listed categories

Red Velvet has experienced a very productive year. They started it with the experimental and divisive ‘Rookie’ in February, which fortunately turned out to be a hit for them after live performances, and continued to ride on its success with the release of the summer smash hit ‘Red Flavor.’ The corresponding albums have also been very well received by both fans and non fans. It is unsurprising then that a huge amount of interest was generated after they announced their November comeback. With expectations at an all time high and the group releasing a Velvet themed full album this time, Red Velvet is bound to make a dent in the K-pop sphere.


TRACK REVIEW

  • Peek-A-Boo

The first few seconds of the title track introduce the listener to a tropical house instrumental, which might vex those who are tired of the tropical house trend that has overtaken K-pop and even the western music scene. However, Red Velvet deconstructs this overused genre by drowning the tropical influences with a thumping beat and making that the main focus of the song. While the tropical feel is still present, it is mostly in the background and comes in and out during the switch from the verses to the bridge to the chorus. This is a breath of fresh air as it not only showcases stellar production value, but manages to illustrate Red Velvet’s unique and quirky musicality.

The song’s verses back this up as the group members experiment with various forms of the same melody. While the vocal line does a great job, Yeri and Irene stand out for providing a unique vocal color to their parts. Yeri takes the place of Red Velvet’s main rapper in this track and while she is far from skilled, her section does give the song an extra spice. Irene also shines here, taking a break from rapping and doing well with her vocalized parts. However, the song is not vocally challenging considering what the group can actually do in terms of harmonization and pure skill. Their title tracks have never showcased their vocal strengths and so far only ‘Dumb Dumb‘ has pushed them out of their comfort zone. While some may be disappointed with ‘Peek-A-Boo’s’ lack of vocal diversity, they may find solace in the various inflections and interactions between the girls throughout the song.

Structurally, ‘Peek-A-Boo’ follows the typical trend of verse-bridge-chorus but it also has some interesting variations. After the first two verses and the chorus, Yeri’s rap kicks in right after the first chorus and instead of being a short blurb, is actually made a highlight. Irene’s verse, which follows immediately, also follows a slightly different melody from Seulgi’s and Wendy’s introductory verses. The second chorus actually has a follow up and is not just a repetition of the hook ‘peek-a-boo’. The bridge also varies between the first and second iterations, which ensures that the reader is not bored by a monotonous sound. The structure does remind me of a more polished version of ‘Rookie‘, considering the latter’s messy composition and lyrics, and it does bear some resemblance to ‘Dumb Dumb’ in how it changes constantly, though ‘Dumb Dumb’ was more experimental and the hook ‘dumb dumb’ was repeated throughout the song and not just reserved for the chorus.

The music video is really the highlight of this release, and is perhaps the best Red Velvet music video in a very long time (really, since ‘Dumb Dumb’ and ‘Ice Cream Cake’). The plot is simple and enthralling. The girls are trying to kill each other and a common love interest. There are a few scenes of the choreography – which is always disappointing – but the song and interesting plot make up for this. The editing and shooting is also very well done and does well to enhance the B-grade horror movie inspiration behind the track.

However, one must not worry for Red Velvet was kind enough to grace us with a full performance of the track, concurrent with the release of the album. It is some the group’s best choreography to date, with much cleaner transitions than their previous tracks choreographed by Kyle Hanagami. The performance, itself, is enjoyable to watch with its simple yet mature feel. The concept is also top-notch and showcases Red Velvet’s more mature side which so far has been shafted for the quirkier and cuter Red side.

All in all, Peek-A-Boo is a great track. It has a perfect blend of the group’s Red and Velvet sides. It features a catchy hook and the production value is off the charts. Time will tell how Korea receives this track, as it is very different from their most successful singles to date, ‘Red Flavor‘ and ‘Russian Roulette’. However, one can always hope for the best. As a fan of their music, and their more mature Velvet side, I have been thoroughly pleased with this track!

  • Look (봐)

From the very first teaser, ‘Look’ promised to be the spiritual successor of ‘Automatic’ and it did not disappoint. Although its closeness to Automatic is not surprising as both tracks were produced by the same person. Whereas ‘Automatic’ goes for a more mellow ’90s R’n’B feel, ‘Look’ overturns this and strives off its ’80s disco sound. The R’n’B influences are still there, although minimal, but they take a backseat to a heavy disco-inspired feel coupled with soothing synths and vocal harmonies.

This track shows Red Velvet’s versatility as a vocal group quite well. While it is not their most challenging venture (that title belongs to other tracks in this album and the heavily underappreciated ‘One of These Nights‘). The parts that the girls sing together are the highlight of the track and their voices manage to complement each other.

The choreography for this track is very good and the best the group has put out for any b-side. It incorporated some iconic disco moves and others that are staples to the ’90s R’n’B genre, which should not be startling as this entire album thrives off these influences. The song’s production and arrangement are title track worthy and if anyone wants an alternative to ‘Peek-A’Boo’, ‘Look’ is the song to choose.

  • I Just

Compared to the previous tracks, ‘I Just’ is a stronger indication of Red Velvet’s vocal capabilities, especially what they can achieve when they decide to harmonize. However, the girls’ individuality is not lost at all and they each maintain their unique colors. Wendy especially shines in this track and has been allowed to explore her extensive vocal range.

The instrumentals and composition of this song are truly magnificent. It infuses electro-pop and EDM while maintaining the group’s unique sound. True to all the other b-sides in this album, this could very well have been a title track in any other album.  The best part of the background track is the synth that sounds a bit like a suikinkutsu, giving the song a calm break between the EDM heavy verses. This is one of the best B-sides I have ever heard and definitely one of the best songs Red Velvet has put out to date.

  • Kingdom Come

‘Kingdom Come’ has the best introduction I have ever heard. The sultry R’n’B feel to this track, coupled with the godly vocals really take Red Velvet’s discography to new heights. This is not a typical R’n’B track but one with a bit of pop incorporated. The dreams are heavily showcased here, though this adds to the track’s unique and pleasant nature. More than anything, it adds to the melody supplied by the groups’ vocals.

The vocals are what make the track though. Red Velvet is a very strong group vocally and their velvet tracks showcase this well. ‘Kingdom Come’, however, is truly an exception with how it illustrates the group’s harmonizing. While ‘I Just’ and ‘Look’ have some great moments of harmonization, ‘Kingdom Come’ truly encompasses each individual’s vocal capabilities. There is a pleasant variety, with there being an abundance of both low and high notes. Simply put, this is one of the best tracks Red Velvet has put out to date.

  • (두 번째 데이트) My Second Date

‘My Second Date’ marks the transition to Perfect Velvet’s more experimental tracks (which will be the next three – inclusive of this one). There are certainly various elements to this song. The most apparent is the R’n’B influence, reminiscent of the early 2000s in the same way ‘Talk to Me‘ was; except this one has a more modern feel. This goes on for most of the first third of the song. The second third kicks in after the second iteration of the chorus, employing a more hardcore hip-hop sound that also feels like EDM. The beat drop is quite separate from the first part of the song and may feel out of place to some. For those who are not into quirky and experimental sounds, the constant shifting may be a bit jarring at first. It might get worse as the climax kicks in, with the addition of a guitar that sounds a bit like a ukulele. The vocals are not showcased here as much as they were in the previous two tracks but it is not surprising as this is more upbeat compared to their previous velvet releases. ‘My Second Date’ is an experimental sound that shows what Red Velvet can do and how diverse they are in terms of employing different sounds in one go. However, it may not be for everyone due to its jarring shifts in genres.

  • Attaboy

‘Attaboy’ is perhaps not as experimental as ‘My Second Date’ but it does push Red Velvet out of their comfort zone. In a weird way, the track screams Red Velvet, but the execution is also quite different from what we expect when we think of the group’s velvet side. ‘Attaboy’ is very heavy on its trap and hip-hop influences, which Red Velvet has never claimed to be good at. That is not to say that their previous tracks have not used these – see ‘Dumb Dumb’ – but they have not always lasted for the entirety of the track.

There is a lot of rapping, which is Red Velvet’s weakest skill. For those who are not fond of rapping in general, this track will not be their cup of tea. For those who like rap but would prefer it to be done by those actually skilled in it, they would also loathe ‘Attaboy’. However, the track is simple and fun. It provides some enjoyment for those who might just want to sit back and enjoy a trap inspired pop song.

  • Perfect 10

‘Perfect 10’ is another R’n’B track, although it does have some trap beats littered throughout the song. It is not as heavy hitting as ‘My Second Date’ and ‘Attaboy’ but it does implement several breaks from the typical R’n’B sound that one might expect. It is sultry and mature, fitting to the overall message of the song. In addition to the seductive R’n’B beat, there are some experimental trap breaks that shift focus from the song. At times, they feel a bit jarring as they serve as a climax that does not actually provide resolution to the song. However, this is quickly recovered as the song regains its footing and continues on its melodious path.

‘Perfect 10’, more than anything, thrives off the vocal perfection that accompanies the calming instrumental. It reminds me of what girl groups in the early 2000s used to do, especially the Pussycat Dolls and Cherish. The song is not too challenging for them, but the girls do convey how diverse their voices are; between the high tones of Wendy, Seulgi and Joy and the lower tones of Yeri and Irene, the song shines with how it showcases how well crafted Red Velvet’s group dynamic is.

  • About Love

‘About Love’ is a wonderful break from the R’n’B heavy album. It has a got a bit of a jazzy feel to it, without totally adhering to the style. It is soft pop, that wonderfully imparts Red Velvet’s collective voice. The vocals are put on full display here and instead of focusing on the individual members, the group is allowed to carry the whole chorus together. Wendy does provide some wonderful ad libs, which is unsurprising as she is the main vocal. While it is simple, ‘About Love’ does have an experimental feel to it as it utilizes a Spanish guitar toward the end. It is among the softer tracks in the album, but just as well produced as all the others.

  • (달빛 소리) Moonlight Melody

It would not be a proper velvet album without some sort of ballad and ‘Moonlight Melody’ takes the spot. It is soothing and calming and is a perfect end to a sultry and mature album. It has a feel similar to ‘One of These Nights‘ but not as slow. Both songs heavily rely on the piano but ‘Moonlight Melody’ also relies on a soft acoustic guitar to supplement it. Vocally, it delivers, as one would expect from a ballad, and provides a wonderful balance between highlighting the group’s vocals and conveying their individual capabilities. Irene and Yeri do very well here, which prompts me to wonder why SM forces them to rap rather than to sing. ‘Moonlight Melody’ is perfect for the dreary months of winter, but could also work well with summer and spring. Should anyone be tired of the pop-infused, R’n’b nature of this album, ‘Moonlight Melody’ is a gracious remedy to calm the soul.

ladyandsansa

✿ OH!Press’ resident Red Velvet stan ✿

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