Almost 8 months ago, Red Velvet showcased their mastery of the RnB genre with the nostalgic and magnificent “Bad Boy”. This song signaled a change in concept, and many were excited to see the group take on a more mature persona. However, since that was their second Velvet-style song following 2017’s “Peek-a-boo”, it was about time for SM to give them a Red song. I personally couldn’t wait for their quirkier and cuter side and so I was quite excited for this comeback. “Power Up” proves to be that song; one that continues the saga of Red Velvet’s quirky, cute and trippy Red tracks. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is an essential part of Red Velvet’s duality and musical diversity. With 6 new tracks and the inclusion of “Bad Boy” English version, Red Velvet is here to conquer the summer heat!
Release date: August 6, 2018
- ‘Power Up’
- ‘With You / Christmas in Summer’
- ‘Mr. E’
- ‘Hit That Drum’
- ‘Blue Lemonade’
- ‘Bad Boy’ (Eng ver.)
Total Runtime: 00:23:39
Recommended for: Those who are quite fond of Red Velvet’s brighter and cuter side; those who like cutesy bitpop; anyone ready for a fun summer track
NOT Recommended for: Those who prefer Red Velvet’s softer, sultrier and more mature side; those who do not like overly cutesy and juvenile pop-tracks
- ‘Power Up’
For those who expected Red Velvet to come back with a song that showcases their mature side, ‘Power Up’ sure is a disappointment. From the get go, the song is very cute and uses a repetitive hook that relies less on the melody like ‘Red Flavor’ and ‘Russian Roulette’ and more on the catchiness of the hook itself. The “banana” part will get stuck in your head upon first listen.
Once you get through the hook, the first verse begins and this is where the real song starts. The verse is quite well written and the vocal adlibs and harmonies are really good. The bitpop influences are not very apparent and come and go rather quickly. This is not surprising as this is the same team that produced “Peek-a-boo”, which had tropical house influences that were not always apparent. Wendy’s pre-chorus after the verse is really beautiful and she is given the rare chance to showcase her vocals. Red Velvet’s Red title tracks very rarely allow her to take center stage, so this is a nice change of pace.
The first part of the chorus is very enjoyable. The songwriters tried to make it as catchy as possible and they succeeded in doing so. The “yeah yeah” part is cute and catchy, effectively creating another hook for listeners to remember. It is the second part that falls short, which is not surprising considering the composers and producers of the song. The “banana” part is memorable but unexpectedly juvenile for Red Velvet. The group has always used cuteness in their Red tracks, but never have they trod on the childish route. The chorus is also quite jarring as it is sandwiched between and juxtaposed against two great verses, thus standing out like a sore thumb. Even then, the song still maintains its replay value and whether one likes the chorus or not is up to individual musical tastes.
The bridge breaks it down quite effectively, which actually manages to enhance the underwhelming chorus. Wendy gets another high note in and does a wonderful job of it, further demonstrating why she is the top female vocalist of the new generation. I was not expecting Joy to get a high note as well since she is only a vocal whereas Seulgi is the lead, but she does well. Her part comes and goes quite fast and it is not anything impressive, which probably due to the way the song was written.
Visually, “Power Up” fluctuates between generic and aesthetically pleasing. The choreography is nothing special, although the chorus portion is really cute – but in a good way! The two point dances are very memorable and suit the song well. The other parts of the choreography are nothing to write home about. The girls look absolutely stunning and the styling is experimental but bright and colorful – in short it works! There is such a great variety of clothes that I am not sure if we will see all of these once Red Velvet starts promoting. The clothes might look a bit unimpressive, but that has to do more with the music video than the actual styling. The editing is all over the place and it is not as refreshing or original like “Red Flavor” (although that video was also quite polarizing).
This is not a bad song and it has its moments. However, when it is compared to Red Velvet’s past tracks, it sure does fall short. It is especially disappointing as it comes right after “Bad Boy”, which was near perfection for many. It seems that “Power Up” will be divisive among international fans, but it will be well received domestically.
- ‘With You’
Despite being a summer song, “With You” sounds like something that could fit the winter season as well. The production utilizes various elements of pop, tropical house and even some flute and harmonica sounds scattered here and there. Although the song is very laid back, it has a lot going on behind it and is very well layered as far as production goes. The lyrics are very sweet and fit the season quite well. They provide an interesting contrast to “Power Up”, whose lyrics cater to the summer season. The vocals and harmonies are the best thing about this track, and they showcase Red Velvet’s immense vocal capabilities.
- ‘Mr. E’
“Mr. E” is “Zoo’s” successor. It has a lot of jungle and animal elements to it and is the type of song one would enjoy whilst on a safari. There is something reminiscent of an acoustic guitar, which gives the backing instrumental a unique touch. The vocals continue to be a standout, which I did not expect from a Red album. The mixing is a bit jarring at times, however, and sometimes the instrumental is higher than the vocals, but that does not last throughout. For those who do not like “Power Up”, “Mr. E” will prove to be a good ‘palate cleanser’.
This is, without a doubt, the best track on the album. There is a bit of hip-hop but it’s also very pop, which perfectly showcases Red Velvet’s duality and their ability to conquer multiple genres sometimes at the same time. The hip hop references might be a bit hard to track but they are there. There is a trap beat in the background, especially in the pre-chorus. There’s also a mixing sound after the bridge that is a great callback to 90s rap and RnB.
Although the rapping is unexpected, it works here and is not jarring. Red Velvet does not have a good rap line and so they always have to rely on making the rap verses catchy. Sometimes they fall short and some times they succeed. I believe “Mosquito” is a hip hop influenced track that perfectly showcases Red Velvet’s pop background in a better light. Perfect Velvet‘s “Attaboy” tried to do so but the lyrical writing left much to be desired.
“Mosquito” also has several instances of heightened background vocals, which not only add to the complexity of the song but also create a nice melody. This is most evident in the chorus with the “oh uh oh”, which is present throughout. It is similar to the background vocals present in “Dumb Dumb”, another hip hop influenced song that was all about using various vocal maneuvers to create a more complicated melody. “Mosquito” will be a favorite of those who tend to prefer Red Velvet’s more rap friendly songs, although those who love Vocal Velvet will surely love it as well.
- ‘Hit That Drum’
At first, I thought I was listening to a cover of Super Junior’s hit “Bonamana”. While “Hit That Drum” is a fun song that showcases Red Velvet’s quirky side, it is my least favorite on the album. There is something about it that feels disjointed. Perhaps it’s the mixing, or maybe it’s the songwriting. Whatever the reason, I find it hard to enjoy this track as much as I have enjoyed the previous ones. However, I can tell that a lot of international fans (especially those from the west) will love this.
- ‘Blue Lemonade’
The RnB and EDM influences are unexpected but pleasantly welcomed. It is amazing how Red Velvet manages to try different genres but somehow add their own color. “Blue Lemonade” is a calm track, which is perfectly suitable for the summer weather. The vocals are once again the standout, which is seriously impressive considering the genre. Many fans will like this track, especially those who like their more vocal oriented tracks. Anyone looking for the successor to Perfect Velvet’s “I Just”, “Blue Lemonade” is definitely it.
- Bad Boy’ (Eng ver.)
“Bad Boy” was already released in January and conquered the hearts of many worldwide. It was thus with great surprise when Red Velvet decided to release an English version of the acclaimed track. Now K-pop and English don’t always mix well. Some Korean tracks that have been translated to English have not been too good. Lucky for us, “Bad Boy” does not fall under this category. The lyrics are well written and naturally fit the melody of the backing instrumental. What is most surprising about this is that despite “Bad Boy” being a Velvet-type song, it fits quite well with the rest of the album. For western international fans, this will be the highlight of the album and quite fittingly so.