Mar 26, 2015
Red Velvet Doubles Up With "Automatic" And "Ice Cream Cake"
As I previously wrote when the news of member Yeri being added to the group; I've been feeling a bit upset about Red Velvet's new direction. Although I've grown to like Yeri more and more I still don't think she's a particularly useful addition, which is proven both in these videos and on their live stages. Sure there's room for her to grow, but it still makes very little sense to me.
My excitement for their comeback was therefore kind of killed by those news so when they finally released their new singles "Automatic" and "Ice Cream Cake" I didn't really feel that passionate about them. Their concept for me was still slightly unclear although it has been explained to me now, but I still don't know if I like the idea or not. On one side their "Red" concept (the fun, expressive one) reminds me a bit too much of label seniors f(x)'s style (cut a bit more cute and childish), but I didn't really like "Be Natural" that much either as it was supposed to represent the "Velvet" side (mature and feminine).
Despite my initial skepticism I felt inclined to give their comeback a try since I found the teaser pictures intriguing and hopeful. The MV "Automatic" came out on March 14th and I hadn't watched the video snippet prior to watching it, so I had really no idea what I was going to get. To my relief though, I was more than pleased.
This song is on their "Velvet" side, a.k.a it's more soft and sultry in the way that "Be Natural" was. The main difference between those two are that this one is actually good. In fact, it's my favorite song that I've heard them sing so far. It shouldn't grab my attention the way it does if I'm going by the standards of my usual taste, but for some reason I can't get it out of my head. The vocals are smooth, feminine and sensitive and the melody is the right amount of sensual and melodic. All in all, I love the song and I wish it was promoted on its own.
As for the video; it also exceeded my expectations quite a bit. Lyrically the song is about the kind of love that happens naturally and effortlessly and it's indeed a very mature song. I'm kind of skeptical as of what I think about Yeri's position considering these kind of lyrics, as she's only just turned 16. However, it's not as big of an issue as it is with "Ice Cream Cake". As for the video; I'm not sure how it relates to the lyrics at all. The video is, how do I put this, a bit creepy. But in a good way, seriously!
The video setting is dark, as it revolves around the members and their respective sets being lit up in the middle of a pitch-black room, and the only light we get are from dim light-bulbs and centered spotlights. I've often complained about SM's never-ending love of box sets and how they almost always fail to utilize them in ways other companies have managed to, but this time I really don't have anything to pick on. If anything, this is how you should do box videos. The eerie vibe of the video with its strange props and decorations fits the music perfectly, as does the members' emotionless acting. Although the song is about love, the contrast between the lyrics lack of emotion from the members works wonderfully. I suppose love can have that numb effect too.
Seulgi opens the video standing in front of a window in which light streams in, presumably in a kitchen considering the plate of food she grabs and carries to the dining table where the rest of the group already sits; stiff, motionless, yes almost doll-like. From here the members take turn in carrying the story forward, with slices of dance sequences thrown in between to add some variety. There isn't really that much logic to it, but I feel like the plot is based more on inner emotions and sensations rather than real-life encounters, which is why it is as cool as it is. In the end there's a interesting twist, as the entire video sort of rewinds and ends in the exact same place it started. Although I'm not sure what they're trying to convey, SM's creative team has put some kind of thought behind it and you can tell because the overall quality is much, much higher.
All and all, this video and song are both brilliant. Already it is a big step up from their 2014 releases, which were good but not nearly as impressive as this. Every single member looks stunning and I love everything from the set design and cinematography to the choreography and styling. If there was a concept I would want Red Velvet to get really famous for, this would be the one.
Now let's talk about the elephant in the room, the ugly step-sister: "Ice Cream Cake". Right from the start I'll be honest with you and say that I don't like this song particularly much. As others have said before: it sounds like SNSD's "I Got A Boy" had a baby and although this isn't nearly as tragic it still has too many similarities for me to truly enjoy it. I don't understand why SM has made it their thing to give groups tracks with disjointed parts and non-matching beats, and I'm not buying it.
Sure, this song isn't bad by any stretch of imagination, in fact it's awfully catchy with its creepy "la la la" parts and "it's so tasty, come and chase me" as well as "I scream, you scream, gimme that gimme that ice cream". It's easy to follow along to and those lines surely stick with you, but I still can't give the song a pass. Trust me, I wanted to love it but the structure and progression as well as the lyrics (which I'll discuss later) didn't allow me to do so. If only they'd actively promoted "Automatic" instead.
Nonetheless, the video is much better than the song so at least they got one part of the equation right. Like the colorful and bright concept they're aiming for, this video is summery and youthful. You know that SM has put a ton of money into this comeback when they've actually traveled somewhere abroad to shoot a music video, and sure did the effort pay off. Taking place in California's desert area, the video makes good use of classic American themes such as cheap motels, gas stations and retro-inspired cafes. Each member get their own set in which they engage in various activities, but plenty of them involve eating ice cream.
As for the lyrics and how they come in; I have yet to decide whether I'm horrifically upset or if I'm over-thinking things as usual. Reading the snippet below while having in mind that thir new member is only 16 years old should upset to a certain extent, right?
Please give me that sweet taste, ice cream cake
With a flavor that fits this special day
That ice cream that's on my mouth
Makes your heart pound and you'll come to me
It's so tasty, come and chase me
I can't hold it in, I scream, you scream
Gimme that, gimme that ice cream
Like, I don't know if I should take the seemingly innocent ice cream cake symbolism literally or if it's a sweet disguise for some much more adult-oriented. Honestly guys, don't you think these lyrics sound kind of like something that's not appropriate for a 16-year old? Again, I may be looking at it the wrong way but I can't help but feel like something as juvenile as ice cream cake has to have another meaning. Nonetheless, I feel slightly uncomfortable with Yeri performing it.
Another negative that at least I find is the choreography. In the video it looks just fine because of the way it's edited, but when I was watching their live performance I was struck by how awkward it looked. All their other choreographies have had distinct patterns and themes, but this one didn't really work in either direction. Some of the moves are not cute, especially the ones where they're supposed to be cool and hip but instead clash with the high sugar-level of the song.
Apart from those two aspects the video is more than satisfying, but the song kind of ruins the experience a bit for me anyway. I probably would have liked it even more if it wasn't for the music, but the point of a music video is for the two parts to join in so I can't really look away from that either. Still, it's a video of higher production quality than both "Happiness" and "Be Natural", and although it might not be as good as "Automatic" it's still an effort worth noting and appreciating.