Sep 23, 2015

Red Velvet Show Their True Colors In "The Red"

So far in their career Red Velvet has shown us two different personas, both musically and aesthetically. The key to those sides are hidden in the name itself, as "red" is their upbeat, quirky and fun side and "velvet" is their smooth, suave and sexy one. We've seen this exemplified with their releases, as "Happiness" and "Ice Cream Cake" has been more red and "Be Natural" and "Automatic" more velvet. For this second 2015 comeback the girls are focusing only on one part of their double-identity, and present to us their first ever full album: "The Red". 

First up is the album's title track: "Dumb Dumb". If I'm going to be completely honest here I didn't quite get the song when I first heard it. In fact I was very highly confused with it. Now this is because of a couple of reasons which you may or may not agree with me on. First of all, the song is very loud. The background music consists of various horns that initially sound a bit jarring, as well as other strange noises and fast-beating percussion instruments. Along with the high-pitched vocals (especially in the chorus) the song's first impression is that it's a bit too noisy.

Additionally the actual structure of the song is a bit confusing as well, as I didn't quite understand the different parts and how they worked together considering they mix vocals with rap-talking in separate tempos.However after I had listened to the song a couple of more times I grew to like it more and more, and to appreciate its charms and quirks. It certainly does share many similarities to their other "red" title tracks, like the rap-talking and somewhat strange structure and build. It's also very upbeat and energetic, and I love the usage of the word "dumb" as a way to fill in space with a melody.

[OFFICIAL] Red Velvet – Concept Photo For ‘The Red’ 1333x2000
The lyrics, too, are cute and charming on their own, as the girls sing about acting awkward in front of their crush and losing control of their body parts which engage in odd behavior instead. All in all I definitely have to say I enjoy this title track now after a few listens, definitely more so than "Ice Cream Cake", despite some of its messiness and random Michael Jackson tribute verses.

The following song "Huff N Puff" is an interesting second track indeed, as it is another song that I think defines the kind of sound Red Velvet is aiming for with this comeback. Like with the former, it without a doubt sounds a bit messy at times because are so many changes throughout the track. The background instrumental switches sound, tempo and melody so many times that you begin of wonder what kind of song you're actually listening to. Despite this chaotic structure you can't help but find the song catchy, as the general vibe still is pretty fun and upbeat with a chorus and a hook that's memorable.

Lyrically the song is pretty unique as well as they, from what I've understood and interpreted, are about falling into the rabbit hole and entering Wonderland. Whether they are Alice or just another visitor is unknown, but knowing the lyrics certainly makes the rest of the song more logical too. Wonderland is a pretty strange and random place, and as they describe the events in the lyrics the music sort of follows along too which is cool. If anything it explains the weird transitions between the parts.

"Campfire" isn't a song perfectly suitable for singing at a campfire, but it catches the cozy, relaxed mood of the occasion quite flawlessly. The lyrics are vivid and imaginative, as the girls sing about sitting at a fire under the night sky with that one person that makes their heart beat a little faster. I genuinely think the lyrics of the song are wonderful, as they capture that romantic, exciting feeling you get when you're in love as well as describing the scene in beautiful and captivating detail.

Musically the song is less interesting, unfortunately, and it features less acoustic guitar than one would expect from a classic campfire song. The track is driven mainly by funky electric guitars, bass and perfectly placed horns, and the combination works great. However some parts of the song stand out, and not in a good way, such as the rap-breakdowns that only seem out of place with the chill vibe that the other bits have.

Next up is "Red Dress", and this song is certainly a special one. The tempo picks up significantly from the previous track as the verses are quick and intense, and the build-up for the chorus is exciting and enticing. When the chorus hits however, the tempo suddenly drops and the entire song sort of slows down for a minute, before it gets right back on it again. Now, these type of drops can either be disappointing or amazing, and this one definitely belongs to the later kind. Although the lyrics are nothing particularly special, the song manages to be capture your interest anyhow because of it's unique structure. And although it shares many similarities with the album's first two tracks in terms of background music this one is a lot cleaner and not as unorganized or all over the place, which is a nice change as well.

The following song is one of my absolute favorites on this album; "Oh Boy". Yes, I can agree that the phrase "oh boy" is repeated a tad too much but it doesn't take away from the fact that this track is great. "Oh Boy" is about, you guessed it, the overwhelming feelings Red Velvet has towards a certain boy and the inability to even express how said boy makes the members feel inside.

This song is much more stripped down and simplistic in terms of musical arrangement, and compared to the other songs it almost sounds sparse because of how crowded the other ones have been. Piano and sensible vocal performances from the girls keep the track afloat, and not much else is needed to be honest. But most importantly; no one is rapping in the song! That alone is enough to make me enjoy it.

"Lady's Room" is one of the album's most generic tracks, and it sounds like it easily could have been a B-side on Girls' Generation's latest album. That, if you hadn't guessed it already, isn't really the best of compliments. It has a soft, bubbly pop sound with a cute and easy-going melody and isn't particularly memorable for that reason. It's sweet, yes, but there's nothing that stands out about it. It's especially tragic because the lyrics are so good. I love that Red Velvet's lyrics so far have been a bit more creative than the usual K-Pop girl group (with exceptions, of course), and the ones for this song are both fun and girly in the best possible way. The members sing about what everyone wants to know; what do girls actually do when they go to the bathroom together? Literally all I want to do when I hear how much fun their having on their night out is to party with my girlfriends.

[OFFICIAL] Red Velvet – Concept Photo For ‘The Red’ 1400x2100
Cute and bubbly isn't exactly what you'd call "Time Slip", which features a bass line so heavy and distorted it nearly takes over the entire song. It's great though, and it gives the track a very laid-back and hip-hop like feel to it. The chorus is a bit lighter, but it remains at the same, steady pace with smooth vocal performances to contrast the rapping in the verses. As you may or may not have discovered "Time Slip" is about wanting to stay in bed and continue living the fantasy in your dreams, which to me is the actual reality of basically all my mornings. Additionally I think that out of all the songs on the album this one is, I think, one of the most put-together ones. The sound and musical direction is clear from start to finish and it doesn't add in any strange transitions or tempo-changes.

This refreshing trend doesn't continue with next song "Don't U Wait No More", which is straight-up annoying. None of the songs on the album has, despite being a bit chaotic and crazy, been difficult to listen to because of these traits. Same can't be said for "Don't U Wait No More", because it literally makes me want to punch something because it's that irritating.I don't know exactly what it is about it that makes me so aggravated, but it could be a combination of many factors. The chorus, the "Don't you wait no more" hook and the layering of vocals don't make a enjoyable listening experience, and the random vocal add-ins that are everywhere sound nothing but bad in my opinion. It could be because of the arrangement and production itself, but this song feels messy in the wrong kind of way. Let's just say I'm happy it's only three minutes long.

The second final track is "Day 1" is not much better either, but for different reasons. When I hear this song all I can imagine is a J-pop group with 13-year old girls dancing in overly cute and fluffy school uniforms, and that's not a great picture. While the girls have so far managed to show a musical side of themselves that felt appropriate for their ages, this song drags them down quite a lot.

It is, nicely said, childish-sounding with equally uninspiring vocal performances and has a sweetness to it that is a bit too sugary for my personal taste. If I had heard this track elsewhere I never would have guessed Red Velvet to be behind it because it kind of goes against what they've managed to define themselves as so far. If that wasn't enough the lyrics are extremely juvenile and naive, and it breaks my heart to have this song on the album.

"The Red" closes with "Cool World" and finally, finally comes the song I've been waiting for this entire time. Although some of the songs on the album are great songs I had been anticipating for that one track that would just completely blow me away, as I do with all albums I listen to. I didn't know what kind of song it'd be, but I always know when I hear it. So when "Cool World" started playing I right away realized that this was it, my favorite song on the album.

"Cool World" is significantly different from the other songs in terms of musical arrangement, as this one has the feel of a contemporary electro-pop track and is very clear and consistent in its direction. It might just be the least complicated song on the album and that totally works in its favor. Instead of adding layers of instruments and beats the focus is on the meaning and the impression, and I absolutely love the emotional melody and chord progression.

 The minimal backing track also allows the members' vocals to truly shine, and they all sound absolutely gorgeous as well. Wendy is, like with any song on this album, a true champ, and it's a shame that they don't do more of these type of songs so that her and the rest of the members can prove themselves to be capable vocalists. All in all I have to say I adore this song, and that's without exaggerating. It has been on repeat for days now and I don't know if it might just be me, but "Cool World" is a brilliant piece of music.

[OFFICIAL] Red Velvet – Concept Photo For ‘The Red’ 1333x2000
So at the end of it, what can be said about Red Velvet's first full-length album "The Red". First and foremost I have to say that I think SM has managed to promote them and their unique image very well, and I don't think there's any other girl group active right now that share the same kind of concept. The closest would probably be f(x), and while there are similarities (in fact, some of the songs sound like they could have been f(x) B-sides too) it's clear that the groups are indeed different from one another. Red Velvet has established themselves as a fun, youthful and quirky group with elements of both cuteness and randomness, and this goes beyond their image as well. Musically I do think that Red Velvet has a certain particular sound, but it's hard to place because a lot of these songs sound nothing like each other.

The overall sound is pretty solid, yes; upbeat, a bit strange but very lovable, however they mix a lot of styles and ideas which can make the album seem hard to follow. Many tracks are slightly chaotic and I realize that some people will find that off-putting. I would agree normally, but knowing that the songs were made so deliberately makes me understand the reasoning behind them more and thus I can't detach points either. Of course not every song is a complete hit, but there are a few gems in there and the overall sound is very appealing to me nonetheless. Now I'm eagerly waiting for their second album which I'm hoping will be named "The Velvet" for obvious reasons, but so far I'm more than content with "The Red".

Highlights: "Dumb Dumb", "Huff N Puff", "Oh Boy", "Cool World"
Least Favorite: "Don't U Wait No More", "Day 1"

Total Score: 3,75/5

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