It doesn't feel like all that long since Red Velvet made a comeback with "Russian Roulette", and that's probably because it was only 5 months ago. "Russian Roulette" was, as you may know, one of my favorite songs last year and probably my favorite Red Velvet title track so far, meaning that my expectations were quite high for this comeback. The teaser images looked up to expectation; colorful, whimsical and quirky. The concept reminded me a lot of the one for "Dumb Dumb" which made me concerned about them regressing to an already tried-out sound and style, but I kept my hopes up. When I watched the MV for "Rookie" though I was left with all sorts of mixed emotions.
"Rookie" is basically "Dumb Dumb" 2.0, with the exception that it took me much longer to get into. It's perhaps not as loud and bombastic but it has the same kind of style of pop music that this group has been pursuing since debut. Like with "Dumb Dumb" the structure of the song is a bit confusing at first and at times it seems random, but the chorus of "Rookie" stands out even more. "Russian Roulette" showed growth and development and I was happy they finally dropped the "talk-singing-rapping" thing they've been doing before. With "Rookie" however it's back and more prominent than ever.
The entire chorus is made up of only this vocal technique in a way that sounds really off-putting, so much so that I couldn't even make it through the entire video the first time I watched it. After five listens or so I could finally digest it and unwillingly accept it for what it is. Now, almost an entire month later, I can shamelessly admit that I love the song, but it wasn't an easy journey. Overcoming the disappointment of the song not living up to my expectations was probably the hardest part but once I got over it and could finally appreciate the song for what it is I got into it pretty quickly. It is, even with a slightly annoying chorus, really catchy and there's really no way to get it out of your head once it has made its way in. My only concern is that they won't evolve musically and fall back into this sort of sound, especially since they showed so much potential with "Russian Roulette".
The MV for "Rookie" is interesting in the way that although it's a perfectly good video it's not really that memorable. What I believe is the problem is that like with the song the video is also eerily familiar. It's not an exact copy of any of their other videos but it's nothing that hasn't been seen before and that's where it falters. By any other standards this would've been a fun and exciting video but the fact that this is Red Velvet, a group that has put out amazing videos since debut, the bar is a bit higher. There are many fun moments in the video and I enjoy the set design, clothes and directing, but it doesn't pull me in the same way many of their other MV:s have.
Red Velvet has definitely mastered the "quirky, cute and sassy" image by now, both musically and visually, and it's obvious in this video that that image is exactly what they're trying to portray. So obvious in fact, that it takes away some of the genuine quirkiness that has been this groups' charm. The concept and plot of the video is original and everything and everyone is very pretty, but like I said there's nothing about that wows me in particular.
There are even some scenes that are a bit cringe-worthy, like the ones near the end where the girls fly around in small space ships in front of an obvious green-screen. Overall it's a decent video and one that seems to fit this group just right, but I wish they had shown something new or stepped outside of their comfort zone a bit more. It's also a shame the choreography isn't shown more because it's a great routine, but it's not incorporated much in the MV at all.
There are also a couple of songs that could just as easily have been songs on "The Velvet", like the soft and emotional mid-tempo track "Little Little" and Wendy's solo ballad "Last Love". I absolutely love the former of the two and while I love Wendy's vocals the song itself doesn't do much for me at all. My absolute favorite song out of all of them however is "Body Talk". I honestly could talk for hours about how much I adore this piece of music. It has that dreamy electro-pop vibe that I realized that all of my favorite Red Velvet tracks have ("Cool World" and "Some Love" mostly), and a melody, instrumental and chorus that is just pure brilliance.
All of the girls' vocals throughout the album sound lovely and I'm really happy about Yeri's huge improvement as well as Joy having more lines because she's got a really distinct and sweet voice. Irene sounds great too, as does Wendy of course, but my heart goes out to Seulgi because that girl is just amazing in every way imaginable.
Overall I've found this comeback enjoying in most aspects, with the exception that the title track took a long time for me to like. The concept is one that they do well and same goes with the MV, but like I said it feels too much on the safe side for me to love it wholeheartedly. We all know that Red Velvet can pull off this sound and style and now I'm ready for something new. Hopefully next comeback they can show a new side of the group or at least explore their already established signature sound.