Red Velvet truly needs no introduction. Ever since their debut in 2014, the South Korean girl group has excelled at simultaneously setting trends and pushing boundaries within the K-Pop scene — consistently demonstrating the ability to produce musical output that can be both enjoyable to a wider audience and also sound unlike anything that’s being produced.
On August 16, Red Velvet dropped their sixth Korean mini-album Queendom. Before the release, it had been a while since the entire roster had last teamed up for a full project. While the year-and-a-half wait was proven bearable thanks to some incredible solo work by its members, it was clear that a void had been left to fill — and it’s now safe to say the group’s spark is still shining.
‘Queendom’ is the title track and official introduction to Red Velvet’s newest project, a bubbly yet striking pop anthem about unity and empowerment. While the song doesn’t manage to reach the heights of Irene and Seulgi’s sub-unit single ‘Monster’ nor does it have the spice of ‘Zimzalabim,’ it is solid evidence as to why the group continues to be recognized as the “Summer Queens” of the industry — it’s a well-produced, catchy banger with refined harmonizations and ad-libs, and its chorus largely benefits from the member’s dynamic voices.
Although Red Velvet have long been defined by their artistic versatility, the musical style of their tracks is often divided by fans into two categories: those associated with “Red” are usually the most fiery and instantly enthralling, while “Velvet” refers to the softer, more ethereal sounds. For those who tend to connect more with the first, ‘Pose’ is a dream come true. With a mix of sensuality, confidence, intensity and plain fun — the song easily qualifies as one of the highest moments in the entire record.
The production on ‘Pose’ brings together several elements of earlier eras in the K-Pop scene, evoking some strong f(x) vibes, with the polish of today’s sounds — and although the beat constantly brings new layers throughout its 3 minutes and 21 seconds of length, it never feels like there’s too much going on at the same time.
Knock On Wood
Vocals take one step to the front in ‘Knock On Wood’, a track that works as a middle ground on this project between the higher-energy moments and the more laid-back songs. This is yet another instance of the group showing off its carefully crafted, distinct style — and it does a fantastic job at showcasing their particular skill of evoking personality at all times. Each one of the members’ voices shine through in this track while the production maintains its fluidity and slickness, and it all makes its replay value go through the roof.
Red Velvet keeps up the confidence and the groove in ‘Better Be’. The influence of late-90s and early-2000s R&B in this track is clear — though its integration could be executed better had the production been a bit less bloated. While it isn’t by any means badly-done, it lacks the creativity of other songs in the project that could have taken it to the next level. Still, the ad-libs help avoid monotony, and the bridge is a very bright spot — providing the audience with a taste of Wendy’s potent vocal delivery once again.
Pushin’ N Pullin’
The R&B elements are much-better integrated in “Pushin N’ Pullin'”. This track goes back and forth between playful and mellow, and puts forward the sweetest harmonies of the whole record. The chorus comes in smoothly, instantly transporting the listener to a happier place with a soft piano in the background that makes it all even more angelic. It’s cheeky, it’s fun, and it captures its intended vibe to perfection.
The ride in Queendom comes to and end with ‘Hello, Sunset,’ a slow yet still summer-y jam with a heavily nostalgic essence. There is a more evident presence of the instruments that is greatly complemented by the members’ vocal delivery — and the production rightfully honors the song’s title, as it encapsulates the experience of witnessing a sunset. Ultimately, it’s a brilliant way to wrap up this project in a more relaxed manner while not losing any of the strength that was constantly present in the previous tracks.
All eyes were on Red Velvet to present a solid comeback after a longer-than-usual wait since their last output as a five-member group, and while it may feel like a safe attempt at times, that doesn’t diminish its quality at all. Queendom correctly exhibits the group’s authenticity and versatility, which can be challenging for any group that has been so consistently exceptional throughout its entire artistic path — and it proves that even after the tides have changed so much for Red Velvet, the magic is still there.
Featured Image Credit: Red Velvet/SM Entertainment