Red Velvet are the most experimental girl group in terms of music amongst the newer generation of the Big Three girl groups. Their music is sweet and tasteful, a direct reflection of the group’s name, with tracks even named after food items. They have expanded their soundscape far and wide with ranging influences from western R&B, dedicating a whole side to it. The Red side has always served the listeners with quality pop numbers, while the Velvet side dabbles in R&B sensibilities, providing them with an expansive discography encompassing several genres.
It is this experimentation that separates them from the other popular girl groups, they do not sacrifice musical creativity for commercial success for the most part, and that is what makes them so special in the commerce-driven industry. Red Velvet always know how to please their fans while at the same time maintaining the musical non-interdisciplinary quality. They are a largely conceptual group which is noticed in the conceptual influences in the tracks.
“Zimzalabim” has received polarizing reviews and is said to be a mislead to the sound of the album. What further makes it a miss for many is that Lee Sooman kept the track on the shelf to be released later, so it must have had to climactic. It has been said to be a questionable choice made by Red Velvet, although I find it enjoyable.
Right off the bat, “Zimzalabim” is a very musically unusual pop track—it does not have a pop form, and some of the sections do not play the part that you would normally expect them to play in pop tracks. For example, the intro is supposed to foreshadow what the track’s overall sound is supposed to be like and usually begins with a catchy refrain to be ingrained in your head, but in the case of “Zimzalabim,” a wide variety of sounds and samples are thrown at the listener which is totally discombobulating.
The track begins with deep, rounded timpani percussion recurs in the second verse behind Irene’s rap verse, and some very fast-paced snare percussion to kickstart. There are ringing bells with ambiguous tonal quality that you’d traditionally hear in an avant hip-hop artist’s discography such as Injury Reserve’s. The “Zimzalabim” mantra chants that form the major part of the chorus have an earworm quality. The chants in the final chorus are done in a higher register to further heighten the effect. These components make the track sound tribal and primeval, which provides an interesting juxtaposition to the rest of the track’s more melodic components with actual chord progressions.
The second pre-chorus cuts off immediately and segways into the second chorus, providing an element of surprise. This was also heard in their “Ice Cream Cake” title where they skipped a part of the pre-chorus.
A part of the track that feels disconnected from the rest of the track—yet fits—is the bridge with the Velvet chords, which paints an ambient soundscape and changes character from major to minor in between before jumping into Wendy’s booming vocals.
There is a disorienting gritty bass that is reminiscent of f(x)’s “Red Light” that carries the track at sections, and returns in the final chorus along with the beginning complex percussion which elevate the final chorus and end the track with a bang.
The track is a bizarre listen at first hearing but it revels (pun intended) in its non-sequitur quality, serving the listeners a quality pop track that shows that you can still succeed commercially with more experimental releases.
02. “Sunny Side Up”
A track with a very emotionally ascending progression, “Sunny Side Up” is a confident track with a synthpop element to it. There is a deep melodic bass that is a delicious addition. It sounds reggae with the twang synthesized guitars in the chorus, but it is a pop track at heart.
Wendy’s voice particularly has a very defining quality in the track with her singing the verses and harmonizing with her members. “Don’t make my mind all scrambled up,” Wendy sings in the bridge, a clear reference to the track’s title and a good fit with the rest of the lyrics of the track.
The track is a bit stagnant and repetitive with no changes between the verses. The bridge sounds too much like the rest of the track, and not in a good way—it is more refreshing when a bridge brings in a different colour to a track.
“Milkshake” is another track with an ascending emotional progression; tracks with such melodic content sound like they are hinting towards emotional upliftment and a desire to succeed.
The track is subdued, much like “Sunny Side Up,” with the goofy sounding automated male voice in the background in the beginning giving it an unconventional edge, returning in the chorus. The pre-chorus is backed by a fun percussive instrumental which is in perfect coalescence with the rap verses. The Velvet chords occur in the bridge as usual, and it provides an intriguing change of pace.
A complaint I have with the track is Yeri’s rap delivery—it is a tad too nasal and sounds totally manufactured to fit a pop instrumental. The track has its drawbacks as it lacks diverse melodic content and fails to deliver anything too interesting to Red Velvet’s discography.
04. “Bing Bing”
The track makes heavy use of one of Red Velvet’s most important assets—their crunchy harmonies. Red Velvet are a very cohesive ensemble with a good ear for harmonies, with Wendy usually singing the highest harmonic element, with Yeri, Irene, and Joy following, and Seulgi doing the lowest harmonies. In this track, however, there are no distinct positions for singing the harmony.
The track is fast-paced and full of energy, with the chorus being one of the calmer parts of the track. There is this constant sense of alarm throughout and it keeps your ears busy. However, the track can be a bit fatiguing to listen to with its constant driving sound, with parts hardly providing any rest to the ear from the sonic congestion. The chorus is lackluster and sounds awkward in the first few listens, although it has interesting wordplay, with the rhyming of the onomatopoeias “ting” and “bing.”
The bridge has Wendy being Wendy, singing her reserved high note. Wendy’s voice occurs again in head voice form, ending the track softly.
The track reminds me of “Ice Cream Cake,” with its sweet bubblegum pop verses in the major key and the major-minor mixture chorus with a bit more edge to it.
It has a lot of interesting sound effects interspersed, and is a very diverse track with elements of pop and house. It is reminiscent of pop bangers of Melanie Martinez with the carnival- or festival-esque sounds it uses throughout. The bell-like synth in the chorus repeats in succession with the percussion, giving it the opposite effect to an arpeggio.
“Parade” is a classic ‘Red’ side track and the newest gem in their treasure trove of a discography.
“LP” is classic jazz-R&B ‘Velvet’ track at last.
The beginning of the track is reminiscent of an old jazz LP playing (an ode to the title), which moves straight into a modern instrumentation and mixing. The saxophone is in the background for the most of the track, then emerges after the second chorus to offer a refreshing closer to the album.
The track is tasteful in its delivery, maintaining a cohesive column of sound throughout.
The album promotes the vibe of a festival with its title and the celebratory tone throughout the tracks. It is cohesive in its delivery while maintaining diversity synchronously. However, the album has more accessible tracks for more pop-oriented listeners. Although the album has its drawbacks, with the number one drawback being trying to balance so many styles and failing to do it perfectly, it’s a decent venture and a promising return from Red Velvet.