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Red Velvet
Queendom Verónica A. Bastardo , August 26th, 2021 08:13

The K-pop group mellow out but their singalong lyrics and catchy hooks remain, finds Verónica A. Bastardo

Red Velvet’s sound could be defined as eccentric. In their journey of “expect the unexpected” we have seen R&B ballads with mature concepts like 'Psycho', fun and loud summer bops ('Red Flavor'), thriller-like songs with quirky wordplay hooks ('Peek-ah-boo') and weird carnivalesque mixes (or whatever 'Zimzalabim' was). They are all styles that are very hard to explain to anyone who has never heard the group. So it’s definitely surprising to find yourself with a laid-back and rather mainstream sound from them after an almost two year hiatus.

Queendom shows a new side of the quintet. You'll still find their usual delicate, girl-next-door touch, with peached soft voices and understated raps, but it is less of a sound extravaganza compared to past songs like ‘Really Bad Boy' or 'Russian Roulette’. However, even if it falls in the safe-choice scenario, it is still unexpected for Red Velvet (RV) to go for a sound akin to the throwback R&B of an early 00s mini album. 'Knock On Wood', for example, is all Destiny's Child-inspired clicks, soft onomatopoeias, ad-libs over smooth harmonies and this slightly rustic production effect in the voices that draw out hints of nostalgia. Whether it is down to maturity, evolution or just a desire to appeal to a western ear, it's a welcome change.

The promotional track, ‘Queendom’, is a light and fun electronic club song with dynamic piano synths chords and easy-to-remember hooks, great for party vibes chants. Like everything with RV, there is a big emphasis on rap sections, a new touch in a promotional track from the group (Yeri's moment to shine, perhaps). Red Velvet's vocals fall in between singing, speaking and actually rapping; graceful verses that never go hard and just accompany the electronic instrumentals. The flavour is in the details, which paint a surreal, magical environment through glimmering metals and airy synths, and the classic Wendy x Seulgi high pitched ad-libs.

'Pose' is closer to what you might expect from a Red Velvet record, an intricate mix of sections that seem taken from different songs, but together still makes sense thanks to the line distribution between members, and picking just the right places to drastically switch from Madonna Vogue house-pop with a thick bass line to a power-drum instrumental akin to a carnival march band.

While Queendom isn't the most impactful musical project of the year, it is definitely enjoyable - a light song sequence that follows the classical traits of the 90s and 00s western pop, when celebrating yourself and talking about mellow love through R&B-pop compositions (like 'Hello, Sunset') were part of the playbook. And it is full of simple, catchy and relatable lyrics with well-thought-out hooks. Perfect for singing along, chanting, dancing and bright your day if you're having a bad one - one thing that is definitely consistent in Red Velvet's music so far.