k-pop · reviews

RED VELVET Celebrate Their Birthday

Red Velvet make their return with mini album The ReVe Festival 2022 – Birthday and title song Birthday.

Red Velvet’s long anticipated March comeback Feel My Rhythm ended up being a grower for me although the song was far from the group’s best. Either way, no one can deny that Red Velvet have a special and easily recognizable style even when they experiment. The group’s solos have also been quite amazing with Seulgi taking the front this year. Birthday has been a very much anticipated comeback especially since the concept photos for it seemed very punk-ish and like we were in for another killer (pun intended) fun like Peek-A-Boo. However, I am not quite sure what Birthday intended to do musically – let’s review and dig a bit deeper into the song.

Source: yeris on Tumblr

Birthday mostly sounds and looks like Red Velvet – albeit not the kind that I love the most. Positive things first, the music video is really fun and very much on pair with their previous videos both when it comes to unique colours and sets as well as the storyline. I really enjoy watching Red Velvet music videos as they simply have something special to them that makes them even more fun – especially when we include the girls and their great performances. Birthday has some really nice vocals moments mostly provided by Wendy who sounds amazing in the song and makes a rather enjoyable contrast with her voice as she opts for a slightly lower register at times. The song also has a simple but cute hook and chorus that are very summery.

That’s, unfortunately, where the things end for me. Birthday has a great amount of sing-talk and rap-talk parts which I’m generally quite tired of in k-pop especially since I feel like they never make the song better and only slow it down. Red Velvet’s strengths rarely lay in raps and talk-like parts so Birthday‘s verses come across as very underwhelming and flat to me. The pre-chorus saves the day as it’s a fully sung one and while the chorus is catchy, the first part isn’t really that pleasant on the ears as the second part, mostly due to the random shouty background parts. In many ways, I can hear Birthday being performed by NCT Dream (not a negative thing, just an observation) as it’s giving me vibes their recent music has. Birthday is far from Red Velvet’s best and not the choice I’d expect for a late November comeback from them. The song gets better with each listen but I don’t feel myself being drawn to it much to listen again after the review. It’s a shame because Red Velvets are one of our favourites here – I think it would be lovely if SM Ent oriented them towards a more mature sound like their Bad Boy, Psycho and RBB era (or even more r&b oriented like Automatic) as the girls are seniors in the industry and we lack maturity on the scene quite a lot.

The album is very fun! I almost enjoyed every b-side and they offer so much more unique and enjoyable melody for me than the title track. I’m a sucker for slower tempo Red Velvet (my favourite RV track is still One of These Nights) so the album closer Celebrate was such a nice treat for the ears. They’re such lovely vocalists and it’s especially nice to hear the gentle, almost fragile notes of Wendy and Seulgi in this song. Lina’s b-side pick Bye Bye is definitely the strongest and best song on the album – it has the similar eerie vibe of the title track but plays with the melody a bit more which is always interesting.

Maybe surprisingly, but the slightly oriental sounding Zoom might be my favourite song from the new album. I think the song’s fun, melodic and mysterious with a fantastic chorus and an unexpected but great post-chorus. The rap parts might not be my favourite thing but they fit nicely and are soothed out by the vocal sections. I could absolutely hear Zoom being a title track as it sounds so much more like Red Velvet than the title track does for me. The b-sides are very much Red Velvet, while Birthday sounds simply like SM Entertainment if that makes sense. I’d definitely recommend checking out the new album even if the title isn’t your thing although I’m sure many of you will like Birthday too!

It feel like every time a Red Velvet comeback rolls around I am not prepared for it. I am surprised every time SM hasn’t forgotten about their veteran girl group and it is nice to see the girls comeback twice this year! I know contracts are up or something soon or have been extended? I am not sure. However, I’ll take every single one of the Red Velvet comebacks we are still allowed to get and enjoy them. Red Velvet haven’t really given us complete Velvet or Red concepts in a while so I was surprised to hear the teaser for Birthday as it seemed to take the girls back into Power Up territory but with a bit of a darker look (another mixed signals comeback). Let’s review.

Besides the girls looking as amazing as ever, especially Wendy and Joy eating this era up, Birthday is a really upbeat song. I’ll break my silence immediately and say it upfront: I don’t particularly love this song. Birthday is fine it has the Red Velvet vibe and all but I also didn’t like Power Up at first and Birthday suffers the SM “special” treatment. The chorus is obnoxious in a way and I don’t know where the verses are really taking us melody wise. However the pre- and post-chorus are fantastic and I really enjoy these parts, maybe those will make me love the song? Who knows. The bridge is something of its own though. Not sure if someone just slammed random buttons on the mixing table but that’s what it sounds like. Mhm, I am sure Birthday might grow on me with music shows but I just don’t like the messiness of it so far. It is very Red Velvet but also not one of their strongest comebacks we have gotten in recent years to be honest. At least Power Up had the catchy “banana” part that would take over your entire existence. We’ll see.

The mini album is interesting though. It seems very split into the Red Velvet sound I love and the messiness that Birthday introduced. For every song I love there is a song I don’t like. Well, at least it is balanced, right? The songs I absolutely adore are BYE BYE and Celebrate. Those two absolutely slap and I love that we get more of the darker, mysterious sounding Red Velvet and more of the calm and soft Red Velvet as well. I will be listening to these songs for the time being. As it has become the norm for me and Red Velvet, they usually need to win me over with their title tracks but their b-sides are where the true love and enjoyment lay! Overall, just excited to see the girls have a comeback at this point.

Header Image Source: SM Entertainment

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