There are some things in K-pop that are just facts. Red Velvet have one of the best discographies in K-pop – fact. Diving into a Red Velvet release is like biting into a trick candy: you never know what you’re going to get, but you’re always going to be pleasantly surprised.
Over the years, the girl group have cemented its status as one of K-pop’s best and most exciting acts on the back of tracks that are as fluvial as they are experimental, built over precarious arrangements that flaunt their vocal prowess. The bone-chilling but mesmerising pre-chorus of ‘Psycho’, the timed claps on ‘Dumb Dumb’ that burst into a firework of harmonies, the dangerous R&B glamour of ‘Bad Boy’, followed by Halloween-in-a-bottle ‘Really Bad Boy’ – when it comes to diversification, Red Velvet set the gold standard and go beyond.
Which makes this all the more painful: what’s happened to Red Velvet? Since ‘Queendom’ – which should have celebrated and supplemented their rightful status – their momentum has faltered. Despite the ambitious title, ‘Queendom’ fell short of the glory it promised, delivering instead a scattered album that felt like a regurgitation of their old work. Unfortunately, their new mini-album ‘The ReVe Festival 2022 – Feel My Rhythm’ seems to suffer from the same issues, even though it’s a better output than ‘Queendom’.
Title track ‘Feel My Rhythm’ starts off strong, with a harmony layered onto a haunting, quaint orchestration. The segue into the first verse is also exciting, but it reminds you almost immediately of ‘Psycho’, which followed a similar pattern. With frenetic trap beats bolstering the entire track, the number delivers a dizzying dreamscape – perhaps the musical equivalent of a festival, judging by the carousel-esque melodies layering the song. As you go into the second verse though, you wonder whether there is perhaps too much going on? Nevertheless, the bridge saves the song, putting a neat bow on this offering.
Being a Red Velvet B-side must be such pressure for a track, given the group’s reputation for delivering some of their best songs not on the titles, but inside the treasure trove of their albums. Immediately after, the marching on ‘Rainbow Halo’ reminds us of another track – ‘Kingdom Come’. ‘Rainbow Halo’ delivers a well-paced pop number, containing the dissipated energy of ‘Feel My Rhythm’ within its beats and melodic loops.
Standing as a contender for the best B-side on the album is also ‘Beg For Me’. Off to an uncharacteristically bombastic start – Red Velvet have never been the act to deliver a direct hit, they prefer the silent killing, you see – the track surprises in its seamless marriage of pop and R&B, topped off with honeyed cries on the chorus that are simply delightful.
Maybe it’s because we almost had too much of retro in the 2020s, but ‘Bamboleo’ – despite being a light summer offering that would be perfect for the season – fails to be a standout. One could say that it stays true to the ethos of the city pop genre it seems inspired by, but if there is anything Red Velvet have spoiled us for, it’s their new-age spins on classic genres. Right after, ‘Good, Bad, Ugly’ falls prey to the same trappings. While the overall R&B arrangement delivers a neat offering, it is a sorely unimaginative track.
It’s a welcome comfort, then, to have the album close out on its best track. If being a Red Velvet B-side is pressure, ‘In My Dreams’ delivered and then some. The song is decidedly more restrained than other tracks on the album – bolstered only by powerful bass and erratic beats backing the group’s low-pitched vocals. At times, the arrangement fades to almost nothing, leaving us with nothing but the group’s vocals in a silent room, spinning a dangerously alluring image. This roller-coaster pacing is what makes the track such an exhilarating listen – a perfect closing to a Red Velvet album, flitting between sanity and insanity.
Despite the saving graces on it, however, ‘The ReVe Festival 2022 – Feel My Rhythm’ feels considerably substandard, if only because of its repetitive flavors and unimaginative spins on genres. Compared to their earlier outputs, this one is less an inviting carnival and more a festival that you’ve been to one too many times – save for the occasional new attraction, it’s nothing you’ve never seen before.
- Release date: March 21
- Record label: SM Entertainment