I wasn’t particularly excited about the debut of Red Velvet when SM Entertainment first announced the impending launch of their latest rookie group last month. It wasn’t because I didn’t have faith in Red Velvet, I just figured that they’d probably take about a year to really bloom and show us what they’re made of, just like Girls’ Generation and f(x) did. That’s probably still true, but it doesn’t mean that Red Velvet hasn’t made a pretty amazing debut with their first single, “Happiness.”
The quartet has already been unofficially billed as the middle-ground between f(x)’s experimental style and Girls’ Generation’s more mainstream sound, and that’s exactly what they deliver. Think early SNSD doing “Rum Pum Pum Pum,” which is just the kind of group SM needs right now.
“Happiness” is a weird, but not too weird concoction of bouncing ball beats, trap snares, and cheerleader chants. It definitely feels like something f(x) could sing if they had a cuter image (one of the vocalists even sounds like Luna), but I certainly wouldn’t call it reductive. It’s more of an EXO situation, where SM have taken the best bits of their existing acts –both musically and conceptually– and combined it to create something new. (However, I do think that Red Velvet already does a better job at being the ultimate SM amalgam group than the dull-as-dishwater EXO does, but I won’t get into that now or this post will just descend into EXO drags.)
When first listening to “Happiness,” I was immediately reminded of an old Grimes interview in which she talked about her favourite K-pop song.
“One thing I really like about K-pop is that it’s just, like, “Blah blah blah LOVE blah blah blah HEART!” These tropes of pop music, it’s almost like a mantra. You get so used to hearing them, your brain is like, “I understand.”
Grimes was referring to f(x)’s “Love,” but the description applies just as well to “Happiness.” Despite its rich production and arrangements, all you really take away from it at first is, “Lalalalala HAPPINESS! Lalalalala.” It takes a few more spins to start appreciating the other points, like the rapid-fire “I Got a Boy” rap-singing, or the way that the first pre-chorus sounds like folky Avicii EDM, before segueing into another pre-chorus of intergalactic trap-pop.
Just based on music alone, Red Velvet is a killer group, but it helps that they’re also pretty, and that SM’s visual directors have been able to hit another home run with the jungle collage art-pop concept of the music video. I always have faith in SM, so none of this is a surprise, but it’s still nice to see it all come together so perfectly.
If you need another reason to stan for Red Velvet, then just check their debut stages. They were both polished and adorable, and if Red Velvet go the way of previous SM acts by improving their skills as performers with every comeback (hello TVXQ, SNSD, and SHINee!), then we have a lot to look forward to over the next few years.
Thank you, SM: you’ve now officially repented for inflicting us with EXO. Apology accepted!
P.S. Let’s not start complaining about Red Velvet ‘replacing’ f(x) just because of Sulli’s current scandal thingy, okay? They’re not a replacement, just like SHINee wasn’t a replacement for TVXQ. They’re just the next generation, that’s all! There’s still room for all our SM faves (unless your SM fave is CSJH The Grace, of course).
P.S.S. I don’t give a fuck about Red Velvet’s MV scandal, as it has nothing to do with the music or the quality of the group, so yeah.