In the music video for Red Velvet‘s insanely infectious new single “Dumb Dumb,” the group, clad in matching Pippi Longstockings/Small Wonders ensembles, are shown being churned out in a factory like clones for sale. This kind of commentary on manufactured pop idols has been done before, and many might assume that from Red Velvet –SM Entertainment’s second ‘experimental’ girl group after f(x)– it’s being done in an ironic way to show just how left-field they are compared to their generic contemporaries.
On the contrary, I think SM is playing it completely straight-faced with this one. SM’s always been obvious about making their third generation idols artificial amalgamations of their popular predecessors; EXO is built from the DNA-ridden hair gel of SHINee and Super Junior, and Red Velvet was constructed using weave fibres from S.E.S. and f(x).
Unlike rivals YG Entertainment, SM has never been ashamed of turning people into products or felt the need to unnecessarily push their idols as artistes, and they’ve been more blatant than Luna’s plastic surgery when it comes to assembling Red Velvet. We saw f(x) suddenly become more dark and abrasive last year with their Red Light album, while all the tracks that typically would’ve gone to them –like “Happiness” and “Ice Cream Cake”– were given to their Mini-mes, RV.
This couldn’t be any clearer than on Red Velvet’s immaculate 1st album, The Red, which I’ve affectionately labelled The Red Tape for two reasons: its collection of quirky K-pop confections mirrors the exact style of Pink Tape, and on top of that, The Red also matches f(x)’s masterpiece in terms of song quality.
“Dumb Dumb” is by far one of the stickiest singles SM’s produced this year. I’ve seen people online comparing it to both Ariana Grande’s “Bang Bang” and T-ara’s “Sexy Love,” and while those comparisons are somewhat accurate (more so the former than the latter), “Dumb Dumb” is its own strange creation-a brassy, repetitious storm in a teacup punctuated by bells and ha-has.
The Red is riddled with other weird moments, with the weirdest being the Kenzie-produced “Huff N Puff,” a Lewis Carroll acid trip of a song about falling into a fairytale storybook (or possibly a k-hole).
Red Velvet try their hand at American pop-rap with “Time Slip,” which starts off with DJ Mustard’s used-and-abused crunk bass synths then switches gears into a dreamy ’80s chorus that could’ve come from Dev Hynes himself.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Red is necessarily better than Pink Tape (although it isn’t worse, either), but it’s definitely more streamlined. With just ten tight tracks, there’s no room for public-friendly filler like “Goodbye Summer” or the corny rocky closer “Ending Page.” The Red is non-stop bubblegum from start to finish, and whether Red Velvet’s singing to sugary synthpop or rapping over offbeat hip-pop, their young and playful demeanour never changes.
All hail The Red (Tape) until their less impressive follow-up, Pink Light, drops next year.