Red Velvet’s Red Flavor affirms a good year

Red Velvet have been on a meandering path to a single form. In the past the group took to splitting their image between bright and vibrant pop and more demure mid tempo R&B retreads. This has since stop for their last three projects, where they have come back more affirmatively on the bright pop side. Russian Roulette was a standard attempt at the typical cute group look. Rookie was a fun track that was betrayed by SM’s attempts to maintain a weird idea of Red Velvet. With Red Flavor, we see the group return to a modified version of 2014

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S.E.S. mark 20 years with the Remember era

K Pop pioneers S.E.S. are cashing in their reunion points for their 20th year in the game. The group is a big deal being not only one of the most prominent groups (female or otherwise) but also a boon in SM’s path to dominance. A lot is owed to the group. Girl groups today still use many of the same themes as they did when they started out. Even their sound is prevalent in quite a few group’s (although many companies veer away from the prominent R&B influence of the 90’s and early 2000’s).

A lot of older (first generation) groups have been making comebacks as of late. The industry is just a little bit bigger for them to continue their space. However most acts have predominantly been male, so S.E.S. are the first of their kind right now.

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Late Review: Red Velvet plays with conforming on Russian Roulette

Red Velvet return with a new EP titled Russian Roulette, and led by the promptly titled song as well. Having started the year with the somber ballad One Of Those Nights, the group have returned to the fun brighter side of them with this comeback.

I like the song. It’s catchy enough, and fun. On to the important stuff though.

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Exo’s comeback is decent enough

The return of Exo resulted in two different songs, titled Monster and Lucky One. Unfortunately they have been back for a while now and I have just not cared enough to really discuss it. So…yeah…here is a post about Exo’s comeback with a dual single release!

Monster

The song isn’t bad, but…I’m not completely sold on it. This has probably been said several times, but the biggest thing that stood out was the similarities to Overdose in the chorus. It felt slowed down, almost creeping giving it a more dramatic take, which is saying a lot because Overdose was a dramatic wall of harmonies and yelps. Overall Monster kind of just moves with nothing going for or against it. They sound good, and since Growl, have been on a string of rather solid releases so nothing feels out of the ordinary now.

Lucky One

Once again, a good release from the group. It’s very…Maroon 5, which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing. I think it is much catchier than Monster, but they both seem to feel very middle of the road for the group at this time. If I had to grade it I would give it a B. Like a strong high B. The group is capable of A work (Overdose, Call Me Baby and Love Me Right are two exceptional songs), and have shown the capacity for disappointing failures (Wolf). Lucky Ones falls somewhere in the middle, neither having anything really that makes it stand out yet not doing anything badly.

At the end of the year, I don’t think I will remember Exo’s musical comeback. Even with two offerings, the music didn’t seem to really make way anywhere. Monster is a soft retread playing up the dramatics and darkness, while Lucky One is a catchy pop track. Neither are really the group at their best or their worst, and that’s not a bad thing…I guess.

Red Velvet’s One Of Those Nights is carves a space in understanding Red Velvet

Red Velvet make a return with a new ep titled The Velvet and single One Of These Nights (7/7). Ultimately the song finds itself dealing with an issue that Red Velvet are finally addressing.

 

One Of These Nights brings perspective to the concept of Red Velvet. Red Velvet works as group of duality. With the Red having been established as the fun and lively part (not a single ballad or R&B track in the vein of prior releases on the album), so inevitably it would eventually mean they would have to develop Velvet. One Of These Nights is not like past attempts of Velvet. With Be Natural and Automatic, they felt like simple copies to appease a question that was to be held off until later. Those two songs alone simple give us a look at a complete counter to Red, which did not feel like enough. The focus on singles Ice Cream Cake and Dumb Dumb felt like there was need to explain that.

Essentially One Of These Nights finally answers the question what the other side of Red Velvet is. It stands out mostly for one being a ballad blending the current known traits of Velvet and still applying the same quirks that Red Velvet as a whole bring. The song does not match the fiery of Dumb Dumb or the creepiness of ICC, but it does feel more at home with them than with Automatic and Be Natural. The marriage (albeit forced) between the ballad and R&B settings gives it a life that talks to who Red Velvet are. It has the maturity of the Velvet but has that off-ness of not being just one thing with it’s blend of genres. I appreciate that.

With that said, the song doesn’t completely live to great heights immediately. It’s very standard in performance, relying heavily on the group’s leading voices, with rather lovely harmonies from their two weakest (Who do get moments to stand on their own, but this song doesn’t feel meant for them). The song also is sung like a ballad insisting that it is such, instead of playing to the other genres respective rules. This leads to a nice and movable song who relies on any sort of interest coming from the drop and reveal of hidden elements, then just the entire work. The song could have been done as easily as a ballad (And is as one of the three alternative version on the official album release).

The song doesn’t live up to fun and bright quality of it’s other side, but definitely does a good job at finally bringing traction to the other side of the group, especially when compared to past offerings such as Automatic and Be Natural.

 

 

f(x)’s first performances of 4 Walls convinced me

If there was any lingering doubt about this song, f(x)’s comeback performances of their latest single surely stomped them out.

Typically the performance of a song is rather meh to me. This is going to sound very odd, but they typically don’t add a lot to me. I watch the performances of my faves and move on, but there are not many performances from idols, especially K Pop related ones that stick…

This is especially true for f(x), who have kind of just been on the weaker side since…NU ABO (which was their most exciting era). Ever since their performance value has been very restrictive. The only thing I can say is their devotion to hand movements over the last three eras. I actually really like the consistency in that. They rely heavily on choreo based around their hands, so a lot of their movements are not as big and showy. Which can be great, as seen with 4 Walls (I’m going to gush about 4 Walls in a second let me get these thoughts out). With songs like RPPP and Red Light, they may not lend themselves to the hand waves that well. RPPP could, but as seen with the end results, the dance was clunky and all over the place. Red Light was far too big of a song for smaller, restrictive, albeit precise looking hand forms. The choreographers really got it right with this one. I love this, just watching them move and slink around, and then the four walls dance (as I’m calling it), just works well with the song and chorus. Everything fits with the songs low-high energy level.

There is also fact we didn’t get to see any of the choreography in the music video, so this being the first time, without the interruptions of random cutaways to them in forest is definitely helping the situation. Overall I can’t say I am upset by this comeback. I have yet to listen to the album, but so far what I am hearing might put a damper on things.

Anyway let’s just enjoy Luna this comeback.

Also here is Diamond (Which knocks)

Sources: MNET (4 Walls), Myles Hoya (Diamond)

f(x) become the alternative pop girls with 4 Walls

f(x) has returned testing the waters as a foursome with their new sound in 4 Walls.

I don’t think I am disappointed, but I was definitely not 100% here for this song when it came out. I actually had to take a day to think about it, and ultimately forgot about it yesterday. Today, I listen to 4 Walls, and actually appreciate it more.

4 Walls is the song I had been waiting for from f(x) ever since they started the whole art heaux image (which goes as far back as NU ABO). The impression that SM was teetering with was the fact that f(x) are alternative idols. You don’t want the same predictable dance and bright pop sound? Come to f(x)…despite it just being the packaging that was different. With each release post Nu ABO, their sound has progressively gotten more varied yet focused at the same time. By the time they hit their second full album, Pink Tape, f(x) had gained the image of being artsy…it just never truly translated into their music completely. Red Light remedied that, playing with more aggressive less K pop oriented sounds. 4 Walls, the song, seems to cement this with sparse and less animated but still bright sound.

The song is a mix of restraint over a vibe inducing beat. There are a lot of fun harmonies happening, but they only add to the sweet atmosphere. I think it is a safe thing to say that the song does not strive for dynamic or exciting. I like it where it actually is. I can still dance to this of course, but I can also sit back and listen to it. The song does pick up at the end in a way to bring some life to it, but overall that feels like the responsibility of the production and not the group. In fact I find that f(x) seems to take a back seat in the song for the most part. Sure we hear their voices, and the chorus is them. But there are moments in the song where the four of them just melt in with the music a little too well, to the point where they take a backseat.

This is more or less a consistent complaint I have with the group. Regardless of vocal prowess, a group that comes off passive on their songs is a group that can be hard to comprehend.

I get f(x), and I can see what they try for…but the execution on their end can be hard to digest…because sometimes it is not a lot. That’s what made Red Light something. The group gave a good performance with edge to it. It fit the song. Without even having to look at the lyrics I could hear aggression, some force. When it comes to 4 Walls, I get the feeling that the passive floating quality (that they usually have musically) was intentional. The problem comes when they lose focus musically, and in turn just disappear.

The music video fits the nu-art heaux aesthetic that f(x) have been peddling for the last few years. Thankfully, this time SM dedicates the group to it fully. The music video is some tumblr aesthetic dream, and probably has been gifed to death. While I think it is a very pretty video, I found myself wondering what was truly the point? I mean, yeah they are pretty, the instagram approved filters they used were pretty, the scenery and overall imagery was pretty…but the video does not make sense. In fact, I would dare say the video is kind of distracting.

Overall, I can’t say I am disappointed, but I do think the song’s overall lack of excitement and restraint confused me. I didn’t know where I stood with the song, but almost kind of not liking it. While I do think there are points where the song doesn’t work, specifically when it comes to f(x) themselves, I actually like this.

And yes I completely ignored the similarities between 4 Walls and View.

Source: SMTOWN Youtube

 

Red Velvet gloriously lack a point in the fun Dumb Dumb

Red Velvet’s comeback has been one of my most anticipated things to talk about simply with how they went about informing us about the visuals. From the pippi longstocking ragdoll images, to the short clips from the video.

The first thing that came to my mind when hearing Dumb Dumb, was Bang Bang. The vocal showoff between two disharmonious voices Jessie J and Ariana Grande, with a nice rap section by Nicki Minaj. The beat kind of reminds me of the song a bit, which is fine, because I liked it. However just like Bang Bang, Dumb Dumb somehow manages to do a lot, without getting a lot done.

Instead of getting me a lot of not necessary vocals that Bang Bang did, Dumb Dumb comes off as fun, energetic, but by the time you get to the end, you realize the song kind of didn’t have a climax or something. This can be good or bad. On the positive side, the song manages to maintain a level of energy throughout, even in the sections that would probably lose people (Well I need to speak for myself). On the negative side, the song manages to build to absolutely nothing. At the end of this song, where are we????

Typically in K Pop songs have a point where they reach the climax. This climax is usually introduced by a rap portion, hit with a bridge, and basically shown with a high note. Dumb Dumb gives us several false starts…starting as early as the middle of the song. And this is just me being picky about nothing, but the song kind of starts and ends a few times. Those rap sections feel like the mark of the end of the song. Case in point, nearing the end of the song, right after Seulgi in the yellow background sings…we have…a minute left. A WHOLE ASS MINUTE….of what? They bring nothing. It’s still fun, and energetic and I like it…but there was nothing to talk about. They repeat sections, have Wendy flutter a few vocals over it, and then have Yeri do another spoken word rap, and the dance.

I was like…where are we going?

My answer: No where.

And yet I loved it. The song is probably not going to be for everyone, because it kind of is a mess…but you guys can depend on me liking it.

Whoever did the imagery for the video needs to be hit in the leg. Like the visuals are cute and good isolated, but none of it comes together to make sense. The factory scene, the car scene, the egg with pink yolk…I don’t understand what these all have to do with each other. What’s worse is that they have a story going on, but instead of just focusing on that, we get all this. The scenes on the colored walls were fun, and the dance seems like it’s going to be lit, so I can’t comjplain too much.

Overall Dumb Dumb feels like a slightly improved upon Bang Bang. Less chaos vocally (albeit rap talent is traded off) more fun, but just like Bang Bang, the song truly goes nowhere. This time I was able to completely enjoy the ride though, not minding a single bit of it.

SNSD look for balance in their new comebacks

I am currently in the process of getting my life together (second day of my senior year of college), so a lot of what has been happening in K Pop has just been irrelevant to me. But trust…we getting post (be prepared for a long ass post about the M.A.D.E. series). However SNSD’s second comeback of the year has sparked my interest enough that I have to just say something.

First up: Lion Heart

Lion Heart went about as well as I expected it to. It’s definitely not bad, and I don’t think there is anything that could have made the song any better. It’s safe predictable, and I am sure this was the song SM was banking on being the success. It’s so…casually unspectacular, that it fits what a lot of us seem to think is passable for a hit in K pop. I think if I were to listen to this on the album, I would appreciate it just as much.

The video is cute, humorful fun. It actually helps the song a little bit. I was fascinated with the idea that they were cool with bestiality. That on top of them shifting through several decades (the 30’s-50’s) made this already pleasantly boring song a lot more workable.

You Think

I remember saying I thought this was going to be meh. SNSD and “Fierce” don’t mesh well, especially when it is someone else’s fierce (The demo version of this song is floating around somewhere). I am happy to say that I am eating my words. I think I ended up projecting this idea on SNSD, because I have always wanted them to grow up. And they have. The issue with me is that somehow it never completely comes together. Here, everything fits a bit better than most of their other attempts. The only issue I can see is that we should have just done a straight dance version. The extra shots of them in that pink room only gave the gifmakers something to do. However I think this video could have just been strong on the dance alone. Sooyoung and Hyoyeon as rappers aren’t terrible so yeah.

Video wise, SM should have just done this shit in a parking lot. The sets look bad, and honestly kind of take away from the severity. Also I would have been just fine with a straight dance version (hoping we get that at the very least).

I think SNSD did well enough with these songs. I think they lack the edge that I have come to like from their last works (the electronic pop was a good fit for them), but here they work best with minimal musical flaws. Lion Heart isn’t much to flock over, being safe yet still likable in its own way. You Think is the stand out, that I thought wouldn’t be a stand out. Maybe a little more depth or something overly dramatic could have happened, but it’s better than I anticipated so…yeah.

SNSD’s Lion Heart album is out now, the second half will be out soon.