"The Red" is the first full-length album by Red Velvet, the South Korean girl group formed by K-pop powerhouse label S.M. Entertainment in 2014.
Released on Wednesday, "The Red" is an exciting and concise collection of forward-thinking K-pop that melds many contemporary styles and solid performances into one pleasing, solid whole.
The album starts with a bang, kicking off with the bouncy DC go-go drums and neon-fried synths of "Huff & Puff." From there, things just do not slow down.
"Campfire" pairs wonky slap bass with off-kilter-but-banging drums to make something that almost sounds like the obscure Nordic electronic micro-genre known as "swkee."
"Cool World" opens up with drums that directly quote the electro classic "Set It Off" by Strafe, before launching into a bittersweet and melodic electro pop anthem that is more than a little bit indebted to Katy Perry.
The production on "The Red" is intricate and layered, the attention to detail bringing to mind the manic, pop-splattered dance of Basement Jaxx sent through an ultramodern filter. Take for example "Lady's Room," which deploys the kind of hyper-cute production sensibility beloved in Japanese pop and currently refracted in the work of contemporary British labels like PC Music.
"Timeslip" does DJ Mustard and even includes some straight-up rapping, which Red Velvet pulls off with class and swagger.
"Day 1" is the record's penultimate track and a peppy slice of jazz-inflected rock that seemingly takes a little influence from the Japanese Shibuya-kei sound of the late 1990s. It is a classy touch to a record that for the most part stays extremely contemporary.
"The Red" shuts it down with "Dumb Dumb," the group's newest single and a banger if there ever was one, expertly produced by London's LDN Noise. Driven by bright brass stabs and hard 808s, "Dumb Dumb" wouldn't be out of place on American radio.
The track's vocals-half rapped, half sung-are clearly influenced by the work Beyonce has been doing Stateside. All I will say is this: you are going to have a hard time getting that chorus out of your head!
At 10 tracks, "The Red" never wears out its welcome. Every song serves a role in a larger narrative and presents strong performances and inventive production. It would be hard for me to like this excellent and promising debut any more than I do--a perfect score from where I'm sitting.
Listen to "The Red," Red Velvet's first full-length release in its entirety RIGHT HERE
John Chiaverina is a musician and journalist living in New York City. He has performed in over 18 countries, including two tours of South Korea, under the name "Juiceboxxx."