Review Summary: A gutsy, silly breeze of an album to listen to.
Particularly in the heavily-manufactured, cut-throat world of K-Pop, immediacy is power; consequentially The Red
's opening track 'Dumb Dumb' doesn't so much allow the listener to test the waters (so to speak) as spear-tackles them in, head first, probably without checking that they can swim. Within the first few seconds, the track's eponymous refrain rings out with all the urbane verve of an Oompa Loompa chorus, stuttering and repeating before itself bursting into feisty, horns-and-claps pop-rap; survive the initial onslaught, and the hastily-imposed ohrwurm irreversibly burrows its way into your grey matter, inevitably coming back in a form of verbal recall whose only purpose is to embarrass you in public, apparently. Yes, it's fantastic.
From this point, Red Velvet proffer a mélange of boisterous, hook-ridden pop and R&B cool, and to their credit, the balance between girl-power swagger and free-spirited enjoyability is struck admirably. Outside of its adorably silly mantra 'Dumb Dumb' has some real gut behind it, a little spike of moxy that permeates much of the album – 'Lady's Room' imbues the 'girls' night out' atmosphere perfectly, while the thoroughly modern 'Time Slip' carries an adolescent arrogance in its jerky make-up. Importantly, when Red Velvet's sugar highs wear off a little the results are still excellent. The funk-laced 'Campfire' is a welcome break from the energising double-whammy of 'Dumb Dumb' and 'Huff n Puff'; it's still delightfully airheaded, but trades a little of the 'crash now, ask questions later' for a little attractive flightiness. Further still, closer 'Cool World' proves to be a wonderful wind-down, its more mature approach still yielding infectious lines despite not being as in-your-face as excitable low-point 'Don't U Wait No More' (for its own good).
Caution, however, is warranted. 'Day 1' is a peculiar yet endearing mixture of J-poppish whimsy and 'mod revival' idiosyncrasies, its thinner verses punctuated by stabs not dissimilar to The Style Council's 'Shout To The Top'. While an undeniably great piece of music, herein lies The Red
's greatest issue; the music itself
is not the problem, but several tracks have features which feel 'borrowed' from other popular groups. For example, the spunky pop-rap verses of 'Dumb Dumb' and 'Red Dress' bear a striking resemblance to those of UK group Little Mix with their clap-led, choppy aesthetic. This, however, is forgiveable, as temporal similarities points to the style simply being en vogue
at the time of release; perhaps more pressingly, the synth stabs in 'Time Slip' feel pirated from the widely recognisable intro of Iggy Azalea/Charlie XCX's 'Fancy'. On these occasions, the experience does feel cheapened somewhat, but if there's one thing which K-Pop doesn't command, it's thought
– and ultimately, this is what's so lovely about The Red
. Red Velvet's brand of attitude-strewn K-Pop may not be the most original cut out there, but there's a rollicking good time to be had.