Review Summary: Like a late night drive on cruise control.
Kpop found international recognition at the end of the 2000s, prompting multiple companies and their artists to take a shot at stardom the following decade. Mainly, three of them found serious financial resources and marketing power to bring to the forefront a handful of groups who “paved the way” for others. SM Entertainment have quite the history of producing successful artists, especially BoA, who has become the godmother of Kpop. They struck gold yet again with Girls Generation, making their way onto the Western markets, followed by f(x). However, the two were losing steam by the mid ‘10s and slowly imploded. Therefore, the parent label introduced us to Red Velvet, who were quickly brought to the limelight due to their omnipresence on the Korean market. Fans are always on the lookout for fresh, charismatic acts, plus having a defined concept right from the beginning, significantly boosted their ascent. Using the contrasting “red” and “velvet” sides, the quintet offered both youthful and darker/more sensual singles over the years, respectively. Since 2020, this sonic and visual difference was less poignant, as the members matured and dropped for the most part the high school sweetheart bubblegum pop.
After several years of focusing on EPs, the third record, Chill Kill
came as a bit of a surprise. Some would say long overdue, the “velvet” side of the group is once more represented here. Still, as mentioned, they have been gradually walking towards this path with the last couple of singles, so there isn’t a considerable change in sound. Lead single, “Chill Kill” displays a tried and true formula of R’n’B-infused pop, matched with various layered vocals throughout. It’s a grower, yet not the best tune the record boasts. Instrumentally, “Knock Knock” is actually a more amped up version of the title track, borrowing from the likes of Destiny’s Child albeit in a more theatrical fashion. The two cuts ultimately warm you up for the main highlights, “Underwater” & “Will I Ever See You Again?”. The former’s punchy beats, alongside its distorted synth bass, shares a slightly darker vibe for the girls to soulfully sing on and the chorus delivers as well. It harkens back to the days of Perfect Velvet
(see "Kingdom Come"), which remains one of the strongest Kpop full lengths released so far. Meanwhile, “Will I Ever See You Again?” drops a nostalgic groove, augmented by catchy piano leads. One of the most straightforward numbers here, it feels the most effective too. Also, the waltzing ditty, “Nightmare” does a fine job switching from late night-type rhythm and vocals, to more playful hooks. The track nicely brings the subtleties of their single “Feel My Rhythm” into the current concept.
Unfortunately, all that mid-tempo starts to drag towards the end of Chill Kill
. After the sassier, more upbeat “One Kiss”, the last three tunes are gradually slowing the pace until the closing ballad, “Scenery”. “Wings” is perhaps the most interesting, using warm synths over a soft, daydreaming melody. The members’ lovely voices lushly complement it, making it another notable inclusion. Although there are various memorable moments, the LP ends up surprisingly mellow overall. The comparison with Perfect Velvet
is inevitable, given the similar approach, yet that one had more explosive numbers. Plus, there was more diversity there, as well as stronger highlights. You can’t help but think this album could have been stronger by default. Despite the mature sound, it offers a less vivid experience, therefore falling a bit short of expectations.