With almost two years since their last comeback and talk among fans of their possible disbandment, the announcement of Red Velvet’s new mini-album Queendom created not only high levels of excitement, but high expectations. Luckily, for the most part, Queendom lives up to them.
The album begins with the lead single which bears the same name as the album. An upbeat dance-pop track that builds from relatively minimalistic production and bursts into a bright pop chorus, the song’s feelgood lyrics about being “queens and kings” who are “strong and beautiful” enhance the brightness of the track and the sweet pure pop it contains.
Topped off with a catchy post-chorus and stand-out vocals, the upbeat energy of the song sets the mood. At times, the track does suffer from sounding generic and lacking any real characteristics of note– something unusual for a Red Velvet title track. It feels like Red Velvet’s company, SM Entertainment, possibly played this comeback safe due to the high expectations – which is understandable – unfortunately resulting in one of their most forgettable title tracks and the least interesting tack on the mini-album.
What ‘Queendom’ lacks in personality is made up for in abundance by the second track on the album, ‘Pose’. Full of attitude, ‘Pose’ contrasts the sweet nature of ‘Queendom’ but contains the same positivity. The bouncing house-influenced production infused with trap beats is bold and effective, clearly evoking music from the modern drag scene as the title and repetition of “strike a pose” also do. As the track reaches the chorus, the production shifts seamlessly to dance-pop, creating a dynamic feel to the track.
Red Velvet’s personality continues to shine through on ‘Knock on Wood’, a strong synth-pop song blending retro and modern influences. Deceptively more simplistic than ‘Pose’, ‘Knock on Wood’ does not suffer for its simple structure. The subtle dynamics of ‘Knock on Wood’ create synth-pop perfection that is hard to not enjoy.
But the production of Queendom is not the only notable aspect of the album, as the girls showcase their colourful vocals throughout their performances. These vocal talents are put on full display in the slick modern R&B track ‘Better Be’, which contains soft and sultry vocal performances and showcases tight and subtle harmonic vocals in the chorus as the girls sing as a group. Besides the choices that enhance the R&B production and mature feeling of the track, these vocals not only add to the atmosphere but stand out to showcase the tone and skill of the members’ vocals.
The R&B sensibilities of ‘Better Be’ extend to the subsequent track ‘Pushin N Pullin’ although in a sweeter manner. Confronting the complicated but exciting emotions of new relationship, the song sees the girls confronting the anxieties of their new lovers who are not yet ready to fully open up to them. With a sweet and dreamy melodic chorus, the tenderness of this new relationship is palpable and very pleasant to listen to. At the same time, the upbeat jumpy piano of the verses helps to create the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that the girls’ partners feel. This well thought production results in a sweet and enveloping pop track.
The closing track ‘Hello, Sunset’ proves to be a highlight on the tracklist as it not only provides the listener with sweet melodies to listen to, but also offers Red Velvet’s interpretation of city pop. With a slow groovy beat, complete with smooth synth and a funky guitar, the song is undeniably pretty. All of these elements come together seamlessly and fuse with Red Velvet’s soft yet passionate vocals to create a warm and relaxing piece of retro pop music. An amazing closer to the album, as the song fades out the calm and sweet atmosphere of the song retains far beyond the listener’s time consuming the album.
Despite its shaky start, Red Velvet have come back with another solid release that manages to be consistent in tone and sound whilst also being varied in its influences and production styles. Whilst some may be disappointed by the lead single and falsely made to think that Queendom will be similarly generic, they would be missing out on one of the most creative, interesting and dynamic pop releases of the year so far. ‘Queendom’ not only serves to cement Red Velvet’s place as one of my most respected girl groups of our generation, but as “The Girl Group of Korea”.
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