The Glossed Over Girl Group
Whether or not you’re a K-pop fan, you’ve probably had Kill This Love as your last song syndrome. Or maybe, you’ve crushed on girls like Nayeon, Sana, or Tzuyu. With addicting music and eye-catching visuals, BLACKPINK and TWICE are with no doubt one of if not the biggest girl groups on the planet right now. They both have rich agencies, over 100 million views on all their music videos, and songs with over 150 million streams on Spotify. Plus, in the Philippines, both have filled up the Mall of Asia Arena, still with fans at home feeling the sadness of being Team Bahay.
South Korea has huge pride in their current beloved “Big 3 Girl Groups”. Yes, you read that right, three. With the world’s attention focused on BLACKPINK and TWICE as the top tier female K-pop stars, they neglect the overlooked third member: Red Velvet.
Sure, they may not be that far behind. You may have at least heard of the group name. You might’ve heard the news of Wendy’s nasty injury in the SBS Music Festival on Christmas of last year. However, with how much BLACKPINK and TWICE trend online, Red Velvet is easily overshadowed. For comparison, Red Velvet debuted in 2014 (a year earlier than TWICE and two for BLACKPINK), yet they only hit 100 million views on one of their music videos four years later in 2018.
Now, I’m not here to blatantly throw hate on the other two girl groups. You’d have to be extremely uncultured to be able to call them, or anyone really, untalented. As a matter of fact, I love and listen to their songs as well. Rather, I want to shine light on Red Velvet’s strengths that some people may not have paid too much attention to.
Red Velvet is my favorite girl group, and here are three reasons as to why I think they deserve more appreciation.
(from left to right: Joy, Seulgi, Wendy)
Many K-pop fans would agree that Red Velvet has top tier vocal abilities. Wendy, Seulgi, and Joy are officially listed as the group’s “vocal line”, each one’s voice having its own unique flavor to bring to the table.
Wendy is inarguably the best singer in the entire group, able to effortlessly hit such high notes while being equally great at singing the mellow parts of a song. Fun fact: she has a vocal range of 4 octaves! Seulgi is a close second, and has my personal favorite vocals in the group. She covers Wendy’s parts without a problem when the latter is absent. I just love how clean Seulgi’s voice is; it’s as if it’s ringing in your ear. Joy is known for her “honey-like” vocals, which are more on the soft side than the powerful. Her voice is really pretty; she sounds like a Disney princess when she sings— not to mention, she has covered ‘Part of Your World’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’, which is definitely worth a search if you’ll ask me.
(from left to right: Yeri, Irene)
Although Irene’s and Yeri’s singing aren’t commended as often as the other three’s, they’re definitely worth recognizing. They may not belt high notes with as much impact as the three stated above, but their vocals have their own charm. In my opinion, these two have the most calming voices in the group. They’re both soft, but in different ways. I recommend listening to Yeri’s solo song ‘Dear Diary’, and Irene’s ‘The Only’ so that you’d get what I mean.
All five of their voices are so unique, so you can easily tell who’s singing which part in their songs! However, their vocals shine even better when they sing together. Their harmonies sound absolutely heavenly. Just look up their recent cover of ‘Milky Way’ by BoA, and I promise you you’ll be hooked in just the first few seconds.
In most choruses of their title tracks (main singles) from debut until now, they sing together. While each member does have a beautiful individuality when it comes to vocals, they sound equally if not more amazing when mixed together— and I don’t think I’ll get tired of listening to either.
Now, let's move on to the actual music. No, I’m not just going to talk about how “all their songs are SO GOOD,” but they really are. (Side note: they also have a song called ‘So Good’ which is definitely worth a listen). Rather, I want to highlight the range that their overall discography has.
Here are two different scenarios: When I feel pretty sappy, I like listening to ‘Remember Forever’ and suddenly I feel like I’m in a Disney movie. My older brother considers their song ‘Rookie’ as his #1 jogging song because it energizes him while doing so.
That being said, Red Velvet’s different songs cater to a variety of people even from different age groups. The group has recorded many different genres ranging from ballads to EDM. They have a song for every emotion and occasion, main singles and B-sides (other songs on the album aside from the title track) alike, and in this way, they make a great connection with their fans and listeners.
Yes, the same can be said about many different artists. However, to me, what makes Red Velvet’s music so unique is that in spite of the versatility their albums and EPs (or “mini albums”) display, I can’t imagine them being sung by anyone else. ‘Monster’ is such an edgy song, but I can’t picture BLACKPINK performing it. ‘Aitai-tai’ has a certain cute energy that not even TWICE can execute. The fact that their music isn’t specific to any genre makes them receivable by a diverse audience, me included.
As if the songs themselves aren’t enough, Red Velvet hits even harder with the execution part in their performances and promotions. Visuals are a key aspect in K-pop as a whole, and Red Velvet really never disappoints.
You never know what to expect with Red Velvet comebacks. For starters, here are photos from three of their comebacks (releases) in 2018 alone:
'Bad Boy' (January 2018)
'Power Up' (August 2018)
'RBB' (November 2018)
It’s safe to say that Red Velvet is one of the most versatile K-pop groups out there, able to mold themselves into any style. In fact, that’s why they’re called Red Velvet!
When they first debuted, leader Irene explained the meaning of their group name as having the two-fold concept of “Red” and “Velvet”. Their “Red” side was to show their more bright, fun, and poppy image, while their “Velvet” side aimed to showcase their more mature, soulful, and classy guise. Many even consider some of their comebacks like “Peek-A-Boo” and “RBB” as a mix of the two, all the more proving the statement.
Let me explain more in details as I describe some of the concepts they’ve done so far.
In August 2019, the group released their EP with the main single entitled ‘Umpah Umpah’. From the photo alone, you can already tell that it is meant to be a refreshing summer song, one you can use to relieve stress or lighten up tensed moods as you allow yourself to “feel the rhythm”, as the lyrics suggest. The music video backs this up with its summer-esque visuals like beach backdrops, vibrant colors both in the girls’ wardrobe and in the set design, and even props like floaties and beach balls.
Plus, the song itself talks about the heart-fluttering feeling of crushing on someone. In Korean, “umpah umpah” is an onomatopoeia used in swimming lessons (adding to overall the beach theme!) when first learning to hold your breath under the water. In that way, they sing about liking someone so much that you have to remind yourself to breathe properly, which is really cute, if you’ll ask me.
Four months later, Red Velvet took a complete 180-degree turn from the innocent and bubbly ’Umpah Umpah’ to the gothic and fierce ‘Psycho’. It’s one of my favorite title tracks by the group thus far; I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I actually screamed while listening to the song and watching the music video for the first time— it was that good.
They obviously went for a darker theme that time around. Not only does the styling of their visuals show this, but the lyrics also present a very contrasting message. With ‘Psycho’, the girls portrayed being in an unhealthy, on-and-off relationship, which is quite the opposite of ‘Umpah Umpah’s’ butterflies-in-your-stomach feel.
The song has a strong beat, and the members deliver an intense presence. From this era’s darker outfits to its more powerful choreography, it’s difficult to grasp that ‘Umpah Umpah’ and ‘Psycho’ are consecutive releases, yet Red Velvet managed to carry out both of them effortlessly.
However, Red Velvet doesn’t only do concepts of the two extremes of “bright” and “dark”. What’s interesting is that they are able to seemingly combine these polar opposites. Case in point: ‘Russian Roulette’ (2016). In the image above, pastel colors, which are often associated with terms like “cute” or “girly”, are used; but in the music video, it looks as though the girls are competing with one another, even to a violent point (I would recommend watching it for yourself!).
I find it so impressive how they were able to tell such an eerie story with such an upbeat song and cheerful visuals. Like, have you ever felt so on edge while watching a pastel-themed music video for a happy, poppy song? That’s what ‘Russian Roulette’ is like, and I’m positive that Red Velvet is one of the only groups that can pull this off well.
Over the years, Red Velvet has definitely branched out in their concepts. Rarely do these girls stick to one style, nor do they have the same “vibe” for two consecutive releases. As seen in music videos and photoshoots, they’re a group that is not afraid to defy the trends and be experimental, and this, I very much admire.
Red Velvet has so much to offer that many K-pop fans fail to recognize, and I’m glad to have enumerated some of them. Not to undermine the hard work, talent, and dedication that other groups and artists have, but these five women and what they produce have never let me down. They and their music continue to help and inspire me in many ways, from simply giving me more energy to finish school requirements all the way to helping me cheer up when I feel down.
So, what are you waiting for? I hope that reading this article has made you consider giving them a little Google search. Even better, perhaps you’re inspired to open your Spotify and try listening to some songs or YouTube to watch some of their music videos and other content. They’re 100% worth listening to and supporting; I promise, you won’t be left disappointed.
At the end of the day, I find myself thanking God for them. When I’m amazed by the things they put out, it’s only right to give praise to the One who made them. Like, if the talents that these five girls possess both individually and as a group are already so impressive, how much more awesome is the one who gave them these abilities?
So, as we learn to appreciate and look up to people like them for their talents and skills, may we all the more fix our eyes on the Creator and Source of these wonderful abilities.