Remember the last time Red Velvet released a full album? It was in 2015, with The Red—a hit that took South Korea by storm, with its title track “Dumb Dumb” heard everywhere on the airwaves, on television, and online. Like, seriously. You couldn’t escape “Dumb Dumb,” back then.
This mania was known to many Red Velvet title tracks after that—yet only a few of the releases managed to capture the cohesive variety in sound that The Red had offered, with its catchy title and memorable B-sides. I’ve come to expect that only the release of another full album by Red Velvet would bring forward such an ambitious streak—and oh, it did. It really did.
Out since November 17, this second and long-awaited full-length album, titled Perfect Velvet, lets the girls show a more mature side of themselves—both in sound and in appearance. Composed of nine tracks (and I would say that’s so not enough), the album manages to tie together Red Velvet’s edgy vibe, their smooth and sexy R&B delivery, and a more distinct musical direction that is wonderful to hear.
First song on the tracklist and title track of the album, the song “Peek-A-Boo” is the first taste we get of that refreshed Red Velvet sound in Perfect Velvet. There’s a certain trend in Red Velvet’s title tracks, as they all have some sort of creepy, shiver-inducing element to them, and “Peek-A-Boo” takes that to a whole new level entirely. A lot of it has to do with the music video—and I’ll get back to that later—but even the song alone gives off a slightly creepy tone, though it also keeps a predominantly pop sound with an upbeat rhythm.
The beat and hook are the first things you hear upon listening, and those elements follow throughout the entire song. More things are then added to it all, slowly building the song from the very beginning until the end. Percussions (a lot of them), bass, guitars, synths, brass; however, we can’t forget the girls’ vocals. Not one of them fails to stun—not that they ever do—but “Peek-A-Boo” leaves room both for a catchy, easy-to-retain chorus line and vocal prowess from the members. I especially liked Wendy and Joy in this song, though Seulgi and Irene opening the song did please me a lot—and Yeri’s rap in this track might be one of the very best she’s ever delivered in a song. Yep, that’s all five members of Red Velvet. Well then.
“Peek-A-Boo” is, all in all, a successful title track—it’s as much of an earworm as it is an accomplished song in terms of composing. Is it the best Red Velvet title track to date? I’m not sure—though I do prefer its more refined sound to the previous ones, it might lack some of the engaging qualities of songs like “Red Flavor,” or the complex instrumentals of “Rookie.” It still ranks high in my book, though. I’ll be listening to this for a long, long time.
The Music Video
On top of being a great song, “Peek-A-Boo” also possesses one of the best Red Velvet music videos to date. This is where all the creepiness unleashes: it’s obvious that the five girls form some sort of murder club, relishing in the death of the delivery boys they lure into their super big and creepy mansion while performing rites I fail to understand. They do all of that while looking dashing in either rainbow or very, very red outfits. It’s kind of terrifying, but I’m into it.
Both the set and the narrative follow a typical horror movie story; we’re presented with these five girls who rarely smile (and you’re still scared when they do) and seem kind of deadly behind all their charming looks, who live in a slightly reclusive house that is way too big for five people. We see them play with weapons, before cutting to shots where we can notice an incredible amount of pizza boxes—all from different brands—and even a showroom with polo shirts in glass boxes. With those subtle details, it’s not hard to guess that the guy delivering them pizza during the video is about to live through the same fate. But we’re still left with questions: who’s the leader of the team? Are the girls themselves entranced while doing this? Who knows. They still look good though. Especially Joy. Oh my God. Did you guys see Joy?
We’ve established that “Peek-A-Boo” is an accomplished title track—but boy, it doesn’t prepare for what’s to come on Perfect Velvet. Through the remaining eight tracks, it’s as though we hear a brand new side to Red Velvet, while also bringing back the best of their “Velvet” side, revitalized with a certain edge to it.
My favorites actually sit high on the tracklist. “Look” had me charmed from the teaser. Literally. Synthpop is definitely a big favorite of mine, and “Look” is drenched in synths, going oh so well with their high-pitch delivery. The Korean title, “봐,” is used almost like a sample in the beat and melody, and it is done incredibly well. The track sounds like a disco song taken straight from the 1980s, and as you listen to it, you can picture the girls sporting glittery outfits and quirky hairstyles as they perform the song—oh, wait, they actually did just that! I was surprised to learn they had performed “Look” while promoting, as I would argue some other songs on the tracklist would be more fitting for a performance. “Look” has a melody that shifts so much throughout the track that I had thought it would be hard to choreograph something around it. Yet, Red Velvet has proved me wrong, bringing to the stage what might be one of my top songs of the year.
“I Just” also had me from the first second. Meddling with synthpop and EDM, it has a much more modern, almost avant-garde twist compared to the other songs on the album. Relying heavily on the beat, the synths and percussions are constantly in sync, along with the sampled voices of the members. And the girls, boy, their voices! Their harmonized ad-libs will give you goosebumps, and so will their lower ranges delivered in the verses.
“Kingdom Come” and “Perfect 10” show the sexy, suave side of Red Velvet—their “Velvet” side in all its glory. I have a preference for “Kingdom Come,” with its more prominent beat that gives more rhythm to the song. Interestingly enough, The Stereotypes is the team behind the track, the same team who took part in composing, amongst (many) others, SHINee’s “Odd Eye,” f(x)’s “Traveler,” and Lay’s “X BACK.”
Of the remaining tracks on the album, “My Second Date” and “About Love” both bring back a cheerful soul touch to Perfect Velvet, while “Attaboy” lets the girls explore with hip-hop with a pop-influenced chorus. The album concludes on the beautiful piano leading the song “Moonlight Melody.” Though the album presents variety in sound, it also ties it all together with a unified, smoother sound, making Perfect Velvet a successful release, and amongst the best from Red Velvet and SM Entertainment as a whole this year.
"Peek-a-Boo" Title Score: 8/10
Music Video Score: 9/10
Perfect Velvet Album Score: 9/10