Marking their fifth year since debut Red Velvet has returned with their sixth EP “The ReVe Festival Day 1” – the first of a series to come later in the year. Released on June 19, the EP has a total of six songs that showcase their take on a wild summer festival. It caught the fans’ attention for the unique album cover that alludes to past releases: from the fruit Ferris wheel and the haunted house to a lake on the left bottom corner.
Their title track “Zimzalabim” was apparently selected by founder Lee Soo-man himself, which in this case inspires greater confusion than relief. It apparently rested on their shelf for a while, until he was confident that RV could fully swallow and embrace the song. The EP as a whole reflects Red Velvet’s colorful musical palette for fans to jumpstart their summer with.
The central theme of this comeback is a summer festival, which also highlights a wild rollercoaster ride through “Zimzalabim.” The aesthetics of the MV serve to give the viewer a rundown of RV’s day at the festival. The craziness of the scenes flits by along the quick pace of the song, stopping only to focus on their EDM breakdown.
The structure of the song proves to be a genre festival in itself – pop, electro, and EDM combine to present a glaring track that lacks cohesive musicality. On one hand, it’s clear that SM Entertainment has been deviating from structured tracks such as “Ice Cream Cake,” “Dumb Dumb,” and “Russian Roulette” (for their “Red” concept) towards more chaotic, “versatile,” and unbalanced songs like “Power Up,” “Rookie,” and “RBB.” While RV saw the light with “Peek-A-Boo” and “Bad Boy” in particular (the latter representing their “Velvet” concept), the potential behind these creative, high quality tracks have lately been debunked by further “experimentation.”
It’s worth mentioning whether the increasing experimentation has been beneficial or detrimental for the girls. Knowing that they are capable of tackling creative, well-executed projects, it’s unclear why their direction is becoming more unstable. On one hand, their public appeal and fanbase do allow them to try this or that without much risk; still, there is a fine line between creative and messy. While one wild track or two wouldn’t cause much uncertainty, “Zimzalabim” may have just revived the doubt that died down with “Bad Boy.”
Essentially, the previous tracks have been hailed not just for their creativity and spunk, but the ability to provide a cohesive balance while doing so. The structure of the songs was effective in bringing forth a clean and fresh delivery of the message, vocals, and instrumentals. All the elements have worked together to bring solid tracks to build up the group’s budding record. They were also generally pleasant to listen to which is one way RV’s public appeal boosted throughout the years.
However, throughout the latter half of the album, the tracks started to grow louder and less organized through unnecessary means. The girls can certainly hold their own with a track that doesn’t rely on excessive EDM, clashing genres, grating chorus repetition, and random English (or in the case of “Zimzalabim,” German). While their B-sides have clearly revealed Red Velvet’s skills and diversity, it remains true that the title track is the introduction to the entire album. Frankly put, it’s questionable why Lee Soo-man chose this title track over “Sunny Side Up” as the introduction to this creative EP.
To be fair, creativity in song structure is certainly welcome in the industry – it is what keeps an artist’s discography unique. RV was well known for delivering their own unique color to the stage with tracks that only they can pull off. Particularly, songs such as “Ice Cream Cake,” “Automatic,” “One of These Nights,” and “Red Flavor” were popular for their ingenuity. Similarly, previous SM tracks that mix and matched various genres in one song include Girls Generations’ “I Got A Boy” and f(x)’s “Red Light.” But while passing off the torch towards younger groups is completely fine, “Zimzalabim,” seems to have taken the blending of genres into the extreme. Though the title track was described as “an addictive electro-pop with rhythmic drums and cool melodies,” melodies alone can’t complete a track. Nor can it cover the lack of substantial lyrics or a concept that hinders rather than highlights RV’s potential.
The title track sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the EP, which is filled with more cohesive yet creative songs. Along with “Zimzalabim,” other tracks include “Sunny Side Up!” “Milkshake,” “Bing Bing,” “Parade,” and “LP.” With all the tracks put together, the EP does a good job at meshing RV’s quirky colors with the bright, free idea of summer. First, “Sunny Side Up!” follows the wild title track with a mellow, sultry mood that compares a potential lover approaching to cooking an egg sunny side up.
“Sunny side up
It’s easier said than done
If you rush it, you’ll break it
My mundane days have all become Sundays
You’ve already become my sun
Wait a second, should I break down my heart
That I kept locked up for so long
Sunny side up, why don’t we wait a while
Our sun is about to rise”
While the lyrics are whimsical in this comparison, the girls dwell on how his fast pace may break or confuse them – just like the delicacy of an eggshell. Doubts mix in with hopes based on how they’ve already grown fond of their lover, before taking their next step. This double use of the word “sunny side up,” along with Wendy and Irene’s high notes in the chorus create a polished, quirky, yet alluring track to reflect on the potential summer love.
“Milkshake” similarly touches on a love interest growing in their hearts, albeit with a more hopeful stance. The spread of their feelings towards them is compared with the chilly, sweet texture of a milkshake, reminiscent of past comparisons to an ice cream cake. The thick, melting consistency of a milkshake are all referred to as a means to explain their daydreams with said lover. While the instrumental is more subdued, the pop essence is nonetheless highlighted through the members’ vocals that do well in reflecting the joyful, bouncy mood behind developing a crush.
“Bing Bing” and “Parade” are more fast-paced to bring back up the tempo. The former track – otherwise called “Not A Friend” in Korean – makes good use of onomatopoeia, having much of the chorus rhyme with the title. The chorus asks for their lover to not “bounce” off while spinning all around them, having rhythmic bass notes match with the oft-repeated syllables “ting” and “bing” to emphasize the concept of sound. The possibilities are endless with their lover, as he encapsulates a summer beach night and infiltrates their minds to no end. In the end, this is a song simply asking for someone to stay and begin their love, but the fast-paced tune keeps it lively and addictive. Also, the harmonization of Joy and Seulgi, Wendy and Yeri in the first verse is a refreshing, pleasant surprise to the ears.
Meanwhile, the latter track truly embodies the idea of a “parade” with trap, pop, and even house elements playing up throughout the song. Comparisons to love continue as a relationship is now compared to a parade, also carrying along the foundational theme of a “festival.” And lastly, “LP” is a jazzy, sultry yet bubbly finish track to the EP – a unique, and cohesive, combination of genres for the instrumental backdrop. Lyrically, this is the simplest love track that takes time to dwell on the numerous reasons the girls fell in love with someone – as seen when Seulgi sings, “Your tone sounds like music / Your smile looks like a movie.”
Overall, the EP carried out a dual theme of love and summer, with a more matured sound to portray the excitement and spontaneity behind a festival. As it is the first in a series, their “Day 1” sets a precedent of what else is to come for their ongoing festivities. Mixing genres and instrumentals was clearly one aim SM has had for this comeback, as well as a concept covering both youth and maturity. Songs were either electronic pop or booming with EDM, if not sultry and jazzy to have the listener imagine a romantic summer night. Though this approach could’ve been redundant, the creativity of their lyrics and instrumentals served to keep the listener hooked onto RV’s sweet and talented vocals.
To be frank, this EP carried a risk due to the heavy experimentation behind the title track. The rest of the album, thankfully kept RV’s talents and charms up to scale, though it is a shame that SM has yet to fully promote B-sides as much as they deserve. What was once a creative venture for the group is now becoming a precarious act of balancing potential and musicality. While they did succeed in releasing both heavy and airy, dark and bouncy tracks to have Red Velvet cement their capabilities, SM may need to have them return to their roots. Though experimentation is welcome, here’s hoping that Red Velvet can perform (and also enjoy) more cohesive, functioning songs that still have them stand out with their own colors.