Experimentation is a tricky thing for musicians. Don’t do it enough, and you end up becoming stale and passe. Too much, too wild, too poorly conceived, and you have a release not many are interested in. Red Velvet has been releasing some very experimental tracks and EPs, and while some have worked, others have not. The ReVe Festival Day 2 is, on the surface a safer released than The ReVe Festival Day 1, but it makes up for the lack of zaniness with a trip through musical eras of the last 70 years.
The ReVe Festival Day 2 is a warm, comforting EP that binds a huge variety of sounds through a shared tone and an aural aesthetic of pure nostalgia. Red Velvet spend most of the EP teasing their boys, pulling them close before backing away, all wrapped in sugar and utter playfulness.
The turn back in time is more clear on some tracks than others, particularly “Love Is The Way” and “Ladies Night”. “Ladies Night” is a delightful journey into 70s lounge music. This is a song of relaxation and release, marrying languid vocals, soprano adlibs, and effortless harmonies with flutes, and strings. The entire track is so light it practically soars, given just enough bite from the inclusion of some very funky horns. Moreover, this is a track about a genuine ladies’ night: gathering all your girls for a night of stories and laughter. The whole feeling is both sweet and melancholic, mixing the joy of a night with your best friends with a sharp awareness that times like these are less common than they once were, and will only become rarer.
“Love Is The Way”, on the other hand, is a doo-wop song, one aiming for teasing sweetness, but it is easily the weakest track on the EP. Part of this is the borderline-sterile production. Red Velvet infuse their delivery with the right amount sly sexuality under blatantly false coyness, but the instrumentation is bland and predictable; it screams of being made by people who forgot that doo-wop was the edgy prevocational music of its’ day. The larger problem, however, lies in the reversal of a lyric. Red Velvet crooning “My heart says yes, but my lips say no” is fine, and illustrates their current woes quite nicely. Having a group of men respond with “Your lips say no, but my heart says yes” is taking the 50s aesthetic too far. I understand what they were going for, but the phrase “Your lips say no, but” should not be uttered by anyone ever. It is quite frankly terrifying to hear and ruins the entire track.
Thankfully, this is not the only track that veers towards sunny playfulness. “Umpah Umpah” has Red Velvet entreating their boy to follow them into something unforgettable. It has a brightness in tone and musicality that stands out against the modern musical landscape, calling back to the early 2000s. This is amplified by the layers present in the production. “Umpah Umpah” is not a song that gives up all its’ secrets in one go, but manages to come off as complex rather than crowded. The clapping rhythm, chanting chorus, vocal runs, drums, synths and bass all meld together, providing a sticky hook and sharp melodies.
The sass present on “Umpah Umpah” is matched and surpassed by “Carpool”. Here, Red Velvet are taking a more casual route to romance. They’re trying to convince the apple of their eye to join them, but this is not an epic adventure, they’re just carpooling. The push and pull between the obvious desire to drive off into the sunset and attempts to play it off as convenience gives “Carpool” a sense of unbridled fun. The swinging piano beat, touches of funk, and clapping beat all amplify “Carpool” as a story of impulsiveness. The usage of “baby” comes off as less of an endearment and more something to call someone when you don’t know their name. There are no plans here, no long-burning love. Red Velvet just want to hop in the car and go, and if you look like fun, they might offer to share a ride to anywhere.
The only truly modern track on The ReVe Festival Day 2 is “Jumpin’” which shows heavy trap influences. It also dabbles in the minimalism that the rest of the mini has so steadfastly avoided. There are still some more throwback elements at play, such as the dynamics of the bass line, but as a whole, “Jumpin’” is sadly overmixed, disjoining the various aspects of production and flattening Red Velvets’ vocals. The lyrics do little to elevate the track, spinning a tale of Red Velvet literally bumping into a guy at a club, which sounds more annoying than fun. It also commits the cardinal sin of being a song about dancing that you cannot actually dance to.
The final track, “Eyes Locked, Hands Locked”, is a gentle comedown after the musical ride The ReVe Festival Day 2 takes. Here, Red Velvet goes to early 90s R&B, a time where sweet and seductive lived side by side, and they do again here. While the rest of the EP has Red Velvet bouncing all around love, drowning their insecurities in sunshine and good times, here they slow down. “Eyes Locked, Hands Locked” is the embodiment of the moment where you decide to go all in. The flirtatiousness of previous tracks turns to genuine seduction, balanced by warmth and a groove with some good bounce to it. The sheer earnestness present in the vocals is what really perfects “Eyes Locked, Hands Locked”, showing Red Velvet sees their relationship not as settling down, but a different type of adventure.
The ReVe Festival Day 2 is a fun listen. It zips to different genres, but the tonal consistency makes the various sounds come together in a cohesive whole. This is one of those EPs that does not have one great track, but several very good ones, that will provide a quality soundtrack as summer fades into fall.
(Images Via SM Entertainment, YouTube)