In 2019, experimentation was the key for girl groups to cement their own color. We’ve seen creative artists such as Loona and Dreamcatcher continue what others may have only attempted through their concepts and musical direction, and groups such as AOA took the chance to reveal a mature, yet still sexy side of them after their successful venture in “Queendom.” While Mamamoo’s “Hip” may have drawn mixed reactions, the comeback had them stretching the limits on women empowerment in K-pop.
On this note, back when Red Velvet first returned with “Zimzalabim” as a grand opening to their album trilogy, heads were mostly tilted as the public tried to digest the unusual song. Then came “Umpah Umpah,” which was more public friendly and generally a safer choice for the group.
Similarly, when Red Velvet announced their upcoming title track to wrap up their Reve Festival series earlier this month, netizens were shocked that a girl group would sing on the theme of being a “psycho.” Naturally, questions about concept, style, and the ongoing experimentation of RV arose as they looked to wrap up another productive year. Would it be similar to “Peek-A-Boo,” “RBB,” or “Bad Boy”? Or would it be more in line with f(x)’s own signature dark concept for “Red Light”?
Surprisingly enough, “Psycho” is a perfect culmination of the group’s creativity and flair thus far. “Psycho” is modern yet elegant in its rendition of flappers, yet manages to retain the signature dark undertones from past RV releases. In particular, the minimalist yet gothic makeup for the members is a pleasant surprise in seeing how well they pull it off. The MV is eerie but incredibly stylish as they perform a smooth, sultry love song perfect for a dark winter.
First, let’s talk about the setting. Surprisingly, the MV’s incorporation of setting — from choreography backdrops to individual shots — are rather subdued. Instead, the emphasis is on how the members stand out from their surrounding settings. For the choreography shots, the settings are elegant enough to match RV, but simple so as to bring attention solely on to the members. Pillars and muted tones on the walls are selected with an eye for detail, considering they match the members’ style and overall aesthetic. Yet, it’s not plain or boring for the eyes, as the group’s performance maintains any viewer’s full attention.
Meanwhile, for the dressing room shots, it was a pleasant surprise seeing the members portrayed in mirrors. While Irene sings in front of a mirror, viewers can see Yeri’s face from a round mirror propped up towards the bottom. Joy, Seulgi, and Wendy all look elsewhere, yet all their faces appear in the shot — the creative outcome of playing around with perspective and angles.
Moreover, it’s worthy to note on the MV’s use of double shots: Yeri and Seulgi both holding cups to their ears to “hear” one another; and Joy appearing with each member other than Irene. These are all shown in glimpses, though Yeri and Seulgi’s pairing went beyond mere profile shots. After all, it is included in the overall MV symbolism once Joy cuts the string holding them together. Only Irene is captured alone, particularly at the end as she whispers “Psycho” with a devious smile in the dressing room.
Through the MV relying on the members and the mood they evoked, the girls in turn showcased their full potential in portraying a Gothic concept. Frankly put, it was innovative for them to attempt this approach as a farewell to their festival series, as one would normally think of a festival as a bright, colorful aesthetic. In other words, Red Velvet pulled off a feat that only they could have done: incorporating their consistent haunting genre as a means to create their own distinct festival.
Smiling or not, there is a subtle eerie charm that every member pulls off, no matter how simple their gesture is. Fans have further noted on Joy’s simpler makeup — more attention on lips, less on the eyes — that easily changes her mood in a pleasantly surprising way.
Meanwhile, the song plays around with falsettos and dramatics to keep the mood slightly on edge. As “Psycho” showcases the group’s “velvet” side, it is sultry, leaning more towards the R&B genre. Yet, there are multiple elements present to keep the song interesting, from trap beats and various synths to accompany the falsettos. The song is creative yet structured, catchy but unbalanced in order to best represent the emotions driving the track.
Further elements, like Seulgi’s repeating echoes in the chorus and the end chant of “Hey now, we’ll be okay”, keep the song stuck in one’s head as the girls sing about a rollercoaster of a relationship. In the story of the song, a couple loves and argues so repetitively that both of them are considered psychos in the eyes of society. Regardless of that, however, in the end the girls claim they’ll be alright, and that love will win against the frequent ups and downs.
In the broader picture, this theme runs parallel with that of the album trilogy. The unexpected, off-kilter balance of emotions, scenarios, daydreams, and ideas have been the underlying sequence behind the series as a whole. While Red Velvet has consistently been about portraying unique takes on love, revenge, sadness, and more, the Reve Festival trilogy has raised the bar on what the group can offer creatively and musically.
Altogether, they pushed the boundaries on what girl groups can dare to show next, while also preserving their distinct quality. As they approach their sixth year, the girls have become palettes that can swallow nearly any concept, considering how different each of their title tracks have been so far. Only time can tell how RV will continue to grow as distinct, colorful artists.
(YouTube. Images via: SM Entertainment).