Ever since their debut, Red Velvet’s conceptual trademark relied on the idea of duality — with one comeback being “red” (think pop, bubblegum elements), the next comeback would contrast the girls’ bright colors with a smoother, sultry “velvet” return. As time went on, the versatile group gained credibility for pulling off numerous concepts and mastering both ends of the spectrum. Even within the categories of “red” versus “velvet,” the group consistently surprised the public by dabbling with the bubbly, the wild, the sultry, the goth, and even the creepy concepts. This lush versatility enabled the members to show multiple colors of themselves, while sticking true to the group’s overall theme with every comeback.

Fast forward six years later, where RV finally debuts their first sub-unit: Irene & Seulgi. Although there was plenty of speculation as to who the members would be, I personally believe that this duo is a fitting combo for the group’s first unit. Upon viewing their debut MV for “Monster,” it is clear that Irene and Seulgi exude chemistry that compliments each other’s skills and stage presence as a duo. While viewers can distinguish between the two through vocal color, outfits, etc., the two members immerse themselves into one identity as a multi-faceted monster.

Frequent clips throughout the MV showcase the two in a close embrace, with meticulous styling and setting created to merge the two into one. While their clothes may look the same at first glance, minor differences render each member to be subtly distinct. The lyrics ask in the beginning “Under a single lighting, why are there two shadows?” The choreography further plays on duality by having them mirror or control each other. In these ways, they may seem like twins, but they are also set apart with their own stage presence.

Altogether, detailed elements such as these have proven that the group took care to continue their play on duality. However, seeing it play out with such an intense and powerful concept was a fresh change from an already dynamic group. With “Monster,” Irene and Seulgi once again showed that there are no limits on their artistry and take on creativity. While in some ways this track can remind fans of “RBB,” Irene & Seulgi’s “Monster” has wowed with their redefinition of the powerful and creepy.

Although there is a lot to unpack, we’ll begin with the impeccable set that has made this MV so memorable. As expected of a powerful concept that dwells on the idea of a “monster,” the set is glamorous, eerie, and very bold. Strong colors such as violet, magenta pink, and royal blue contrast heavily against sparkling church windows and shimmering mirrors. While most shots include choreography or solo/duo scenes, the members make the most of it with their expressions and gestures that fully embody the concept.

Simply put, both Irene and Seulgi don’t hold back on looking fierce and dancing sharply all throughout the MV. Merging this with an alter ego concept also makes the best use of the member count and is highly innovative. Whether this was intentional or not, numerous shots of Irene and Seulgi in a close embrace can suggest that one side represents the initial person we see, while the other is the inner monster. Or, perhaps they’re both monsters teaming up to haunt an unlucky man’s dreams. Either way, the duo convinces the viewers that they’ve made this concept fully theirs to take.

Within this alluring space, the members also either merge into or stand out from the respective sets based on their styling. For instance, their white dresses stand out from the otherwise colorful bedroom; on the other hand, their sequined dresses blend perfectly with the shimmering mirrors in the background.

During the choreography scenes, their beautiful outfits — with the cropped blazers, golden accessories, and high boots — make a complimentary statement with each other apart from the back dancers. The result is a seamless blend of the artists and their set, providing an aesthetic foundation for the eyes to take in their whole performance. To dwell on their styling a little more, the clothes themselves were enough to make a statement. From bold body suits to a puff-sleeved princess top and a corset, tulle skirts to a glitzy halter or strapless, their stylists went above and beyond to have the girls stand out (with outfits that also fit like a glove).

Each scene carried its own distinct atmosphere that succeeded in showcasing the members in a new light. The glittering shoulder pads and Victorian-style white outfits further offer a hint of royalty in an already glamorous setting.

On that note, the MV showcases colors associated with ideas of royalty, power, ambition, superiority, and passion headline the MV’s aesthetics. In doing so, the full use of bold colors creates a visual foundation for us as soon as the MV begins. The use of these strong colors is ongoing throughout the MV, but is also balanced, so as to not be hard on the eyes. It’s muted and blended well enough to have the girls stand out from the bold atmosphere. Styling can often be a hit or miss these days, but for “Monster,” it helped the audience get submerged into the concept even more.

Another charm to mention is Irene and Seulgi’s interactions with one another. Here’s a note of appreciation for the members being unafraid to go all out.

Similar to the duo shots previously filmed in “Bad Boy,” “Monster” also has the members be closely intimate, in a way that’s both artistic and subtle despite the bold gesture. Balancing this intricate move is their bold choreographic interactions, particularly in the lead-up to the first chorus. While these members mostly dance on their own during group choreographies, here’s now a rare glimpse of just Irene and Seulgi dancing with each other — another great way to make the best use of a dual unit. Though interactions such as these aren’t overly complex, they nonetheless strengthen the chemistry that these two members build as their group’s first unit.

Overall, “Monster” was a very satisfactory entrance as a sub-unit, coming from a group already established in their musical and conceptual color. While fans could have already anticipated something “different” than their usual formula, this powerful debut managed to surprise us even still.

Visually and musically, this debut track went beyond expectations, and was both intense and fun to listen to, as well. While experimentation is a tricky venture, every comeback serves to prove that Red Velvet can make the best of whatever they are given, no matter the number of members present.

It is further remarkable how Irene & Seulgi are the first girl group unit to come out in eight years from SM Entertainment, following TaeTiSeo – the unit from Girls’ Generation consisting of Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun that debuted in 2012. Here’s hoping that Irene & Seulgi can continue their own legacy as a powerful girl group unit!

(INKI Style, Newsen, The Fact, YouTube; Images via SM Entertainment)