What would the year’s end be without a dose of Red Velvet? Although the group will not be attending end-of-year ceremonies, they made sure to provide for Reveluvs with another comeback released for their Reve Festival series. Indeed, the quintet girl group have left their colorful mark in time prior to December’s festivities with a “Birthday” treat to celebrate and indulge in. The outcome is everything the group stands for in one package — an artistic, sweet dessert planet thriving on a mass-pop bubbly musical formula.
On its own, “Birthday” stands as a strong MV that amuses viewers with a quest against a rude gingerbread man. However, from afar it is reminiscent of a similar trend emerging since their return with “Queendom” post-hiatus. Indeed, a repeated aesthetic and musical pattern are starting to emerge, and while it is safely audience-pleasing, it’s debatable how effective it’ll be in the long-run.
First though, let’s appreciate the comeback for what it is — the group’s second classical-turned-k-pop music track, this time with a backdrop of “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924) by George Gershwin. Following the success of their first meshed track “Feel My Rhythm,” Red Velvet continue to pioneer the melding of two such different genres of music into one. They further hop onto the Christmas train in a timely manner, giving a double meaning to the terms “gifts” and “party” that embody the theme of the MV. Although the styling remains general enough to be appropriate year-round, “Birthday” pulls from musical and thematic inspirations to get the end-of-year spirit across.
At the head of that spirit is an angry animated gingerbread man, who seemingly challenges Red Velvet to conquer what was originally his birthday. Even if the reason behind the gingerbread man’s hate for the group is undisclosed, it nonetheless lends itself to an amusing battle against the cartoon. To meet him though, the group first magically put a guard to sleep and win a few keys from games against other fantasy characters. These scenes are incorporated quite well throughout the MV, as we get a sense of how the members progress forward whilst also appreciating the choreography on a balanced level.
The creativity behind it all — from Wendy’s chessboard set (with a rock-paper-scissors battle against scissor hands), to Seulgi, Irene, and Yeri’s red-light green-light competition (against what is presumably Bigfoot?), to Joy and Irene’s monopoly game, and Seulgi’s solo battle against the dancing lion — effortlessly adds fun sub-plots as well as spotlight moments for each member. Sprinkled throughout are subtle but great details, such as the Korean flag on the astronaut janitor’s arm, or the color palette for the sets, which relies a lot on pastel colors to emphasize a sweet winter theme but also includes strong reds and blues for profile shots.
The storyline reaches its climax with a grand battle executed via comic style for a touch of humor. Ultimately, Red Velvet become the main characters of the birthday party to everyone else’s chagrin, with the defeated, crying cookie now propped on their cake as a sign of victory.
In these ways, “Birthday” makes for a fun and whimsical release to wrap up Christmas and its happy occasions. However, it is also a mode of reflection over past hit releases, as the lyrics hint at popular titles such as “Dumb Dumb,” (0:48) “Ice Cream Cake,” (0:56) and “Somethin’ Kinda Crazy” (2:18). The huge cat sitting by Irene in one of her solo shots also nods to the white cat that sat with Joy in the desert in “Ice Cream Cake.” Though subtle, these little reminders are not only fun for Reveluvs to trace, but remind listeners of Red Velvet’s long, golden discography. It is also a smart way to acknowledge possibly overlapping concepts whilst keeping the current release distinct in its own right.
As aforementioned, however, “Birthday” is of a similar make with “Feel My Rhythm” and “Queendom” in its basic genre structure and also colorful pop aesthetic. The following three tracks have all, in some ways, been very safe, public-friendly and easy-to-swallow releases that stand out against pre-“Psycho” releases. While this is by no means an ineffective route, it does bring nostalgia for the days where Reveluvs eagerly awaited a “velvet” release following a powerful “red” track. Not only that, but the group was also well-known for successfully tackling dark or creepy concepts, such as in “Bad Boy,” “Peekaboo,” or even “Really Bad Boy.”
Now that Red Velvet have successfully re-established themselves post-hiatus, it would definitely be exciting for them to try venturing over to the dark side next time. A truly creepy, “velvet” return next comeback has the potential to shake things up and diversify their current discography.
What kind of songs would you like to see Red Velvet try next? Or, what are your thoughts on their latest comeback? Let us know in the comments below!
(YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment)