After the year and 8 month crazy ride that was the Red Velvet hiatus, the “Best Idol Group Alive” (as named by BILLBOARD) have made their return with their 6th mini album, Queendom. Before we get into Queendom and how important this album is, not just for Red Velvet’s members, but for their status as summer queens, we must understand the way things have gone.
Red Velvet’s 7 year career can be summed up with just one word, legendary. Red Velvet shook the game in 2014, debuting with their dual concept; the red side, which would consist of pop songs, and their velvet side, which would consist of their r&b tracks. Though a group changing sounds is nothing new, especially at SM Entertainment, Red Velvet were the first to make it a point. This dual concept also works to their advantage, as the freedom to change up their sound allows them to release something refreshing and new every season. This brings us to their massively successful summer red concepts. These songs include “Power Up”, “Red Flavor” and “Umpah Umpah”. Being that the release season for this comeback would be in August, it was expected Red Velvet would be taking back their rightful title of ‘Summer Queens’. And with Queendom, they did.
As a Kpop listener, I can truthfully say that this is a great summer Kpop song. It’s catchy, it’s fun and it’s enjoyable. The dance is cute. It’s simple, something you can realistically try to practice if you wanted to. But I think what really pushes this song to its ultimate summer song status is the infectious hook. You know what I mean.. “La-Di-Da-Doo Ba-Ba-Di-Da” or whatever they say is just so catchy. Reminiscent of a “ppal-ppal-ppalgan mat, gung-geumhae honey” or even, dare I say, a “gee gee gee gee baby baby baby”, the minute you first hear it, it latches on like the huge earworm it is.
The biggest criticism I’ve seen with this is the fact that many view this as a safe song, especially for a group as daring as Red Velvet. But as a Red Velvet connoisseur, I can say that in my opinion, if you’re looking for Red Velvet’s most daring songs, you don’t look at their summer anthems first. It also seems as though this is where Red Velvet’s dual concept does come back to bite them, as I vividly remember this “way too safe for Red Velvet” comment being made during the “Umpah Umpah” release in 2019, despite the highly divided opinions on probably their most daring song to date, “Zimzalabim”. I don’t really expect much from their summer anthems, aside from checking off the following list:
- Is the song catchy?
- Is this a song I’d actually listen to past summer?
- Do the girls serve vocals?
And the answer is yes to all of them, in the case of “Queendom”.
I would say that perhaps my biggest problem (and I use this term loosely) with the album is the b-sides. Now, I am someone who actually listens to full albums, and chooses my favorite songs among them. This is a highly enjoyable part of new releases, especially with groups such as Red Velvet or EXO, since I know the album is always so good, it’ll be an exciting struggle to pick out my favorite b-sides. With Queendom, this was unfortunately fairly easy.
“Pose” was fun and I really think the live performances helped me enjoy the song better. My favorite part might be the little breakdown (?) moment where Irene and Seulgi go “Everybody. Pose. Get. In position.”, which leads into the Joy and Wendy bridge and then back to the last chorus. “Pose” seems to be the fan favorite, which is understandable, seeing as it’s something you’d hear at a summertime parade, or something you’d play in the background as your friends get ready for a party or something (please party responsibly, COVID-19 is still very real). It’s got a great party girl feel to it, I can’t argue against that.
“Knock On Wood” is the follow-up song and honestly fights for second favorite on this mini. This song is just a feel good song, it makes you feel like you’re the main character of a show going through a romance problem of some sort. (Nothing big, more like you tripped in front of your crush.) The instrumental of the song begins pretty normally, nothing stands out until you hit the pre-chorus when the snapping starts, and then you hear the song start to pick up. The chorus to me is what makes the whole song. The group singing the chorus together highlights one of Red Velvet’s main pros, how great they sound in unison.
After this song, we have “Better Be”. I have no real feelings towards this song, I don’t hate it, that’s for sure. If I couldn’t reach my phone, I would let the song play, but it’s not a song I would continuously go back to. It weirdly reminds me of something that could be on Red Velvet’s other summer EP, Summer Magic. Maybe it’s the way the instrumental at the beginning of the chorus goes or something.
Next comes the song “Pushin’ N Pullin’”. On first listen, I will say this song began kind of boringly, but I found my appreciation for it on second listen. I think the song itself is beautiful, and I probably would’ve liked it more if it were on a different EP like “La Rouge” on The Finale. The strongest point of the song is the production and arrangement. I think the instrumental and the way the verses are sung bleed so perfectly into the chorus. The bridge is also beautiful, Wendy’s vocals stand out in particular.
However, despite my deep appreciation for it, I can say for sure that my favorite song on this album is “Hello, Sunset”. Call me crazy, but the very beginning of the song definitely reminds me of “Gary’s Song” from the Spongebob OST and I think that’s why it’s my favorite. Nostalgia is a hell of a tool, and although “Gary’s Song” is probably not what they were going for, it’s where my mind first went to, and it WORKED! Past the Spongebob comparison, the song is just so gorgeous. It absolutely knocks the ball out of the park. The vocals are amazing, the way their voices are combined on the chorus is just so beautifully done, it further highlights the greatness that is Red Velvet. As an Irene stan, I think this song does such a lovely job at highlighting her voice and how nice it really is, but I truly believe this is one of those songs where all the girls get a line to shine. The way this song about being together with loved ones fades out at the end is such an endearing way to end such an extremely important comeback for Red Velvet.
As previously mentioned, Queendom’s release would mark Red Velvet’s first group comeback since the release of “Psycho” in December of 2019. Throughout the time between, Red Velvet went through a very weird period. Wendy would be injured just two days after the release of “Psycho”, which would send her into hiatus and be followed by the debut of their first subunit IRENE & SEULGI, as well as Irene’s own personal hiatus. This would also lead to the debut of Yeri as an actress, and to the debut of Wendy and Joy as soloists. All these rapid changes on top of Red Velvet, an SM girl group entering their 7th year this August, led many to believe there really was no future for them past “Psycho”.
That is, until the announcement of Queendom. The song and mini album further solidified something people already knew: Nobody can do summer like Red Velvet. Additionally, it proved how willing, excited and happy the girls were to continue as Red Velvet. Now, could the b-sides have been stronger? I think, maybe. Were they their worst? Not at all! Is this the absolute strongest way to do a comeback after all that time? That’s up for debate. However, I think this was a great album to put out after all this time because, though it doesn’t fully quench the thirst for Red Velvet, it leaves the audience ready for whatever is next. The next piece of work they put out will be highly anticipated, especially for fans who know that there really is a way for Red Velvet to top this. But it will also be highly anticipated by the people who are waiting for something more than just another summer EP.
Overall, I give this album a 3.75 watermelons out of 5. I can’t totally say I was satisfied with it, but at the same time I can’t say I wasn’t. The rating might change after they release a new album or something, but for now, being that this is the first comeback after so long, it definitely feels like it was worth the pain of waiting.
This article was contributed by: bijou casablancas