RED VELVET – “ICE CREAM CAKE”Track Listing:1. Ice Cream Cake2. Automatic3. Somethin Kinda Crazy4. Stupid Cupid5. Take It Slow6. Candy
Debuting as a quartet last year, Red Velvet emerged alongside SM“s talented roster. Their single “Happiness” shot up the charts. Now new member Ye Ri joins the rest of the girls on their first mini-album, dishing us up a serving of “Ice Cream Cake.” Well, okay, um, six servings. To promote the album, they”ve released not one but two singles and associated MVs, “Ice Cream Cake” and “Automatic.”
“Ice Cream Cake” is the first track. Bouncy and playful, the girls are equating their man”s love and attention to something sweet like ice cream cake. It”s a sweet, hooky pop confection that reminded me of 4minute during the “4 Minutes Left” era. Not a problem since I love that album. The only thing I could have done without is the “lalalalalas.” Those were a bit jarring and uneven, and I would have preferred some synths instead.
The next track, “Automatic,” slinks in, sleek and smooth. The girls are at their best, honeyed vocals layered over a mellow and jazzy melody. An extremely soothing track, you want the lights off for this one. The lyrics talk of how it comes naturally, that her reactions are automatic. It”s very polished and — dare I say it? — nope. Not gonna go there.
“Somethin Kinda Crazy” is anything but. A swingy, well-put-together jazz tune, it manages to sound significantly different from automatic. There”s a jazz/R&B influence here, and it had me bouncing in my seat. I shouldn”t have to explain what exactly is so crazy here: “I can”t believe it, I can”t believe it, it”s love.” Not exactly original, but enjoyable nonetheless.
With peppy synth bleeps and a distinctive electric guitar, “Stupid Cupid” is an original composition, no relation to the much-covered Connie Francis tune. The lyrics implore Cupid to actually wake up and shoot her crush with a love arrow, too. It”s bluesy yet contemporary and accessible, crisp and clean with a neat use of the occasional guitar riff.
“Take It Slow” does just that, using silky harmonies and some brass to design this mid-tempo tune. An acoustic guitar also helps keep time. The vocals are pretty; soulful during the main verses and smooth as butter during the chorus. The lyrics ask the guy to just be patient as she doesn”t open her heart easily.
“Candy” is a lush ballad, sweetly sung and definitely saccharine pop with the rising vocals, solos, and crooning that you”d expect. Amusingly, the lyrics don”t talk much of candy, but it”s a sweet, innocent song about how much they love their man and how this love makes them feel.
This is a pretty impressive album. And it has a very different feel to it. Absent of club-bangers and rap yet not drowned in schmaltz. I”m grateful that the producers have not tried to make them sound like A Pink or Lovelyz or market an overly-cute concept. Each of the tracks pop, but in a different way that you might expect. It”s a glossy, fluid product, soft yet funky. Songs such as “Ice Cream Cake” and “Stupid Cupid” are bold and brassy without being brazen, and I love it. All in all, a high-quality collection of *ahem!* velvety songs. Yeah, I went there.
MV REVIEW On the surface of it, the video is simply as fun and exuberant as the song. But there”s an undercurrent that I feel should be addressed. I don”t know what it is, but for some reason Korean producers are exploring low-income Americana. The trailer, the low-rent hotel, the greasy-spoon diner, I don”t get the fascination with seediness. Had the same problem with the latest Trouble Maker MV. It tends to ruin an otherwise fun video.
Fortunately there are enough shots of the girls to make me forget the backdrop — sometimes. It”s commendable that they”ve gone back to the middle ground when presented with an attractive bunch of girls — some of them too young to show inappropriately (the new member, in particular). Pretty outfits, cute almost-aegyo scenes, and sultry glances. This is the K-pop I was first exposed to.
Even though I don”t agree with all the set pieces, they use them well. Floating or dangling feet in a pool, dancing in the desert, etc. The set itself is an actual, rentable movie set — the Four Aces motel in sunny Los Angeles, replete with cacti, older, dusty cars and a weathered diner.
Still, taken altogether it”s not a bad video. There”s no plot or backstory, but there doesn”t need to be. It”s just five girls in the same band looking to have some fun on a road trip. And that”s what they do.