Korean girl group Red Velvet’s anticipated comeback with third full-length album Chill Kill on November 13 has been the talk of the town around the K-pop sphere. Nine years strong as of 2023, the SM Entertainment quintet has accumulated high critical acclaim and chart-topping hits, while embracing continuous reinvention throughout their career. Red Velvet’s knack for keeping transformation alive within the scope of their group identity has rendered their discography a prime example of refined experimentation. 

Fans attribute the nickname “concept queens” to the ensemble; an allusion to their ability to pull off various sonic and visual aesthetics, as well as seamlessly mesh influences that might even be considered contradictory in their work. Indeed, the dual essence of the act lies right there, in the name; “Red” for their poppier, brighter, and bolder moments, and “Velvet” for their somber, predominantly R&B-fusion endeavors. Sometimes, the two sides co-exist, allowing for wild card tracks that push the limits of concept molds as we know them.

In light of Red Velvet’s comeback, EnVi dives into a selection of nine deep cuts that showcase the beloved group’s versatility; from “Red,” to “Velvet,” and all the way to the “Wildside.”   

The Red

“Don’t U Wait No More” (The Red, 2015)

We could argue that a Dem Jointz production has never sounded so cute! Red Velvet’s “Don’t U Wait No More” marks the first K-pop collaboration for the Grammy-winning and, since 2015, recurring SM Entertainment producer, whose sound typically leans into hard-hitting, experimental hip-hop. Here, characteristic heavy percussions, including handclaps and dominant 808s, are adorned with a dry synthline; culminating into a layered, rhythmic skeleton that intriguingly juxtaposes the song’s aegyo-infused tone. The members of Red Velvet carry the “Don’t you wait no more!” hook with utmost theatricality, alternating between dramatic vocal runs and staccato call-and-responses, in search of little ways to make their hesitant object of affection notice their feelings. This unmistakably “red” B-side highlights the group’s harmonization skill like few in the category — usually reserved for slow, melodic R&B arrangements fit for their “velvet” side.

“Bad Dracula” (Russian Roulette, 2016)

Following their mellow second EP The Velvet (2016), Red Velvet returned to their “red” side with Russian Roulette. Its title track, a synthpop song with 8-bit music elements, is infectious — but so are its B-sides. This includes “Bad Dracula,” an energetic dance track about a vampire in love. Right off the bat, the song explodes from muffled “ha ha ha, yeah yeah yeah”’s to brass and synth-rich harmonies. “Bad Dracula” utilizes multiple instruments to illustrate the titular Dracula’s unpredictable antics. For instance, the song’s verses are bass-heavy and laden with percussions, while rapid chords played on a sizzling synth fill its choruses. Eventually, after doing the unconventional, like substituting their blood diet with ketchup and approaching humans, the singer just wants to dance in their lover’s arms. While we haven’t heard more of this mythical being in the group’s other tracks, “Bad Dracula” stands out as one of Red Velvet’s songs that center otherworldly yet fun concepts.

“Love Is The Way” (‘The ReVe Festival’ Day 2, 2019)

Tributes to past popular music genres are nothing new to Red Velvet, and “Love Is The Way” is no exception. In their EP ‘The ReVe Festival’ Day 2, Red Velvet take on doo-wop and soul with this track. Characteristically, doo-wop tunes feature mostly a cappella composition and nonsensical syllables as ad-libs. On the other hand, the song’s groovy jazz band instrumentation harkens back to the soul music of the 1960s. That said, “Love Is The Way” doesn’t shy away from trendier musical styles with Yeri and Irene’s rap following the first chorus repetition. In line with the aforementioned genres’ wit and playfulness, this track touches upon those moments with a crush where your heart and body don’t sync. You know love is the answer to your dilemma, but somehow, it’s difficult to express it sincerely. In this three-and-a-half-minute track, Red Velvet continue expanding their rich soundscape.

The Velvet

“Body Talk” (Rookie, 2017)

With a title track like saccharine-laced “Rookie” as its frontrunner, Red Velvet’s fourth mini album doesn’t lack cuteness or quirkiness. Among ultra-romantic and lively cuts such as “Little Little” and “Talk To Me,” “Body Talk” undeniably stands out. Despite being released back in 2017, the sophisticated R&B pop song can be classified as one of the quintet’s most mature recordings to date, its story of acknowledging a lover’s indifference through their body language narrated by sensual rhythm and confrontational, lower register vocals. Ominous intro synth to explosive, harmony-clad chorus, and propulsive middle eight, “Body Talk” bursts with poignant emotion in its exploration of heartbreak. The track — produced by recurring names in the group’s catalog, Trinity Music and Ylva Dimberg — delivers an unmistakably striking, icy moment from Red Velvet, who, even at their broodiest, tend to remain sonically synonymous with a signature welcoming warmth.    

“So Good” (RBB, 2018)

Released in November 2018, the mini album RBB can be regarded as one of Red Velvet’s sonic vaults of hidden gems. Aside from its vocally ambitious title track, “So Good” stands out for its sensual charm. Frequent SM Entertainment collaborators LDN Noise, DEEZ, and Ellen Berg took part in producing the song, whereas Jam Factory’s Kim In-hyung crafted its lyrics. As listeners are greeted by a woodwind whistle, crystalline synths, and harp plucks, this R&B-tinged, future bass track elevates them through the chorus’ falsettos. The song takes its theme of falling into desire at first sight further when it decelerates to make way for the quintet’s voices during the modulating bridge. With “So Good” being an overall exhilarating experience, its core is best represented with the first half of the chorus: “I’ve already fallen, silent waves hit / Towards me, you keep spreading / I jump in and my heart overflows.”

“Eyes Locked, Hands Locked” (‘The ReVe Festival’ Day 2, 2019)

Amidst a sea of vivacious songs that capture the vibe of magical carnivals and thrilling rides, hides a dreamy track called, “Eyes Locked, Hands Locked:” the epilogue to Red Velvet’s EP, The ReVe Festival’ Day 2. Listeners are immersed in heavenly, passionate harmonies resting above an enchanting, lo-fi R&B beat that underlines the whole song. The lyrics, which were written by singer-songwriter and producer SUMIN (수민), capture the feeling of being in love and desiring to have a relationship with a special someone. The melodic lines, “When our hearts touch / What are you thinking about? / I’ve fallen for you,” encapsulate the hopefulness of romantic feelings being reciprocated.

The Wildside

“멋있게 (Sassy Me)” (RBB, 2018)

Just as the name suggests, Red Velvet brings out their ultimate sassiness in this enticing B-side that perfectly blends their spunk and charm. The track’s instrumental, produced by Swedish producer duo Moonshine, consists of a seductive, brass-heavy melody with a slick drum beat that serves as a runway for the powerful lyrics written by KENZIE. “Sassy Me” showcases the quintet’s vocal range with an addition of vocal fry in the first and second verses. They transmit a feeling of confidence with the pre-chorus’s line, “I can do anything / Inside me is the universe,” emphasizing their self-assuredness and independence. 

“Pose” (Queendom, 2021)

Making quite the entrance with its militant drum beat, this dance-pop B-side maintains the lively energy set by the EP’s title track, “Queendom.” Driven forward by the ladies’ vivacious vocals, an array of electronic effects, and ever-changing drum line, the song climbs upwards during the chorus. “Pose” bursts to life during the post-chorus with the quintet’s signature exuberance that can be heard in other popular tracks such as “Zimzalabim” and “Red Flavor.” But “Pose” is much more than an energetic, rhythmic hit — it is an anthem that radiates positivity with its lyrics. Overflowing with confidence, Red Velvet profess, “I feel so high / It’s the most freeing moment / Meet the real me.” Feeling their best when most authentic, the ladies promote a message of empowerment and self-love in this bright yet alluring B-side.

“Jackpot” (Bloom, 2022)

Situated between two well-loved singles (“SAPPY” and “#Cookie Jar”), “Jackpot” offers a touch of freshness to Bloom, — Red Velvet’s first Japanese studio album, released in April, 2022 — as one of the latest additions to the group’s Japanese discography. The sampling of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924) in title track “Birthday” would go on to generate buzz for Red Velvet’s comeback later that year; nonetheless, early 1900s inspirations can just as well be spotted in deeper cuts, like with “Jackpot”’s electro swing flair, indebted to the 1920’s and early ‘30s. Fast-paced, dance-oriented syncopation informs the instrumental’s synthy percussion, blending in with playful casino sound effects to support the track’s concept. The quintet sings about taking a chance on love, and the addictive “sensation of cutting it close,” alternating between sultry belts and energetic chants. Merging familiar swing jazz tropes with a pop twist, “Jackpot” gives the impression of a modern soundtrack to the adaptation of Jazz Age classic, The Great Gatsby.

Embracing both sides which constitute the coin of their conceptual prowess, Red Velvet’s discography boasts equal parts sweetness and sophistication. The group’s renowned catalog revels in their signature “Red” and “Velvet” duality, while not lacking in charmingly left-field moments. Listen to our playlist of nine B-sides that testify to the quintet’s versatility, and fully immerse yourself in the Red Velvet universe in preparation for the release of Chill Kill on November 13!  

Looking for more songs to add to your playlist? Check out the latest installment of our EnVi Rotation playlist series here!