The new generation of girl groups has been impressive so far, but has suffered from a lack of originality as agencies rehash their past stars for new audiences.
Yang Hyun-Suk himself admitted that he made BLACKPINK like 2NE1, and Red Velvet have earned comparisons to f(x) since they debuted in 2014.
However, over the past year or so, Red Velvet have started to develop their own identity. As a post-Sulli f(x) became more polished and mature, Red Velvet have gone straight through the looking glass, transforming into overgrown kindergarteners stuck in a strange world of ‘90s Nickelodeon weirdness - with the bonkers music to match.
Their new single, “Rookie," is a deliciously quirky concoction of sugared funk and Korean bubblegum crafted by The Colleagues; a hip-hop production duo with roots in Tampa whose discography includes rappers like Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz.
K-pop is the only place you could find a mix like this, and the only place where the results could be so perfect. “Rookie’s” sublime pre-chorus, with its fluttering flutes, is a thing of beauty, right before the brass blares and Red Velvet drops one hell of an annoying/amazing hook (surely their expertise by now) that’ll worm its way into your brain in no time.
Outside of the title track, the girls play it a little safer on the rest of the mini-album. “Little Little” is pleasant but forgettable mid-tempo filler, while vocalist Wendy gets a chance to go solo with a very OST-y ballad “Last Love”, which sounds like it belongs on Disney’s Pocahontas soundtrack. For listeners that want something a little more in line with current top forty trends, there’s the Ariana Grande-esque early noughties throwback “Talk To Me” (which I actually like more than Seohyun’s recent stab at the genre), as well as the sweeping synth-pop of “Body Talk”. Then there’s “Happily Ever After”, which could fit on any Red Velvet album (and a few of f(x)’s, too.).
Basically, there’s something for everyone on "Rookie".
When it comes to SM Entertainment’s girl groups, I’ve always put Red Velvet more in the category of The Grace or M.I.L.K, unconvinced that they have the originality or the x-factor that it takes to reach the level of SM’s more successful and iconic acts. But after the back-to-back wins of “Russian Roulette” and “Rookie”, I’m starting to change my mind. If Red Velvet can continue to carve out their own quirky lane separate to f(x)’s unique style, then who knows how great they could become.