WordPress tells me this is my 300th post, and I’m delighted that it coincides with my review for my favorite girl group. In case you didn’t know, Red Velvet has been in that number one spot for several years now. (I’ll try real hard to not be a fangirl in this post, but I can’t make any promises.) I even went to their concert in Seoul a couple years ago, which was hands down one of the best nights of my life. 2019 was such a high for these ladies, so it was especially heartbreaking to witness everything that went down at the end of the year and in 2020. But they regrouped and came back stronger than ever, and all of us fans are thrilled to see it.
If you’d like to know more about what I look at in my reviews, click here.
First of all, I absolutely love how Red Velvet’s new single is called “Queendom.” We K-pop fans tend to throw around the words “kings” and “queens,” but I truly believe that Red Velvet’s impressive discography and talent makes them worthy of the title. (But to be clear, I don’t think there’s just one “king” or “queen” group of K-pop.) Giving a song a name like that is making a statement, and it’s easy to assume that the track could be a girl crush style filled with fierce attitude and cool self-assured statements. But while “Queendom” is indeed about confidence, it actually has an even more positive and inspiring message: we’re all queens and kings of our own lives, and we can get through anything when we join with others. It’s a powerful message on its own, but it’s even more meaningful coming from a group who’s faced several recent setbacks.
Musically, “Queendom” is a dreamy and shimmery pop track with a strong beat to give it a bit of extra energy. Red Velvet has often gone by a pretty and feminine image, so there are a lot of delicate touches to the arrangement and the melody that make the members sound so sweet and lovely. While this song isn’t a style that they’ve tried in previous comebacks, I think it’s fairly similar to some of their past B-sides in tone and energy. So even though “Queendom” doesn’t sound like any of Red Velvet’s other hit singles, it still suits them well and feels like quite comfortable and familiar territory. (Score: 9/10)
To be honest, this is one of those cases where I partially listen to a song a lot because I love the group who released it. “Queendom” was initially more of a “like” rather than a “love” for me (more on that later), but I’ve ended up playing it many times just because I was so excited that Red Velvet was finally having a comeback and I was thrilled at having new music. That being said, the song has grown a LOT on me over the past week through repeated listens. It’s still not my preferred style, but the charming melody and catchy beat have thoroughly won me over. (Score: 9/10)
Red Velvet on SBS Inkigayo (8/22)
The dance for “Queendom” matches the energy of the song well, with lots of those delicate and girly touches that Red Velvet is so good at. It’s certainly fun and entertaining, but I must admit it falls a bit flat for me compared to what I’ve seen from Red Velvet before. They have so many iconic choreographies with highly memorable key points, and I can remember and dance along to some of them years later. In contrast, the highlight moves that “Queendom” is offering just don’t seem as strong or solid. I actually had a hard time picking one that stood out to me for my usual GIFs (see below), because I pretty much felt the same way about all of them.
There’s also a fair amount of “hand candy,” which is my high school dance teacher’s term for overly fancy (possibly unnecessary) hand flourishes and gestures. It’s actually pretty common for K-pop girl group dances to have filler moves like these, but it’s a little surprising for a group from SM – an agency that usually invests a lot in their artists’ performances. “Queendom” is a nice choreography and there’s nothing majorly wrong with it, but I personally feel that Red Velvet is capable of so much more than what it shows. I wish it made just a bit stronger of a lasting impression. (Score: 8/10)
Red Velvet has five members, so there aren’t too many crazy formation changes. Most of the time, they’re dancing in one straight line, two lines, a V shape, etc. However, there’s one interesting element that I noticed: a lot of the staging focuses on emphasizing Red Velvet as a team. There are so many great moments when the members link arms or touch each other’s shoulders, which shows a strong sense of connection. Plus it matches the song’s theme of being stronger when we’re with others. The movements are so simple, but they don’t go unnoticed – and I think these parts are what give the performance a lot of its heart and charm. (Score: 9/10)
My Favorite Key Point Move
I actually like this whole sequence, but I only made the first part into a GIF because it’s so long (more frames = bigger file size).
My Favorite Formation
This is a staggered formation in the bridge where Irene and Wendy join Joy, and then Seulgi and Yeri come in – again, I made a GIF of the first part because the whole thing was too long (and Seulgi spins in, which also takes up a lot of frames).
(Please note that I only put my blog name on the image below because it took me a while to do the formatting and color-coding, and I don’t want people to take it and re-upload it without credit. The creators of the song and my sources for the lyrics and distribution are in the picture.)
As I always say, I don’t want equal line distributions – I want fair ones. The members don’t need to have the exact same amount of lines, but each person should get his or her time to shine. So, looking at how “Queendom” is divided up is so darn satisfying. You can hear every Red Velvet member clearly in the song, and each one gets a turn in the spotlight during the performance. (Though the center time is slightly adjusted to focus on the dancers and visuals, which is pretty normal in K-pop.) I don’t really recall having any major gripes about Red Velvet’s line distributions, but I’m still highly pleased with this one. Actually, it’s a lot closer to “equal” than I was expecting. I know it’s easier for groups that don’t have tons of members, but this is really what an ideal distribution looks like. (Score: 10/10)
Red Velvet always has high quality music videos, and “Queendom” is no exception. It’s very pretty and feminine – just like Red Velvet – with a gorgeous and colorful aesthetic. Though there isn’t a detailed narrative, the general premise is that the group works at some kind of magical delivery service. (The video shows magic wands, flying golf carts, and occasional teleportation.) The four older members already have jobs there, and Yeri shows up looking for work. They train her as an intern, and she gets her very own wand at the end of the video. I could be projecting here, but I interpreted that as a throwback to how Red Velvet started out as four members and then welcomed Yeri into the group several months later. Personally, I wish the music video leaned more heavily into the plotline that it established. It doesn’t need a story, but the idea is so interesting that I would have loved to see more about it.
That being said, there are a lot of nice visual references to keep us entertained. There’s a scene that might possibly be an homage to Alice in Wonderland: Yeri plays croquet with a flamingo mallet like the Queen of Hearts, and then the members have a tea party. It also seems like the music video is connected to those “General Store” teasers Red Velvet released prior to announcing their comeback, specifically the cat you see in all of them. There’s a close-up of Irene with two-colored eyes, and a shot of Yeri walking and leaving paw prints instead of footprints. Plus there are plenty of throwbacks to previous music videos, like the pineapple from “Red Flavor” and “Power Up” and the crossbow from “Peek-a-Boo.” I live for little visual details like these, so I’m definitely into it. I normally don’t rewatch music videos all that often, but “Queendom” has been playing every day in this household. (Score: 10/10)
Red Velvet on Music Bank (8/20)
Red Velvet on Music Core (8/21)
Red Velvet on Inkigayo (8/22)
Over the years, it seems like Red Velvet’s collective styling has been hit or miss. Some of their stage costumes are absolutely stunning, and some of them are a little out there (to put it kindly). This time, however, the stylists have done a really great job. The clothing is a nice balance of classic, trendy, and eclectic. What’s more, each costume really reflects each member’s personality. They’re often the same colors or material so that the ladies have a unified look, but each individual outfit is still unique. I’m loving every look so far, and I can’t wait to see more. (Score: 9/10)
My Style MVP for “Queendom” – Irene
Because the woman’s visuals are unreal, and because I want every single outfit she’s worn so far.
ARTISTRY AND IMAGE
Red Velvet is one of those groups that I like to refer to as “concept chameleons.” They’ve tried lots of different styles and genres over the years, and they’ve excelled at every single one. So no matter what they chose for their latest comeback, I was sure they would do well. Personally, I wish that they would have come back with something super energetic like “Red Flavor” or explored more R&B music like “Psycho.” (Though I guess the latter doesn’t really fit the summer season.) But “Queendom” is lovely and charming, and its bright and happy style is similar to what’s popular in K-pop right now. It seems to be a hit with all kinds of listeners, so I think it was a smart choice. (Score: 9/10)
Since “Queendom” is Red Velvet’s first full-group comeback in almost two years, there was a LOT of anticipation surrounding it. I was super excited to see them all finally coming together and releasing new music, but I was also a little worried. While I hate to bring up Irene’s attitude controversy – since I think us fans would really like to just move on – I truly was concerned about how she and the group would be perceived. Behavior-related scandals are still a very hot topic in South Korea right now, and we all know there are netizens out there who like to hold onto things and never forget these kinds of incidents.
Thankfully, my fears were put to rest almost immediately. “Queendom” is just like all of the other Red Velvet comebacks, and there are no major changes in quality or group dynamics. Though there will always be critics, Irene thankfully still has a lot of supporters (myself included). And much to my delight, it looks like this release is being very well-received by fans and the general public. All in all, Red Velvet’s doing just as well as they did before – if not better – and there’s no cause for alarm. (Score: 9/10)
PERSONAL INTEREST LEVEL
As a longtime Red Velvet fan, I’ve loved pretty much all of their releases. I declared them my favorite girl group when they released “Peek-a-Boo” several years ago, and that’s never changed. I like “Queendom” a lot, but I have to admit it’s not my favorite title track of theirs. It’s not bad by any means, but there are other songs that I have much more of a connection with. And while I genuinely believe they’re great at all kinds of concepts, I personally prefer the ones that truly reflect their bright energetic “red” side or their smooth and sultry “velvet” side. If Red Velvet had released “Queendom” in the past (aka not after a long hiatus), I’m not sure that I’d be as enamored with it. But honestly, I’m just happy that they’ve made a comeback – because there was a brief time when I thought it wouldn’t happen. And on top of that, “Queendom” and their new album are both great. So the fangirl in me is alive and well, and I’m going all-in on this comeback and will enjoy everything. (Score: 10/10)
|Line and Center Distribution||10|
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Way back in 2017 when I first started this blog, I did a review for Red Velvet when they released “Rookie.” At the time, they were among my favorite girl groups but weren’t the favorite. And I honestly don’t remember what I wrote, but I wasn’t – and still am not – a huge fan of “Rookie.” It’s so amazing and wonderful to see how far they’ve come since then, and I’m delighted to write a more positive review that more accurately reflects how I’ve felt about them for most of their career. (Kind of like how I had an ambivalent review about TWICE’s “Knock Knock” but fell in love with them shortly after.) “Queendom” was the comfort and assurance I needed from Red Velvet after such a long hiatus, and now I can rest easy. I’m confident they’ll keep killing it like the queens they are.
SOURCES: YouTube, SM Entertainment, SBS, Red Velvet’s Twitter (1) (2) (3)
Featured image is a teaser photo for Queendom and belongs to SM Entertainment.
GIFs were made from the “Queendom” music video (SM Entertainment) and the official fancam for their performance on SBS Inkigayo.