After this summers ‘Power Up‘, Red Velvet are back with a new mini album, RBB – which stands for Really Bad Boy. Not to be confused with their previous hit ‘Bad Boy’, many fans were anticipating a follow up to said track in this song due to the name. The question is, does the title track, and the album as a whole, live up to these expectations?
Yes and no. In many ways, ‘RBB’ is a return to the sound that first catapulted Red Velvet to a new level of fame. Upon first listen, callbacks to the groups hit ‘Dumb Dumb’ are obvious. The strong beat has a similarly funky feel to it. The instrumentation follows a familiar style. There’s even a little ascending repetition of ‘one’ in the first verse that sounds nearly exactly the same as the ‘dumb dumb’ refrain in the song of the same name, give or take a couple of notes. It’s certainly less chaotic in structure, however, despite some very interesting choices. Whilst ‘Dumb Dumb’ forwent the tradition verse/chorus structure, ‘RBB’ doesn’t. But it’s still quite hard to define where the chorus actually kicks in. After a few listens, the structure is expected and therefore isn’t as disarming. But on that first time around, the feeling that the chorus is always coming, but never quite arrives, is something unshakable. The actual chorus we have sounds more like a pre-chorus. It was building up brilliantly. I wanted a chorus that knocked out a catchy melody and an even stronger beat. The end result is that the song loses a little steam in these moments. There’s no section to latch onto save for the bridge – and it’s a welcome bridge. The added piano and triplets in the vocal line are refreshing after the small let down of the chorus.
These little things aren’t to say that the song is bad. Far from it. ‘RRB’ packs more of a punch than predecessor ‘Power Up’, and will no doubt be just as successful despite these differences. Red Velvet always throws some experimentation into their songs, a welcome trend, and of course one that can be risky. But just as ‘Dumb Dumb’ grew on people once the structure settled in, it’s very possible that the same will happen with RBB.
‘Butterflies’, the second track from the mini album, has also thus far been Red Velvet’s second song to perform on music shows. This one sticks to a good formula, a light EDM beat carrying through from beginning to end. The group’s vocals are well layered here too, especially in the chorus. The high pitch isn’t too much, sounding euphoric rather than cloying. There’s space here for something to take the listener by surprise, but the song never goes in that direction. It’s certainly a song that’s easy to dance to, and that’s the kind of song that contrasts well to the experimental feel that a lot of Red Velvet’s songs have.
Right in the middle of this, both in the tracklist and between unusual and expected, lies ‘So Good’. This takes on the velvet side of the group that they so often dabble with, an RnB feel the main focus. There isn’t much variation in chord progression here, but there are some interesting vocal sections, especially in the chorus and second verse. Arguably the best thing about this song is the way it plays with its tempo. It never changes completely, but allows the beat to drop out completely at points, and enter double time in others. This definitely helps to make the song more interesting to listen to overall. The first bridge section feels a little out of place next to the second, which follows the overall rhythm of the song. The chorus melody is undeniably very catchy too, so it’s one that will be returned to frequently.
‘Sassy Me’ instantly feels different to the three tracks preceding it. It’s heavy, and even the girls lighter vocals at parts can’t distract from that. It relies on a bass riff throughout the verses, over which there’s a relatively melodyless vocal line, but the melody obviously was not meant to be the focus of these points. Each member uses a very particular and unusual vocal technique that’s hard to even give a name to! The lowest notes are dragged out until there’s almost a croaky nature to their voices. It’s a strange choice but it works well with the track behind it. Luckily, they don’t employ this too much for it to get old quickly. Limiting it to the verses is a smart choice, and one that allows the chorus the stand out with it’s anthemic, strong melody line. The outro is anything highlight, easy to sing along to. It’s a song that’s really well put together, one that might just be a fan favourite from the album already.
By the time we reach ‘Taste’, a theme definitely emerges from the mini album. The laid-back, RnB sounds pervade all the way to the end. This definitely makes for a more sonically cohesive experience, but it does mean that the songs don’t stand out individually as much as they perhaps could. ‘Taste’ suffers the worst from this. It’s still a quality song, with Red Velvet’s vocals giving it their own unique touch. But there aren’t many outstanding sections that differentiate it from the other tracks. There’s a nice English spoken intro that sets the tone, and a very abrupt ending which almost makes the song feel cut off mid-sentence. Otherwise, it’s a mild end to a relatively solid album.
Red Velvet constantly take listeners and fans alike by surprise, but this time around, RBB feels as though it’s lacking some of that quirky spark. Each song is well produced and performed, but compared to some mini album outings in their past, this one stays comfortably in a zone that doesn’t always fit them perfectly. Nevertheless, it’s still worth a listen, ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Sassy Me’ in particular, and stands as another good release in the groups collection – just not an outstanding one.