Most of the time, a kpop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-side tracks deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of kpop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
Though Red Velvet’s new single Rookie didn’t quite meet my expectations, its accompanying mini album is actually pretty strong. The girls have always delivered solid b-sides, often extending their experimental side to unique and interesting effect. They’re still a young group, and aren’t yet immune to the cutesy tropes favored by many of their peers. Rookie suffered from that injection of saccharine, over-excited delivery. In contrast, Body Talk‘s atmospheric stateliness is an absolute revelation. For a group who has dabbled extensively in the duality of their “red” (uptempo pop) and “velvet” (slower r&b) sides, the song feels like the perfect blend of both.
Honestly, Body Talk had me from its very first moments. It opens with a slow thunderstorm of full-bodied, sci-fi synths, quickly establishing an ultra-dramatic, otherworldly appeal. Rather than deliver the song’s accompanying melody in a chirpy, attitude-driven style, the girls’ mature performance keeps the stately pop gravitas strong throughout. It helps that the melody itself is a brilliant slow-burn of crests and valleys. It’s quietly anthemic, constantly morphing in unexpected directions as it winds through a mysterious path all its own. In many ways, the song’s synth-driven instrumental is a complete 80’s throwback. But delivered through the anything-goes prism of a group like Red Velvet, it feels completely modern and even boundary-breaking. By the time the sound of crowd applause takes us to Body Talk‘s conclusion, it feels like a wholly deserved gesture.