I’m a big fan of most material released by SM Entertainment, but it’s been awhile since the agency promoted a track that wasn’t trying to be anything else but a chart-conquering, energy-building pop hit. Even Red Velvet‘s last single, which seemed to grow on almost everyone, initially split opinion with with its chirpy, repetitive chorus. But with Red Flavor (빨간 맛), we have the girl’s biggest, most instantly addictive comeback since 2015’s Dumb Dumb.
Red Flavor wastes no time getting going, bursting out of the gate with the gorgeous harmonization of its sticky chorus. In a k-pop landscape that seems to be getting more and more simplistic when it comes to its hooks, Flavor‘s stomping, multifaceted chorus is a revelation. Not only are the girls’ vocals airtight, but the melody itself paints a warm, uplifting tone that feels utterly galvanizing. The verses aren’t quite as memorable, though they move along at such a clip that it hardly matters. And even when the melody seems to be stalling a bit, it’s delivered with the kind of power and confidence we don’t see enough of in the k-pop girl group world.
But as strong as Red Flavor‘s hooks are, the song truly rests on its inventive production and dynamic arrangement. The track is a dynamo of frantic percussion and dramatic reverberations of synth. The instrumental’s most unique aspect is a garbled repetition of the “red flavor” title, chopped and mixed until it hardly sounds like a vocal at all. This element adds a brilliant bit of rhythm to the chorus, even if it feels a little silly and awkward on its own. Even better is the tropical squiggle at the tail end of the pre-chorus, and the almighty washes of resounding synth that rumble in every few moments. Red Flavor plays with dynamics in a dazzling way, pulling back and forth before piling on all of its tricks for the rousing finale of the song’s bridge, where Wendy knocks it out of the park with a series of climactic high notes before the group crashes into the last chorus. It’s exhilarating stuff, and easily SM’s best single in months.