Red Velvet have had an incredible year so far, dominating (to varying degrees) both the winter and summer with mega-hits Rookie and Red Flavor. The latter felt like a true watershed moment, made even more impressive by its killer selection of b-sides. With Peek-A-Boo (피카부), the group has teased a combination of their “red” and “velvet” sides in an attempt to create something approaching a “perfect velvet.”
Honestly, “perfect” is a bit of a stretch. But following up on something as gangbusters as Red Flavor was never going to be easy. Peek-A-Boo incorporates many of the quirky influences we’re used to from Red Velvet’s music, but its adherence to a played out tropical instrumental and lack of a knockout chorus blunt its overall effect. Luckily, the producers salvage the song’s less-inspired moments with an ever-evolving arrangement. No verse or chorus unravels in exactly the same way, pulling in blasts of brass and gurgles of bass to give the track an addictive, snow-balling effect. Where other groups might have rested on the trendiness of their production, Red Velvet add a sense of unpredictability with constant ad-libs and asides.
Long-time readers of The Bias List should be able to predict my biggest issue with Peek-A-Boo. Like so many modern pop songs, the central hook is given over to a repetitive instrumental drop. The playful xylophone (?) loop we get here is certainly original, but it feels like a missed opportunity for something more substantive. The chant-like addition brought in during the latter half of the track helps to beef up this perceived flimsiness, even if it still feels just shy of hitting the mark. Maybe that’s because we’ve already heard the girls tackle a similar structure with July’s superior Zoo. Rather than replicate that song’s boisterous nature, Peek-A-Boo simply maintains Red Velvet’s super-solid singles run. In a discography as strong as theirs, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But I was hoping for another slam dunk.