Calling your album “The Perfect Red Velvet” sure sets expectations sky high, but Red Velvet have gradually been blending their quirky pop and r&b sides for the past year or so. It’s surprising, then, that new single Bad Boy borrows almost exclusively from their “velvet” persona, spotlighting the girls’ voices over a minimalist trap/r&b beat.
Before even listening to Bad Boy, I was struck by its producers. It’s no secret that Yoo Young Jin is one of my favorite k-pop composers of all time. He usually works on his own, but Bad Boy pairs him with a trio of collaborators — including well-known American team The Stereotypes. So while the song incorporates a touch of Young Jin’s 90’s r&b melodic style (mainly in the chorus), it’s really a hodgepodge of influences. As one of Red Velvet’s more subdued title tracks, Bad Boy isn’t as immediately striking as something like Red Flavor or Dumb Dumb. And that’s okay. Repackage releases are the perfect opportunity to explore new musical horizons, and this slow-burn groove is a place where the girls excel.
The song’s instrumental is incredibly atmospheric, driven by a repeated synth loop and gurgles of bass. The trap influences feel a bit overdone, but the effortlessly smooth vocals steal most of the show anyway. And speaking of vocals, I can’t help but wish that Young Jin had arranged the track in addition to co-composing. Bad Boy‘s chorus is lush and affecting, but it could have been given an even greater punch with his trademark layered style. Even so, the song easily ranks as the group’s most impressive “velvet” title track so far. By stripping away the quirkier elements of their past few singles, Red Velvet are allowed to show their power as a vocal group. At this point, it appears that there is nothing they can’t master.