SM Entertainment’s summer drought finally comes to an end with the release of Red Velvet’s new mini album. The girls conquered the summer of 2017 with their monster hit Red Flavor, giving any new seasonal song a lot to live up to. But rather than return to Flavor producers Caesar & Loui, new single Power Up is composed by the team that brought us last fall’s Peek-A-Boo. This results in a track that *kind* of sounds like summer, but has its messy moments too.
Power Up opens with its trump card, a harmonized vocal hook reminiscent of 60’s girl groups. This is the sunniest element of the song, as its verses quickly segue into more traditional Red Velvet quirk. Refreshingly devoid of tropical elements, these moments retrain a retro influence while still feeling a part of modern K-pop. After a slowed build, Power Up launches into its chant-like chorus. I’d imagine this will be the song’s most divisive choice. It’s an atypical melody that verges on cloying. To be honest, if it had been performed by any other girl group I probably would’ve hated it.
Luckily, Red Velvet’s vocal blend carries the day. They have a way of making this ultra-quirky material work, and smoothing the overly-saccharine edges. The unusual rhythm helps, with enough variation to keep listeners on their toes. As far as choruses go, Power Up‘s shout-sung melody has nothing on Red Flavor. By those metrics, it’s hard not to see the song as a disappointment. But, just like the love-it-or-hate-it Rookie, I think this will become more addictive with familiarity. It’s a bit frantic and all over the place, but I’d take that freewheeling energy over yet another generic trop-bop any day.