With Queendom, Red Velvet have come off the longest hiatus of their career. It’s been over a year and a half since 2019’s Psycho. And while the girls have kept busy with solo projects, the unique Red Velvet sound has been missed. Momentous comebacks call for momentous songs, and Queendom’s dramatic title seems to promise a career-defining musical throwdown. Unfortunately, the music itself feels oddly reserved.
Red Velvet have a great track record when it comes to summer comebacks, and that enviable history might be clouding my judgement. The girls elevate anything they touch. That’s just a fact. But, Queendom doesn’t give them much to work with. Its muted synth backdrop casts a very safe, familiar atmosphere. Some tones in this tapestry almost sound like music you’d hear in an office waiting room, and keep the instrumental from flourishing even when it amps up during the chorus. Queendom’s second half is more successful than its first, and much of that is down to Red Velvet’s effusive performance.
Listeners are almost guaranteed to come away from Queendom humming its catchy doo-bee-dop post-chorus. This style of sing-song hook has never really been for me, but the song would be lost without it. Its verses don’t offer many melodic peaks, and the chorus itself feels a clunky and unmemorable. If it wasn’t for the girls’ exciting volley of vocal acrobatics, Queendom would pass by without incident. That’s not something I often say about Red Velvet songs. The song exists in an awkward middle ground – too straightforward and dull to stand as one of their great “red” offerings, yet not slinky or soulful enough to work as a “velvet” highlight.