Song Review: Red Velvet – Birthday

Red Velvet - BirthdayThis year’s leg of Red Velvet’s ReVe Festival has taken a classical detour, melding well-known orchestral samples with the group’s quirky style. This sounds good on paper, and resulted in a solid hit with March’s Feel My Rhythm. But, the approach tends to leave me cold. I get what they’re trying to do, but the jarring contrast between lush orchestration and skeletal trap beats doesn’t often appeal to me.

Feel My Rhythm managed to stand out due to the strength of its chorus. New single Birthday doesn’t boast that same centerpiece, making it feel like the second portion of a dish I wasn’t sure about in the first place. Red Velvet brush the track with their always-solid vocal sheen, even if power-note-extraordinaire Wendy is given frustratingly little to do. Birthday’s verses harness the unmemorable sing talk that’s crept into too many modern K-pop tracks. It feels a little juvenile for an act of Red Velvet’s stature, though the harmonies are nice.

Birthday begins to rev up (pun intended!) during its pre-chorus, but this comes at the expense of some cringey lyrics. Even so, I’m happy to hear more robust percussion. This leads to a bombastic chorus, which is likely to divide opinion. The melody is barely there and the production muddles many of the strengths hidden in the instrumental, but the vocal blend is delivering the kind of high SM girl groups used to hit on a regular basis. In execution, it’s not too dissimilar to a song like Ice Cream Cake. It’s just missing that indelible hook. An agency as powerful as SM Entertainment should be able to harvest better songs than this.

Hooks 7
 Production 7
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8

Grade: C


56 thoughts on “Song Review: Red Velvet – Birthday

  1. The first 30 seconds or so are brilliant. That jump in over the movie theme (I think Gershwin “Rhapsody in Blue”) is surprising and awesome.

    Then the rest of it is like a bad come down from a sugar rush.

    Also, now or back when, I have never been one for gushing about birthdays. The prechorus and chorus unfortuntaly can be understandable in English, so gets a demerit or three. I mean how often can one sing along on a random day to “It’s your day-ay-ay …. Every day-ay-ay … It’s a party party – Birthday birthday something something champagne”, day to rhyme with pagne. Like they got the lyrics off a greeting card with some cartoon character voicing a witty retort about what you should do because “It’s your birthday!” open card and ____. Does the damn card sing too? Let me guess, Kung Fu Fighting hamster pops up, yes? I mean, don’t we all secretly cringe at people who go on too much about what next Tuesday is OMG. Unless you are turning 4 or 7, or 77, or 100, zip it, no one cares.

    BTW “Rhapsody in Blue” is 98 years old and still sounds great!

    Liked by 7 people

  2. it is kind of weird. I enjoyed the rap parts but other than that it’s not really that appalling

    7.75 (8, 8, 8, 7) for me.


  3. First time posting here, though long time reader! I enjoyed this one almost immediately. Feel My Rhythm actually took more time to sit with me. And I’m not inclined to listen to it as much as the rest of the album. I’m generally more interested in what RV does than any other GG though. I like their wild swings, and this song feels like that for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This one sounds way too childish for an act like Red Velvet. Like, WTF IS even this piece of shit? Its excessive immatureness literally made my ears bleed.

    As for the rating, 6.25 for me.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Very whelmed.
      To sample from Rhapsody in Blue and use only 5 seconds on it when there is a good 15 minutes of awesomeness to borrow liberally from. Also, old enough to be in the public domain so they can beg borrow and steal without asking anyone’s permission.

      “Bye Bye” uses one wonky line from Fur Elise, and nothing else, a line several other kpop songs have used = nil pois for novelty. (“Hands Up” by Cherry Bullet did it better imho). Are we to chase through all of them finding one famous line. Anything with the Swan Lake theme?

      Liked by 4 people

  5. To me, this is a song you have to listen to without the music video to fully digest. Trying to listen for the first with all of the theatrics of the video just was too much stimuli at one time. Did anyone see a crying gingerbread man or was that just me?

    That being said, I love Red Velvet so it takes a lot for me to find a song by them that I don’t like. The vocal shine they add in the chorus makes the song for me. It separates them from other groups and keeps their songs from sounding like “noise” even if there is a lot going on in the track. This will definitely be on repeat for me.

    Solid album on first listen as well. The only song I’m not a huge fan of is Zoom at the moment.

    Also, this new Reve Festival project makes me think about some earlier descriptions I read about Red Velvet. SM supposely pulled from the group En Vogue in their development of Red Velvet’s concept. At a similar point in their careers En Vogue released Masterpiece Theater, an album that sampled classical music and mixed it with pop sounds for a modern twist. This could help explain the turn to classical sampling by SM this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SM has been using classical music for a long while, most famously SNSD debut “Into the New World” which lifts the chord progression from the fourth movement of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony (in the happiest rendition ever), which incidentally ATEEZ’s “Wonderland” also uses.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I agree about the delivery being a bit too juvenile for them. The synths in the pre-chorus and the guitar in the final chorus hint at a sound that I wish they explored further. I think this will grow on me just like Feel My Rhythm did but I doubt it’s gonna become one of my favorites from them.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I wasn’t sure about Feel My Rhythm (song and album) at first but it grew to become one of my favorites of the year. this, however, is horrible… the classical sample and trap beats sound god-awful together, I just don’t see this growing on me in any way. the album has no standouts too, imo. this comeback is just disappointing

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Epitomic Red Velvet; plain and simple. This song is the sound that I think about when someone asks me, “What kind of music does Red Velvet put out?”.

    While I love almost everything they’ve released, this isn’t “Feel My Rhythm”. It isn’t “Bad Boy”. ..and it sure as hell isn’t “Zim-no-zala-fucking-bim-way”. It’s Red Velvet; and that’s all it needs to be for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Visually, I LOVE this video. This is the textured creature costume aesthetic from “Rookie” (which has inspired a ton of my IRL design work), but with a ton of extremely on-trend updates with some handheld camera work, the y2k Japan styling, and the mythological symbols (dragon; witchy symbols). Huge fan of how RV’s team continues to push visual trends that are a world apart from any of SM’s other groups.

    The song is aight. Probably not a karaoke banger for me, but I wouldn’t skip it if came on shuffle. Tbh, though, that is most of Red Velvet’s discog for me… there’s almost nothing I would outright skip.

    Liked by 3 people

      • “Rookie” has been a big influence on me as I mentioned, but all of RV’s videos are so distinct! “Peekaboo” anticipated a MASSIVE trend of retro-stylized horror with soft video tape colors. You can see it now in games like Immortality or the “The Viewing” episode of Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix), to name a few recent examples.

        Tayeon’s “INVU” and Key’s “Gasoline” pair really nicely together and hit on that mythological opulence you see in other big videos right now– Lil Nas X’s “Montero” fits that bill too.

        Sunmi’s “Heart Burn” is also in that sort of Criterion-y arthouse vein as well, with those lush, open landscapes and soft, bright color palette. The Old West clips are also on trend with what we saw earlier this year in a resurgence of that aesthetic. (Cowboy boots, dusty landscapes, and rustic settings were hugely trending in advertising earlier in the year.)

        Aaaand I’m really missing Hyuna and Dawn as the major aesthetic setters of Kpop. I’m hoping their next venture is something art related– “Ping Pong” was a textbook update of the early 2000’s maximalism/McBling, which the “dopamine dressing” trend also comes from. Dawn’s “Stupid Cool” was a pared down version of that, but streets/buildings/playgrounds are also huge trends.

        Sorry to keep you at this point– everything Sunwoo Jung-A has ever done is Criterion worthy.

        My job is curating and dissecting current ad/art trends, sooo I could talk about visuals all day, thanks for indulging me, haha.

        Liked by 5 people

        • lol don’t be sorry!!! this was such an interesting read because as an artist i love to take from mvs and incorporate those things into my own art so i loved reading your takes/perspective


        • A bit of a late reply, but have you seen the work of Rigend Film? They’re one of my faves when it comes to k-pop music videos. Their sets are always insanely gorgeous and incredibly visually striking. I feel like a lot of their mv’s really stand out (to me at least lol) and have strong aesthetics that really enhance the songs. They did Taemin’s Want, NCT 127’s Superhuman, and more recently Seventeen’s HOT. I feel like everything from the editing to the cinematography is just so top-tier. Here’s their website where they show off their work:

          Liked by 1 person

            • LMAOO

              And since you’re not up with boy groups I’ll say they’ve done almost all of Chungha’s mvs as well as Idle’s Oh My God, Iz*One’s Fiesta, and Nayeon’s POP. Iz*One’s Fiesta is one of my favorite k-pop music videos. The sets they built for it were beyond gorgeous. Chungha’s Stay Tonight also has one of the most memorable opening shots I’ve seen in k-pop. The colors with the lighting with the dance is just unreal.


          • I´m late to this conversation, but I´m loving this small thread about Kpop design! It´s one of my favorite aspects of K-pop videos: amazing visuals, beautiful sets and lots of creativity. Can you recommend other Art companies that work with K-pop? I´d love to discover others like rigend. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • I was able to find someone on Reddit who compiled a lot of the main companies into one list here:

              But they didn’t include Segaji ( who did Yunho’s Thank U MV which was amazing.

              They also didn’t include HIGHQUALITYFISH ( who did Taemin’s “Move,” JUS2’s “Focus On Me,” CRAVITY’s “Adrenaline,” Taeyeon’s “INVU,” and my absolute favorite Key’s “Bad Love” and “Gasoline.” They’re pretty good!


              • Thank you so much for the reddit compilation and for sharing your personal favorites like segaji. Its kind of hard for me to stumble on this kind of information on my own, but I´m always impressed with the amazing talents responsible for K-pop´s art and design.

                Liked by 1 person

                • I had to reference Key’s physical album for Bad Love cuz I couldn’t remember who did it, but if you ever need to find the credits (because for some reason many k-pop companies don’t credit the production companies and others who helped in the youtube description) you can find the credits in the albums! If you don’t have the albums you can try to find scans online. HIGHQUALITYFISH were credited on the bottom of the lyrics page that came with the album.

                  I wrote this and then went to find a link to a scan of what I was talking about and I couldn’t find one lmao so I scanned this myself


                  You can’t see it because it’s cut off but at the top left in the second one it says “Credits” and it’s all of the credits for the whole album.


  10. As a reveluv, this is quite dissapointing tbh. Their past title tracks are great. I fell in love with FEEL MY RHYTHM in the first listen as I love classical music so much. But this song is not growing on me after multiple listen. For me,it lacks of musicality. The b-sides are a lot better tho. That’s where RV never dissapoints.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. It’s funny, I didn’t like it this morning, but now this afternoon it’s already growing on me. I like the entire EP, in fact, the songs all compliment each other. Red Velvet’s long been one of my favorite K-pop bands, I’m grateful they’re still going strong.


  12. Seriously asking, what’s the aim of this Birthday project? If these five songs were given as a debut/first comeback material to a rookie group, i wouldn’t bat an eye. Giving it to Red Velvet, who has become a senior/veteran act at this point, seems so redundant, because I didn’t want them to grow as talk-rapping old rookies in the future. Plus, all these wackiness in a concept just for five slow-burner songs? I expected a party record, you know! Like, there’s BIRTHDAY in its name!

    About the title, maybe this is the first time in a while that I don’t care for a Red Velvet title. It’s like an NCT-fied Red Velvet sound, which in itself doesn’t sound bad, but it didn’t work in this track. The pre-chorus and Yeri’s first verse rap might be the song’s most interesting part for me, but that’s it. I don’t care for the other parts in the verses, the chorus is so LOADED but doesn’t have a good hooking grasp, and the bridge can go to hell.

    Overall, I’m not looking forward to listen back to this Red Velvet Project. It just exists.


  13. I’m an SM stan,but I gotta admit that SM hasn’t released any impressive songs for their groups this year at all! Birthday is one of them,very unimpressive. The audience wants to see another side of Redvelvet, this song fails to show it. Birthday is a 2.0 version of Queendom, even more boring.I don’t hate it,but not crazy about it. Frankly, if SM can’t give RV a really outstanding title track, I’m afraid their popularity will go down hill in the very near future.
    It’s not relevant to the topic, but I wanted to express my disappointment with ‘Girl’ from aespa. I hate that song so much! Seriously some composers or music producers from SM need to go! The only song I’m fond of this year is from NCT 127 – 2 baddies. Unfortunately, it seems like most of non-fans don’t like the song. I wish 2023 will be a better year for SM🙏


      • SM seems very stuck to their original formulas that made them the agency they are, it’s just feels like what was once groundbreaking and new turned into derivative and has now progressed into being completely out of touch with not only K-Pop, but the music scene as a whole.
        Of course the girls are professionals and put on the best shows they can, but I can’t help but think back to their concerts I’ve attended and how much more natural and charismatic they were performing their Velvet and more mature Red songs. Their earlier red songs though like Rookie or even Happiness? That was definitely gritting your teeth and smiling through the pain and embarrassment for several of the members. Kids bombing out on stage in front of all of their classmates at a talent show look less humiliated. So why SM continues this 8 years into their career is beyond me, especially when they continually prove themselves through B-sides and elevating any song they touch even when the title track is painful.


  14. Very much “Feel My Rhythm” part 2. The classical sample turned trap doesn’t fully work for me, but somehow I think it’s better in verse 2 (maybe I got used to it?). The prechorus is divine, though, and the chorus isn’t too bad. I wonder how this song will fare without the visual component…


    • I felt the same way – the sample seemed better in verse 2 somehow. Either I got used to it, or the melody line in verse 2 was able to distract me from it more successfully because I liked it better (and it was also shorter) than verse 1.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Never in my life i am unable to finish a Red Velvet track mid-way through and this just made its name in the book. I cannot believe you gave this hot mess of a song a 7.5. Such a terribly structured song that one day sm suddenly decides to pick it up from the drafts in their recycle bin and shove it to them unpolished, ignoring the fact that they were an established 8th year-old group. Thought you just had high standards when you were harshly critical on other songs that compared to this, were objectively in a better league. I’ll just have to say nth can gaslight me into liking this.


  16. Musically I enjoy this about as much as I enjoyed listening to “Zimzalabim” for the first time, meaning I probably won’t revisit it unless I’m feeling quirky. Their blend is unmatched, though—the prechorus is a really good moment, and I’m not usually someone who swoons over prechoruses/bridges which are nothing but harmony.

    Visually it throws a lot at the wall, and most of it is pretty captivating—the big dance scenes with the messy backgrounds remind me of some of the worse Twice MVs, though, and I don’t think the cartoons add much.

    I am so Wendy biased, god. I think she has my favorite look of hers of all time, with the chunky hat + long caramel waves + shorts with sprinkles + fishnets + boots. I’ve also always loved the expressiveness in her delivery—trite pop-isms like “oh my gosh” feel sincere in her voice. They didn’t need to give her quite so many notes in that verse 2 riff; it’s pretty doctored.

    Also, I don’t think Red Velvet’s lyricists need to keep referencing their previous songs, lol. I don’t hate it, it just seems to rarely fit that well.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Didn’t know they are having a comeback when I got the MV recommendation on my youtube. I clicked and listened to the song and thought it was a japanese comeback but wait they are singing in korean? Oh so it’s another SM project, I guess but when I did a little googling it came to my surprise that this is an actual comeback! Song feels so bland that it could pass as a bside or special fan release instead.


  18. Day 2 impression: I think this is their strongest EP in years. It’s a song cycle, and the last song doubles back to the first one. I realize K-pop is focused on singles rather than albums, but this is more satisfying when listened to as a whole. I think K-pop’s moved away from ReVe’s maximalist style, but they’re sticking with their aesthetic and it’s sure to please fans. A complaint many make is that groups abandon their styles and sounds with every comeback, but no one can accuse ReVe of that. I was worried when Queendom came out (I think it’s their weakest release), but Birthday builds on the Feel My Rhythm release, marking 2022 a strong year in their discography.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love Rhapsody in Blue, and I’ve never been more irritated by it in my life. I kinda wish they hadn’t used it at all. The song would have been less grating in the first verse without it, and the saddest moment of the song is when the trap beat drops in on top of it in the intro. Pushes me from apathy towards the song to a mild dislike. I will say, I listened to it yesterday, and I woke up with it in my head this morning. I can’t say I was all that pleased about that, but at least it’s memorable?

    I didn’t find anything else I really enjoyed on the album either, but that’s not unusual with me and Red Velvet. Finding songs of theirs that I like enough to listen to on a regular basis is a bit like panning for gold, but it truly is gold when I find it. I think The Red Summer may be the one album that’s an exception. I liked the majority of that one.


  20. Red Velvet is my most listened to artist and I love practically everything they’ve put out. Even their weirder songs have never really bothered me, (Zimzalabim was love at first listen even…) and their output for me lately has been not bad, but meh. Like it’s good and well-made, but compare these last 2-3 EPs to their best work like their first album or their summer minis and they pale in comparison. Ever since those albums came out they’ve been apart of my music rotation for years now.

    And not just one or two songs, but the whole albums.

    Meanwhile I’ve already stopped listening to their Feel My Rhythm EP and I’ve only listened to like one song from their Queendom EP consistently since it came out.

    I was hoping Birthday would be better, but… it’s just more of the same tbh. After taking a day to listen to it a few times and digest it properly I’ve come to the conclusion: I don’t love it, I don’t hate it.

    Personally my favorite Red Velvet song is probably Dumb Dumb and I really miss that kind of fun, bold, bright track with strong vocals and catchy hooks. Back at that time it felt like RV really had something to add to the industry. They stood out and you could usually rely on them to deliver something impressive and even a lil different. Something a lil out-there, but still good. I wish they would work with LDN Noise again, it feels like it’s been a while since SM worked with them.

    ALSO how tf are songs like Hype Boy, Attention, After Like, and Love Dive trending and SM takes inspo from the STYLING for RV (particularly I noticed Joy and Seulgi, who looked drop dead gorgeous btw, were styled similarly to Hype Boy/Attention specifically) and not the MUSIC. Red Velvet would absolutely kill that style and instead SM gives them NCT music smh 😭😭

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think it would be great if album reviews are done instead of just the title track. Especially in this case birthday is so different from the mood and vibe of the other tracks in the album. Birthday is more of a performance song with sounds that are inline with typical sm music. So I get why they chose it for the title track, I can imagine how much fun it is to watch live. The other songs in the album are better to just listen to with RV vocals that elevate the tracks. I think its back in form for them since their last 2 albums didn’t really have many standouts. Too bad there are zero promotions this time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah lol I was so focused on Birthday (since it was the only song on the album I wasn’t sure about) that I forgot to mention that this EP has stronger standouts than their last ones. I liked Bye Bye, On A Ride, and Zoom. I think they’re some of their better work out of all the tracks on their past few albums. The first two sound like they would fit right in on their Perfect Red Velvet Album.

        But I still think this album just doesn’t compare well with their best. It’s missing some strong, bright tracks. Everything has been so moody/vibey/ballad-y these past few albums. If they didn’t have the discography they have and I was judging this by itself I might’ve liked it more. Just what happens when you have good music, I guess. I do it to Seventeen too. Everything they come out with I’m like “it’s good, but it’s no Mansae/Very Nice/Clap/etc.

        And Birthday seems to be their first title track that hasn’t really connected with me at all 😦 I have a soft-spot for Queendom because some of the sounds remind me of Kero Kero Bonito (who is also one of my favorite artists) and Feel My Rhythm grew on me as I really love the almost hyper-pop sounding synths throughout the verses + the chorus was nice.

        Overall I think I’m just shocked a RV title track won’t even make my favorites list this year. Despite the fact that I didn’t really like the title I will say the quality is decent and it’s better than some other songs. I don’t hate it. I might’ve been a bit harsh because I have high standards for RV. I just wish it had been something I liked. I miss when the bar was higher and it felt like they were constantly passing my expectations.


  21. I will go out on a limbo and say this is their most cohesive mini since… 2017’s The Red Summer! I think objectively this isn’t a good song in the way Feel My Rhythm was but I enjoy it a lot more than I thought I would in a slightly ironic way. It’s very adjacent to Happiness or Zimzalabim or Dumb Dumb which happen to be my preferred brand of RV songs. I like how unapolegetically weird it is and the music video was really well done and visually interesting. Hoping for another Red Flavor as always but with their two minialbums and Seulgi’s debut, they’ve had an excellent year. I’m really excited to see what they do next year!

    Liked by 1 person

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