This 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.