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Red Velvet and the Creepy Concept

Red Velvet and the Creepy Concept

We’re hailing Red Velvet as the “Creepy Queens of K-Pop”

 

 

Red Velvet came out with their latest studio album, Chill Kill, last November, marking the end of a six-year drought of full album releases (excluding Bloom, their singular Japanese studio album released in 2022). In short, this is huge news—Reveluvs, we made it through!

 

With nine years in the industry, the fact that Red Velvet only has two studio albums net of Bloom in their discography before this seems almost criminal. Perhaps to compensate, each of these albums (The Red and Perfect Velvet) is stellar in quality, which encompasses title tracks and b-sides. In the K-pop landscape where music is only one among many commodities, this level of quality is (or was) rarely heard of, making Red Velvet rise up the popularity ranks for their discography.

 

Red Velvet sings their discography hits in “Killing Voice,” flexing their music and their vocal prowess. Now, this is what you call a girl group

 

The second thing that comes to mind after their music? Idols aside, it’s their concepts that shine, and we're hailing Red Velvet the queens of the creepy concept. There are groups—think Dreamcatcher or Purple Kiss—that have horror concepts, and then there’s Red Velvet. It’s something they’ve stuck with since near their beginning, but this depends on how you interpret their work. One person on Reddit describes their lore: “Red Velvet's lore is ‘weird.’ Slightly magical. Occasionally a bit psychotic. A bit Alice in Wonderland.” It’s something they have meticulously weaved into their releases, both in their dual themes, Red and Velvet. The former corresponds to brighter, upbeat releases, while the latter connotes smooth and sensual notes.

 

Creepy is Red Velvet’s trademark. It’s an undertone that’s set throughout their discography. It’s sometimes discreet, sometimes blatant depending on the music video you’re watching.

 

Shall we walk down the haunted memory lane?

 

“Rookie”

 

This bubblegum pop song and its music video depict a darker story behind its fluorescent hues. The girls are trapped in a puppeteer’s world with no way to escape. They are continuously running away until they are ushered into a stage by Yeri and Irene, where Irene is revealed as the puppet master.

 

This points to the running lore of Red Velvet according to theorists, where they are a cult and Irene is the mastermind manipulator and Yeri being her right-hand man as the rest slowly awaken to Irene’s devices.

 

“Russian Roulette”

 

Just like Rookie, the music video’s theme is a stark contrast against the hypnotic lyrics and saturated colors shown. The girls are deadpan and emotionless despite the catchy music.

 

The synth-pop song sounds like an arcade game, and you’ll see that the girls are trying to kill each other. Seulgi cuts the rope that’s tied up to the refrigerator above Joy’s head. Irene and Seulgi push Wendy into her bed towards a rushing car. The four girls push a series of lockers towards Seulgi. Wendy and Seulgi push a piano down the stairs where Irene and Yeri are playing Cat’s Cradle. Russian Roulette is a (deadly) game after all.

 

“Umpah Umpah”

 

The words “umpah umpah” are a Korean onomatopoeia for breathing underwater. First-time swimmers are taught to breathe underwater using this: um for inhaling and pah for exhaling. At first listen, it sounds like a cheerful song for the summer, but theories tell a different story—drowning.

 

The girls sing to seduce their target, “You should be careful / It might be deep / I’ve seen many / But they all couldn’t come out,” but they mislead him to breathe incorrectly, telling him umpah-pah instead of umpah.

 

They sing along as they tease and watch their victim suffer, “Stifling and suffocating / You are falling for me, aren't you? / Don’t be too afraid / To me, it’s always you / Just breathe and you will float.”

 

The song ends with the misleading umpah-pah, and we can only guess that their victim has drowned.

 

Connecting to the running lore, theories say that Irene is behind the great storm that sours the group’s vacation, and both she and Yeri mislead Seulgi into drowning.

 

“Peek-a-Boo”

 

According to theory, Peek-a-Boo is a chilling story about a cult of beautiful supernatural beings who live together in a house. They’re able to bend reality and put their victims (delivery boys) in a trance that keeps them visiting. The girls play with their victim who is oblivious to the horrors of the house. This happens repeatedly until the full moon arrives, indicating the start of their ritual: “Tag, you're it! / It'll be fun/ We’ll let you play with us / ‘Til the moon hangs on the jungle gym / Let's play.”

 

They blind him into thinking that he’s part of their group, only to hunt him down, and members feign betrayal to provide opportunities for him to escape, only for him to be trapped in their grasp. He ends up just like the others, with only a shirt on display to prove his existence.

 

“Psycho”

 

The ReVe Festival trilogy adapts the Wizard of Oz storyline and integrates it into their cultish lore. According to theory, the teasers indicate that Joy is the Dorothy of this story, collecting the members (Scarecrow Seulgi, Tin Man Yeri, Cowardly Lion Wendy) and waking them up from the mastermind Wizard of Oz Irene’s trance. They attempt to seek justice, but Irene catches on and manages to draw them in yet again, taking over the situation.

 

“Chill Kill”

 

Theories aside, can we appreciate the masterpiece that is this Chill Kill comeback? This whole comeback—from the concept photos to the teaser and music video—emanates huge Asian horror film vibes.

 

The term chill kill” literally means a relaxation killer. In interviews, they explain it as “a situation or a person that disrupts the calmness.” The tale is a tragedy. The teaser trailer serves as a prelude to the entire story, a nightmare the girls have that warns them of their impending death,  which pushes them to action in the music video.

 

Red Velvet are sisters who live under the captivity and abuse of a man, perhaps their father or a kidnapper. When the fright of it all gets to them, Wendy murders this man with a rock, and despite this freedom, they struggle to cope. How can they set themselves free when they lose the reality that they’ve always known? In ways, they’ve conditioned themselves to the chaos and struggle to thrive without it.

 

Since it’s a story of tragedy and hope, the girls start moving on—literally. They burn the house down with the man in it and face impending arrest from the police.

 

Who would have known that Red Velvet’s chromatic visuals and flowery music had an insidious side of horror to it? Leave it to Red Velvet to perfectly juxtapose the sunny and the sinister.

 

 

Photos Red Velvet

Words Gwyneth King

Art Macky Arquilla

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