Like any other Korean girl group, Red Velvet has had their fair share of cute pop music releases since their debut in 2014. With titles like ‘Really Bad Boy,’ ‘Peek-A-Boo’ and ‘Russian Roulette,’ it’s hard to imagine them being anything other than adorable. However, when watching their music videos, one might find themselves feeling slightly unnerved and scared.
‘Monster,’ a song released by their subunit, RV-IS, is thought to have been based on the classic Carmilla, a Gothic novella known to be one of the first in vampire fiction. Many suspected this after seeing parallels of the plot in the music video where Irene represents the female vampire Mircalla while Seulgi represents Laura, Mircalla’s victim. The theory is further confirmed by the accompaniment of Victorian fashion and Gothic architecture, which render the music video as a whole rather captivating and aesthetically pleasing. Fear isn’t a feeling that would plague you, but rather curiosity, as you try to understand the underlying (sexual) tension between Irene and Seulgi.
‘Russian Roulette’ is the complete opposite of ‘Monster’ visually. One will immediately notice the pastel colours and innocent appearance of the five members. The lyrics and melody give no indication that it’s a song about killing your friends in order to achieve your main goal: your potential lover’s heart. A person like myself didn’t even realise that the members were trying to hurt each other as I was distracted by the retro 8-bit sound and the memorable choreography. As one observes the video closely, it is easy to see that the girls are playing a game of cat and mouse with each other by Joy dropping a fridge on Seulgi, Yeri feeding the members nuts and bolts, or placing a sleeping Wendy in front of a charging car. The animation that parodies Tom and Jerry only helps to justify this. What’s most unsettling is the way the five girls stare at you with a stoic expression while lip-syncing the lyrics. It reminds me of The Conjuring where you have the musical box playing a sweet melody, only to find a ghost in the reflection of the mirror.
A song that acts as a balance between seduction and murder is ‘Peek-A-Boo.’ When one hears this phrase, it would bring to mind the wholesome game played with babies. Yet in this context, it means being blind and ignorant towards impending doom; as misfortune strikes, it comes as a surprise to the victim and they aren’t able to do anything about it. This is depicted in their music video where the five members lure in one of the many pizza boys they had kidnapped before. The unsuspecting delivery boy enjoys his time with the members and possibly falls in love with them, but as the night progresses, things get disturbing. He soon realises he needs to escape, but the girls prevent him from doing so and he faces the inevitable. In parallel with these scenes, the members practise with their weapons – axes, knives, bows and arrows – on each other, in preparation for what would unfold that same night. The unreadable stares make another appearance, and the general atmosphere of the video only accentuates the fear that builds up in the audience. It is said that the music video reminds people of B Horror Movies as well as novels such as The Beguiled and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
‘Really Bad Boy’ could be seen as a brighter and playful version of ‘Peek-A-Boo’. While it revolves around Halloween, it does not carry the same tension as the other songs do. Throughout the music video, the members are being chased by a werewolf, who is supposed to depict the ‘really bad boy.’ The locations are retro-inspired style rooms that, again, are an homage to B Horror Movies. There is even a reference to The Shining whereby Irene and Yeri portray the Grady twins who stand in the hallway of a hotel. Despite not being terrifying or chilling, it is definitely a song to add to the end of your Halloween playlist which will wrap the season up perfectly.
These are only a few of the many strange songs that Red Velvet have released in the last six years. Their songs should always be heard with their respective music videos, as it creates a nuanced effect that one can understand if they knew the purpose of the song. For example, ‘Rookie’ is about consuming drugs while being controlled by a puppeteer; ‘Red Flavor’ shows the girls interviewing fruits implying that they’re experiencing hallucinations (a possible side effect from the drugs in ‘Rookie’), and eventually turning into the fruits themselves; ‘Umpah Umpah’ encourages you to voluntarily drown. These unsuspecting titles will mislead you to think that they’re bubbly and lovely, when in fact, they’re beautiful and sinister. Take this as a lesson to never judge a book by its cover – especially with people.