Red Velvet: Power Up Review

After Red Velvet delivered the song of the summer last year with the omnipresent “Red Flavor,” their 2018 summer comeback wasanticipated with an almost feverish level of eagerness from the K-pop community. New mini-album “Summer Magic” is led by title track “Power Up.” Every song on the album is excellent, and “Power Up” is fantastic. There’s just one problem: “Power Up” isn’t title track material.

Why not? “Power Up” doesn’t latch onto you on first listen, the way summer songs are supposed to. Ultimately, its only flaw is that it’s too concept-driven. It takes its title literally, so that every time you hear the girls chirp “Let’s power up!” the beat shifts into higher gear. The result is a bizarre structure with wacky pacing where you don’t know what’s coming next, even after having heard the song a few times. The first chorus gives us two different beats—the first slower, the second sugar-rush quick—while the second and third choruses move through three beats, from the slow one to an awkward mid-tempo and finally onto that hyperspeed “Ba, banana” bit. The “banana” thing is catchy, but a catchy part can’t do its job if you’re not sure when you’re going to hear it.

Where most songs whose hooks incorporate different beats begin with the fast rhythm and then move into a slower breakdown, “Power Up” does the opposite. While this unique reversing effect would be a great thing to hear in a B-side, it makes the title track difficult to follow, and it doesn’t help that the verses aren’t uniform and so don’t help distinguish between hooks. Of course, when you don’t look at it through the lens of title track expectations, “Power Up” is an awesome song. It’s got heaps of individuality. Its diverse melodies are surprising—I absolutely love the “yeah-yeah”s—and the performance is as stellar as it always is with Red Velvet. But it’s too unique for a title track.

The thing is, every song on this album is too unique to be a title track. “Blue Lemonade” could perhaps have been tailored to fit the bill, but every other song on this album proudly carries Red Velvet’s torch of quirkiness aloft. It’s a no-skip album for sure, but my personal favorite aside from the aforementioned tracks is “Mr. E,” whose fluid prechorus is paired with a jumpy hook whose melody is constantly transforming. Red Velvet has delivered yet another collection of music where every song is a great one. Still, without a solid title track, there’s the nagging sense that there’s something missing. Is it as good as last summer’s album, “The Red Summer”? It’s not. Then again, that album set the bar astronomically high, and few, if any, groups have had a better mini-album since that release a year ago. Regardless, Red Velvet continue to be the girl group to beat for me, and “Summer Magic” only adds to that feeling.



Take a look at Red Velvet’s “Power Up” MV below:

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