Written by Kimberly Hill

Thanks to the continuing power of social media, the world is increasingly finding more and more ways to connect. Through tweets, through Instagram posts, through YouTube videos and now, through its pop stars and perhaps no country is more aware of this fact than South Korea, home to the hyperactive mega-genre called Kpop. In the six years since Kpop saw its first cross-over hit with Psy’s multi-platinum “Gangnam Style”, it has become internationally known as the producer of hundreds of clean-cut (and often misunderstood) bubblegum teen idols with millions of views and internet diehards alongside absurdly high Billboard and iTunes chart positions.

But what it should be primarily known for and is without a doubt best at is its penchant for giving birth to a slew of today’s most solemn and innovative performers like SM Entertainment’s noteworthy female act Red Velvet.

Debuting in August of 2014, 5 years after the introduction of SM Entertainment’s last girl group the similarly inventive f(x), Red Velvet launched their first single “Happiness” amidst major upheaval at both their record label and the world of Hallyu (as it’s referred to by their countrymen) at large. The last two and a half years in Kpop had been marked by the infamous “sexy trend” or “sexy craze”, a time in which teen idols (both male and female) had begun trading in their safe, family-friendly sounds and images for more daring and provocative themes to shock the public and boost sales. Whilst it had worked and gave rise to several well-known girl groups, fans at home and abroad quickly grew weary of the emphasis on baring skin and overt (and sometimes lewd) sexuality.

People were looking for something different heading towards 2015 and the faux-tribal drums and youthful chants of “Booyah!” sprinkled throughout the 3:40 long track provided a refreshing escape. Their cute faces, unique name, and colorful style drew instant attention and SM Entertainment soon unveiled their followup “Be Natural”, a smooth, slow-burning R&B single (which was a cover of legendary 90s girl group and label-mates S.E.S’s hit of the same name) to showcase their new artists’ vocals and ability to take multiple creative forms.

Red Velvet’s two initial digital releases had done well and the members began to appear on variety shows that autumn giving fans opportunities to learn about each girl and their distinct characteristics or “charms”.



Irene Bae (27), leader of Red Velvet, is the quiet eldest member, prone to assisting the other girls with their homework, laundry or bestowing wisdom and whose popularity has led to dozens of endorsement deals in South Korea.

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Wendy Son (24) is their main vocalist, often described as “awkward” but lovable and has become a top-rated singer amongst the current class of idols and even boasts a solo collaboration with Ricky Martin.

Image Courtesy HeyDay Via Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


Seulgi Kang (24) is their soft-spoken and gifted main dancer and the first member announced to the public in December of 2013.

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Joy Park (22) is Red Velvet’s resident fashionista and actress who recently wrapped filming on the series “The Great Seducer” and “Two Yoo Project-Sugar Man.”

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Maknae Yeri Kim (19) who rounded out the group after her addition in March of 2015 during their promotions for the EP “Ice Cream Cake” with her fun-loving personality and lower-pitched tone.

Image Courtesy HD Pics Via Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


The incorporation of Yeri less than a year after the group’s arrival left fans bewildered seeing as how adding members after debut is rare in any industry. Not only was she new, she was also three years younger than their previous maknae Joy. This too fueled the rumors of SM Entertainment having significantly rushed Red Velvet’s inception by several months to distract from speculation about their business practices after a particularly scandalous year involving the termination of four different members from three different groups’ contracts but Yeri’s inclusion proved to be a blessing rather than a curse.

The mini-album “Ice Cream Cake” was announced on March 11th, 2015 and the five began performances of its self-titled lead single on March 19th, later becoming Red Velvet’s first song to pass 1,000,000 in sales. It was a rousing success and a coming-of-age for the band widely considered a modern classic by Kpop fans.

Fast forward to last summer and Red Velvet is still riding high with the triumph of their

5th mini-album “The Red Summer” featuring the blockbuster “Red Flavor” which took the top spot on South Korea’s Gaon Chart. Though Red Velvet had been a fan-favorite for three years, the sonic highs reached by the booming synths and sugary tropical sheen took the brand to soaring heights. The summer of 2017 had securely belonged to Irene, Wendy, Seulgi, Joy, and Yeri and unsurprisingly so did the fall of 2017.

On November 17th, “Peekaboo” from the full-length “Perfect Velvet” impacted South Korean charts and exhibited a darker, fiercer, more acidic side of Red Velvet that had yet to be seen before. The video which told the story of what can happen when a supremely unlucky pizza boy crosses paths with the murderous quintet matched the eerie and ethereal (and almost wicked) soundscape created by producers Moonshine, Cazzi Opeia and Ellen Berg Tollbom.

2018 has only strengthened Red Velvet’s reign with repackaging track “Bad Boy”, a subtle salute to their American R&B girl group predecessors of the 1990s and early 2000s that landed at #2 on the Gaon Chart, sold over 4,000 copies in the United States in its opening week and charted at #89 on Canada’s Hot 100 proving their global appeal.

They flexed their muscles again by being the sole girl group chosen as entertainment for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at a summit between Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae In in April of this year. Though the atmosphere was inevitably tense, Kim and other North Koreans in attendance were reportedly delighted by their performances.  

Red Velvet is currently on the Japanese portion of their Red Room Tour in preparation for a formal Japanese-language debut in July and will be visiting the New York City area on June 23rd for KCON NY. No official announcement yet on when fans can expect another record from the group but there’s no doubt they’ll continue painting the world red, one album at a time.


Feature Image Courtesy by Heyday via Creative Commons license 4.0 International (CC By 4.0)

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