destroyed. obliterated.

Here’s the latest from Red Velvet, “Feel My Rhythm”:

By the third viewing, I’m beginning to see what they’re doing with “Feel My Rhythm” and perhaps The ReVe Festival 2022 altogether, as this video feels like a spiritual remix of the three lead singles from the Festival trilogy, “Umpah Umpah,” “Psycho,” and maybe especially “Zimzalabim.” I’m seeing some of the key dance moves, the costumes, similar camera work and visual motifs:

I know that’s just Irene’s face, but going through the other MVs, the visual parallels aren’t as exact as I thought — truly more “spiritual.” It’s a stunning piece, at once classical and experimental.

And the song itself is unbelievable. It’s almost like they played it safe with “Queendom” after their most tumultuous period, and that’s given them the capital to once more run wild.

From the beginning, we get the key leitmotif, the sample of Bach’s “Air On G String” with Wendy then Seulgi’s vocals and the way it starts to skip like a record is unnerving. We drop into the verse, which is bass-boosted and fast — par for the course — but what really strikes me is the chorus. One of the fascinating things about Red Velvet is how unpredictable their music is. I go into a song like “Stupid Cupid” and based on everything pre-chorus, am wholly unprepared for how epic it gets.

To be honest, I kind of brace myself for every new release of a K-pop artist. I think there’s just too much pressure, and there have been some misses in 2022. The strange thing, however, is that I think this approach makes me not like a new song the first time. I distinctly remember not liking “Psycho” the first time, such that when I didn’t have the strongest reaction to “Queendom” I was like, “It’ll come. I’ll find the hook.” I was a little shaky with “Feel My Rhythm” through the first verse, because it seemed to be going for that discordant flavor of GOT the Beat’s “Step Back,” but by the time we reach the chorus, there were tears in my eyes.

The sound is so noisy, so busy, it’s barely coherent, but suddenly everything dovetails with the group’s latest demonstration of perfect harmony. And the leitmotif returns and it’s beautiful. The marriage of the Red Velvet design philosophy to classical music is so perfect and obvious that I’m surprised it’s only happening now. It’s a song that combines everything I’ve come to love about Red Velvet, mainly the soaring vocals that take on an epic, almost tragic sound despite the speed of the production.

And then the song ends all at once, like it ceases to be, and I need a moment to recover.

As far as the rest of the album goes, it’s all solid, but there isn’t a B-side that stands out as much as recent entries like “Jelly” or “Knock on Wood.” And nothing quite matches the surprise and power of “Feel My Rhythm.” I don’t want to be that guy who declares a director’s new movie their masterpiece only for their next movie to be widely considered their masterpiece (because that happens to critics sometimes), but I hope, when we look back on a complete Red Velvet discography sometime in the future, we don’t discount 2022’s lead single.

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