I feel like I wait months for any sort of news, or spend years buoyed by rumors and fan hopes (“Bring back Level Up Project!”), so when the big announcements come, I’m caught completely off-guard. In short, 2022 keeps on giving.
First up, we have something I never would’ve imagined, honestly: the solo debut of Red Velvet’s incomparable Seulgi, with an album entitled 28 Reasons. Seulgi’s a curious character, where she’s so often attached at the hip to Irene — and appears most comfortable that way. I assumed that with Joy’s solo debut last year, that was it for Red Velvet. First Yeri, then Irene & Seulgi, then Wendy, finally Joy — four subunits. Especially given that Red Velvet is now seven years old (or possibly eight), which is typically when K-pop groups end, it seems that any executive decision made now could not have been preordained.
Either way, Seulgi appears set to challenge whatever preconceptions anyone has. She runs through a gauntlet of action movie clichés before arriving at something more horror-tinged, and this simply doesn’t emanate from the Seulgi persona the way Wendy and Joy’s albums did. But based on what little we see of her performance, it seems she’s more than up to the task. Certainly the greatest aspect of the idol to consider, always, is that she’s an adaptive hyphenate and a once-in-a-generation talent. The album’s up for pre-order; I’ve already done the deed, making this the third album I’ve bought this year.
Next, we have big news for fellow Lee Da-hee diehards. After reports of being “in talks” for the lead in a romantic K-drama which go as far back as February, the show’s been confirmed for an October premiere. This is exactly my experience, where all of a sudden things are real, though I didn’t know about this one until the confirmation part.
Following Lee has actually been instructive, because I’d read about how she was in talks for shows like Island and hope she’d get it, and then she would. I guess that when it’s reported, it’s usually a surefire thing? Either way, her first lead role was L.U.C.A.: The Beginning, which I didn’t watch, and it was some sort of sci-fi/fantasy thing. Next was Island, which was about goblins? So here we have a first. Lee Da-hee, somewhat infamous for stealing the thunder from the lead couples in shows like The Beauty Inside and Search: WWW, will finally be the one with the most screentime in Icy Cold Romance (localized title pending).
The first image is from the table read, where Lee gives off pretty classic Lee vibes. According to NME, she plays a character named “Goo Yeo-reum, a producing director who obsesses over Kingdom of Love after repeatedly helming programs that have been discontinued.” Kingdom of Love is an in-universe reality show, so it sounds like Lee will draw on her own experiences behind-the-scenes of Queendom, Road to Kingdom, and Single’s Inferno — as well as playing Cha-hyeon, perhaps.
Finally, something I’ve only dreamed of, and in retrospect those dreams are quite silly. Of course they’d bring back Level Up Project. They already did, in promotion for Irene & Seulgi’s Monster. But the first three seasons, I believe, broadcast back-to-back from 2017 to 2018. I became a Red Velvet fan in 2019, so their reality days were a thing of the past headed into COVID and everything else. I’ve made do with the occasional reruns on the SM YouTube channel, which are sometimes subtitled.
So many classic moments come from Level Up Project, and the first season makes me really want to visit Pattaya, Thailand. The fifth season will take place on Jeju Island, which hasn’t lost its allure despite being a popular filming spot for reality shows. This is the first time we’ll see them as a group and messing around in a sustained fashion since, I guess, 2018. They have their chaotic album countdowns, but nothing beats Level Up Project for sheer Red Velvet foolery.
Season 5 premieres September 23rd. I’ll have to wait for the English subtitles to roll in.