Red Velvet (Hangul: 레드벨벳) is a South Korean girl group formed by SM Entertainment. The group debuted on August 1, 2014, with the digital single “Happiness” and four group members: Irene, Seulgi, Wendy and Joy. In March 2015, Yeri was added into the group.
Since their debut, Red Velvet has released two studio albums, one reissue album, and seven extended plays in Korean, with eight of them topping South Korea’s Gaon Album Chart. Their singles “Ice Cream Cake”, “Dumb Dumb”, “Russian Roulette”, “Rookie”, “Peek-a-Boo”, “Bad Boy” have all charted in the top five of the Gaon Digital Chart, while their singles “Red Flavor” and “Power Up” topped the chart upon their release. Additionally, they made their Japanese debut in July 2018 with the extended play #Cookie Jar. They are regarded as one of the most popular K-pop groups worldwide by Time and Billboard and have received several awards for music, choreography, and popularity, including the Golden Disc New Artist Award and the Mnet Asian Music Award for Best Female Group in 2017. The director of the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange while discussing the Korean Wave in 2018 cited Red Velvet as a major contributor and one of the country’s most talented idol groups who have “largely promoted K-pop”.
Red Velvet is known for their ‘dual concept’ dubbed as their “red” and “velvet” sides which influences their styling and the music they release. The group’s “red” half produces singles predominantly of the pop genre due to its bright and more youthful nature. Their singles “Ice Cream Cake”, “Dumb Dumb” and “Red Flavor” are such examples. Their more mature “velvet” concept has spawned tracks primarily in the R&B genre. Their singles “Automatic” and “Bad Boy” are considered to be part of the ‘velvet” concept. They often incorporate other genres for the two sides, mixing them with genres such as electronic pop, hip-hop and disco. This dual concept has earned the group international praise for their versatility and diverse music.
Seulgi was the first member to be cast as an SM Entertainment trainee through an audition in 2007, while Irene was cast in 2009, and Yeri in 2010. In 2012, Wendy and Joy were cast through the SM Global Auditions in Canada and Seoul respectively. Preparations for Red Velvet began in late 2013, through SM Entertainment’s trainee group SM Rookies. Irene and Seulgi were introduced initially to the public through the said project team in 2013, followed by Wendy in 2014. The three members were rumored to debut as a group in July, which was then confirmed by SM Entertainment. With the addition of member Joy, the four-member group would debut as Red Velvet, SM Entertainment’s first girl group in five years since f(x).
On August 1, 2014, Red Velvet made their official debut stage on the music program Music Bank. Their debut single, “Happiness”, was digitally released on August 4. The song was penned by Yoo Young-jin and composed by Will Simms, Chad Hugo (The Neptunes), Chris Holsten, and Anne Judith Wik (Dsign Music). It was described as an urban Europop song with a strong synth sound and an African tribal beat. The original music video for “Happiness” gained more than 2 million views on YouTube in its first 24 hours of release before being removed due to controversy over problematic background images and replaced with an edited version. “Happiness” was the second-most viewed K-pop music video worldwide for the month of August in 2014. Red Velvet is also the first K-pop girl group to send their debut single to the Billboard charts, where it peaked at number 4.
Red Velvet released their second digital single “Be Natural” and its music video on October 13, 2014. The song, which includes a rap verse by NCT member Taeyong, is a remake of the 2000 song of the same name by S.E.S., SM Entertainment’s first girl group. The music video for the song was directed by Kwon Soon-wook and Shim Jae-won, choreographed by Kyle Hanagami, and features original choreography seen in a pre-debut teaser of Irene and Seulgi, which they performed as part of SM Rookies. The group started their promotions on October 9, making their first appearance on the music program, M Countdown. The song peaked at number 33 on the Gaon Digital Chart and at number 6 on the Billboard World Digital Songs chart. For their debut, Red Velvet went on to win “Rookie of The Year” at the Golden Disk Awards and the Seoul Music Awards.
On March 11, 2015, SM Rookies member Yeri was officially announced as part of the group. On March 15, the group’s first mini-album Ice Cream Cake was released. The group promoted with double lead singles “Automatic” and “Ice Cream Cake” for which the music videos were released on March 14 and 15. On March 19, the group held their album showcase on Ice Cream TV, a program streamed through Naver Music and hosted by Shinee’s Minho. On March 27, they won their first music show trophy on KBS’s Music Bank. The album went on to become the best selling album by a girl group in South Korea for the first half of 2015 on the Hanteo Chart. In August 2015, Red Velvet held their first U.S. performance during the annual KCON convention and music festival in Los Angeles, California.
Red Velvet’s first full-length album, The Red, was released on September 9, 2015, with a total of ten tracks including the lead single “Dumb Dumb”. The album was an immediate success as it was received positively by critics. Billboard’s Jeff Benjamin called The Red “an impressive, solid debut album”, stating that it “indicates big things for the act that needs to follow in the footsteps of their beloved female label mates Girls’ Generation and f(x).” The Red debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s World Albums Chart and South Korea’s Gaon Album Chart, and also appeared in Billboard’s list of the “10 Best K-Pop Albums of 2015”, which described the album as “one of the year’s most enjoyable and experimental pop LPs.” “Dumb Dumb” peaked at number three on Billboard World Digital Songs chart, making it the best-selling K-pop song in America of the week. The single also topped the list of the “Top 20 K-pop Tracks of 2015” by Dazed, which stated that the group has “surpassed their idol competitors” and “marked a monumental, career-crowning musical tornado”. The music video for “Dumb Dumb” was included as the only non-English language entry in Rolling Stone’s “10 Best Music Videos of 2015”. On December 18, the group took part in S.M. Entertainment’s special winter project Winter Garden, alongside label-mates f(x) and BoA, releasing a digital single titled “Wish Tree”.
Red Velvet’s second mini album The Velvet was intended to be released on March 16, 2016, however, S.M. Entertainment announced that the music video and album’s release would be delayed “to guarantee a high quality of work”. The album and its title track “One of These Nights” (Korean title: 7월 7일) was only released on March 17. The album showcases the smooth R&B-influenced “velvet” side of the group’s concept and is a direct follow-up album to The Red, which highlighted the group’s bright and bold “red” persona.
The group released their third extended play Russian Roulette on September 7. The album consisted of seven tracks, with the lead single titled “Russian Roulette”. On September 13, 2016, Red Velvet took their first music show win for Russian Roulette on The Show. The title track also peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart and Billboard’s World Digital Songs chart, making it their highest rankings on both charts at the time.
On February 1, 2017, Red Velvet released their fourth mini album, Rookie. The EP consisted of six tracks; it featured the title track “Rookie” and a solo track by Wendy titled “Last Love” (마지막 사랑). The album topped the Weekly Gaon Album Chart as well as the Billboard World Albums Chart. The group took their first music show win for “Rookie” on The Show on February 7, followed by wins on Show Champion, M Countdown, Music Bank, and Inkigayo. On March 31, the group released the first single for SM Station 2, titled “Would U”. For further promotions, from July 27 to September 10, Red Velvet starred in their first reality television program, Level Up Project which showcased the footage of the their trip to Thailand. The show aired for 23 episodes, and was shot without member Joy who was filming the drama The Liar and His Lover where she was the female lead.
On July 9, Red Velvet released their first summer special extended play The Red Summer with the title track “Red Flavor” (빨간 맛). It was their first summer release. The EP was a commercial success, again topping the Gaon Album Chart and the Billboard World Albums Chart. This was their third number 1 release and it set the record for most number 1 albums on the chart by a K-pop girl group. Additionally, “Red Flavor” debuted atop the Gaon Digital Chart with the other four songs from the EP also charting in the Top 50.
On August 18, the group held their first solo concert titled “Red Room” to an audience of 11,000. Although it was initially planned to be a two-day concert, another day was added due to demand. On October 4, SM Entertainment announced through their Japanese website that the group would have their first showcase in Japan. “Red Velvet Premium Showcase F’U’N Room Reveluv-Baby Party” took place at the Yebisu The Garden Hall in Tokyo on October 23. They performed the Japanese versions of their Korean songs “Dumb Dumb” and “Red Flavor” for the first time. After wrapping up the showcase, it was officially announced that Red Velvet’s concert “Red Room” would take place in Japan in 2018.
Red Velvet revisited their “velvet” image by releasing their second full-length album Perfect Velvet on November 17 with the lead single “Peek-a-Boo”. Unlike their first “velvet” release, the album and single were both commercially successful. The album peaked atop Billboard’s World Album Chart. “Peek-a-Boo” peaked at number 2 on Billboard’s World Digital Songs chart, tying with their 2016 single “Russian Roulette”. In South Korea, the album and the single “Peek-a-Boo” both charted at number 2 on the Gaon Album Chart and Gaon Digital Chart. Through the release of Rookie, The Red Summer and Perfect Velvet all in the same year, along with the popularity of the single “Red Flavor” (which according to Jung Ji-won of Osen best represents the year of 2017), and the success of their albums overseas, Red Velvet achieved a “top girl group” status in South Korea; their status was further cemented when Perfect Velvet sold over 100,000 copies and “Peek-A-Boo” won first place on the music program Inkigayo on their last day of promotions for the song, proving its longevity on the charts.
The group released a reissue of Perfect Velvet, The Perfect Red Velvet, on January 29, 2018. It included five new tracks in addition to all the songs from Perfect Velvet, with the single “Bad Boy” promoted as its title track.
The album topped the Gaon Album Chart upon its release while “Bad Boy” debuted at number 2 on the Gaon Digital Chart. The Perfect Red Velvet also charted at number 3 on Billboard’s World Albums chart while “Bad Boy” debuted at number 2 on its World Digital Songs chart. Red Velvet also entered the Top 10 of Billboard’s Social 50 chart for the first time, charting at number nine. The album also marked the first time the group has appeared on the Canadian Hot 100 and charted at number 87, becoming only the seventh K-pop artist and the third female act to appear on the chart. Red Velvet promoted the song on various South Korean music shows, earning their first music show win for “Bad Boy” on February 8 on Show Champion. In December, Billboard chose “Bad Boy” as the best K-pop song of the year.
Red Velvet’s solo concert “Red Room” was held in Tokyo, Japan on March 28 and 29 at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza, a 10,000-seat capacity venue that will later be used for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On the second day, the group announced that they would be officially debuting in Japan in July through a song release. On May 29, 2018, Red Velvet performed alongside other selected South Korean artists for an inter-Korean concert in Pyongyang, North Korea. This makes them the first artist from SM Entertainment in fifteen years since Shinhwa to perform in North Korea.
On April 29, 2018, Red Velvet held their first fan meeting in Chicago, to an audience of 4,000. The event was held at Rosemont Theater, it was a,sk the first solo performance from a female K-pop group in the United States since 2016. The group toured six Japanese cities in May and June, reaching a total audience of 20,000. Their debut Japanese EP, titled #Cookie Jar, was released on July 4, 2018 by the label Avex Trax, and included six new songs including the Japanese versions of “Dumb Dumb”, “Russian Roulette” and “Red Flavor”. The other songs were “#Cookie Jar” ,”Aitai-tai”, and “‘It’s Your Fault”. The EP debuted at the third spot of the Oricon Weekly Albums chart and sold 26,124 copies on its first week of release in Japan.
On July 19, 2018, Red Velvet announced that they would be making a comeback, and they had filmed their music video outdoors in Gyeonggi-do. The songs from the new album were performed at Red Velvet’s second concert “Redmare”, held in Seoul on August 4–5. On August 6, Red Velvet released their second summer special EP Summer Magic containing eight tracks, including one bonus track and one iTunes exclusive special audio track. Its lead single “Power Up” allowed the group to achieve a “perfect all-kill” for the first time in their career after it topped all of South Korea’s real-time music charts upon its release. The music video for “Power Up” went on to be the only K-pop music video to be included in Billboard’s list of 50 best music videos of 2018. In September and October, “Redmare” was taken to Bangkok, Taipei and Singapore.
On November 9, the company announced that Red Velvet will release their third album in the year and their fifth EP in total. The EP, titled RBB, was released on November 30. It consisted of six tracks,the lead singles being “RBB (Really Bad Boy)” and its English version.
Red Velvet plays on what they call their “red” and “velvet” sides, which influences both their image and the music they release. The “red” half is their brighter and bubblier side while their “velvet” image is their softer, more mature and elegant concept.
The ‘red’ half of the group’s music is predominantly of the pop genre while the ‘velvet’ is primarily R&B and ballads, with the group often mixing it with various genres.
Red Velvet’s dual image also affects the members’ styling. For their “red” concept, they are usually dressed in colorful, girlish clothing, such as the pastel sweaters and skirts from “Ice Cream Cake” or the red doll outfits from “Dumb Dumb”. They are dressed more maturely for their “velvet” side, most notably, when the girls wore suits for “Be Natural”.
Red Velvet has been lauded for breaking stereotypes among popular girl groups in South Korea whose concepts tend to fall under two categories which are “cute or pure” and “sexy”, often to fulfill a certain fantasy. In a country where girl groups’ fanbases are typically mostly male, according to Taylor Glasby of Dazed Digital, the majority of Red Velvet’s fans are young women. IZE Magazine named the group as one of the successful female figures who helped transform the “passive image” of South Korean women. Billboard reported in December 2018 that Red Velvet was the overall favorite k-pop group of the year among every gender and sexual identity on the popular internet forum Reddit.
In February 2018, Time magazine named Red Velvet as one of the best K-pop groups, highlighting their versatile musical styles. Red Velvet was also recognized for their brand recognition and marketing power, having topped the ‘Girl Group Brand Power Ranking’ published by the Korean Corporate Reputation Research Institute for three consecutive months.
Red Velvet performed in Pyongyang on April 1, 2018. This made them the seventh idol group to ever perform in North Korea. They performed “Red Flavor” and “Bad Boy” at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre to an audience including Kim Jong-un. The concert was billed as “Spring is Coming” and is part of a wider diplomatic initiative between South Korea and North Korea. In October of the same year, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism awarded the group the ‘Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Commendation’ for their contributions in raising awareness of the country’s popular culture and arts. The director of the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange while discussing the Korean Wave in 2018 cited Red Velvet as a major contributor and one of the country’s most talented idol groups who have “largely promoted K-pop”.