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Red Velvet (Hangul: 레드벨벳) is a South Korean girl group formed by SM Entertainment. The group debuted on August 1, 2014, with their digital single "Happiness" and with four members: Irene, Seulgi, Wendy and Joy. In March 2015, Red Velvet added a fifth member, Yeri, to the group.
Since their debut, Red Velvet has earned success and recognition. Their first EP, Ice Cream Cake, topped the Gaon Album Chart in early 2015. Similarly, the group's first full-length album The Red (2015) and the extended plays The Velvet, Russian Roulette, both released in 2016, and Rookie (2017) all reached number 1 on the Gaon Album Chart. Additionally, The Red, Rookie and The Red Summer (2017) also topped the Billboard World Albums, and with the release of their second studio album Perfect Velvet (2017), they became the K-pop girl group with the most number-one albums on the chart and tied for most number-one albums among all K-pop acts. They have received several awards for music, choreography, or popularity, including the Golden Disc New Artist Award and the Mnet Asian Music Award for Best Female Group in 2017.
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 2011. In 2012, Wendy and Joy were cast through the SM Global Auditions in Canada and Seoul respectively. Irene and Seulgi were introduced initially to the public through the agency's pre-debut team SM Rookies 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).
2014–2015: Debut, new member Yeri, Ice Cream Cake and The Red
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.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 Billboard's World Digital Songs chart.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 which 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".
2016–2017: The Velvet, Russian Roulette, Rookie, The Red Summer and Perfect Velvet
Red Velvet's second mini album The Velvet was intended to be released on March 16, 2016, but ten minutes before its scheduled release, 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 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 contains 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 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 contains six tracks including the title track "Rookie", and a solo track by Wendy entitled "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 showed footage of the girls' trip to Thailand. It lasted for 23 episodes and was filmed without member Joy who was busy at the time shooting the drama The Liar and His Lover where she was the female lead.
On July 9, Red Velvet released their fifth EP The Red Summer with the title track "Red Flavor" (빨간 맛), which marked 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 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 also charting in the Top 50.Between August 18–20, 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 date 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 November 6. There, 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 be taken to 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, which was cemented further when Perfect Velvet sold over 100,000 copies and "Peek-A-Boo" won on the music program Inkigayo on their last day of promotions for the song, proving its longevity on the charts.
2018: The Perfect Red Velvet, #Cookie Jar and Summer Magic
The group released their first repackaged album, The Perfect Red Velvet, on January 29, 2018. This included three 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.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 April 1, 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, and also, notably, 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 (read as Hashtag 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 songs also include "#Cookie Jar" ,"Aitai-tai", and "'Cause It's You". 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 they would be making a comeback soon, 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 seven tracks, including one bonus track. In September and October, "Redmare" was taken to Bangkok, Taipei and Singapore.
Red Velvet is known for their dual concept which has never been seen before among South Korean girl groups. These two concepts are dubbed 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.
Their music falls under two themes which corresponds to their two concepts. Because the "red" side is more youthful, it is predominantly pop, while their sophisticated "velvet" side heavily features the R&B and ballad genres. Both sides aren't limited to these genres, however. KookMin Ilbo noted that their music isn't as simple as being "dance" vs. "ballad" and are often mixed with other elements. Their debut single "Happiness" which was considered as their first song under the "red" concept, is an urban europop song fused with an intense synth sound and an African music beat. Their second single "Be Natural" saw a completely different image of the group and is described as classic R&B, which embodies their "velvet" side.
Their first extended play Ice Cream Cake presented their dual concept for the first time, and they promoted with two singles, the R&B/neo-soul "Automatic" and the dance-pop song "Ice Cream Cake". The music videos of each song showed the contrast between the two concepts as "Ice Cream Cake"'s had a colorful, playful setting with a fast-paced choreography while the "Automatic" music video had a darker theme and more sensual dance. Billboard's Jeff Benjamin stated that the album "did a good job at establishing the two sides of their musical identity". Their first studio album The Red which focuses solely on the "red" side of their music was followed up by the EP The Velvet, focusing on their "velvet" songs as the title suggests. The group's first summer album titled The Red Summer with the lead single "Red Flavor", once again focused on their "red" concept, after two releases (Russian Roulette, Rookie) without separating the two. The tracks from their second studio album Perfect Velvet were still considered as part of the "velvet" side of their music but with hints of 'Red', which their company believed is the perfect formula for the concept, hence the title. While The Velvet was still a commercial success, it was one of the group's least successful single and album. Critics claimed that the release of the EP was a crucial step to introduce the "velvet" side to the public, but ultimately it was Perfect Velvet that allowed it to gain recognition. The album, which incorporates not only R&B tracks and ballads as was expected from their "velvet" concept, also features dance-pop, electronic pop, disco and even elements of hip-hop. Upon its release, the group was praised for their versatility and it was hailed as one of the most diverse albums by a K-pop artist.This 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". On the other hand, they are dressed more maturely for their "velvet" side, most notably, when the girls wore suits for "Be Natural". The group has been compared to their S.M. Entertainment seniors, Girls' Generation and f(x), with a consensus that while Girls' Generation in their early years released the standard bubblegum pop with a feminine image expected from most girl groups and f(x) is recognized for their electropop-based music and experimental style, Red Velvet is seen as a combination of the two, but still on a class of their own. Paul Bowler of uDiscover Music remarked that the group was "designed to combine the sophistication of f(x) with the effervescence of Girls' Generation". Alexis Hodoyan-Gastelum of Idolator also commented that "If Girls' Generation is the eldest sister who is classy and square, and f(x) is the cool, alternative middle sister, Red Velvet is the youngest one who steals the middle sister's clothes, acts like the eldest, but is still a bit weird."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 and commented that "They're neither sexy nor innocent, with music videos that are often dark, trippy, sinister, or haunting, even when they're flooded in pastel colours". The group addressed this in an interview with HYPEBAE in August 2018 and commented that they're "always in a dilemma about how to express themselves in a new way". In 2017, IZE Magazine named the group as one of the successful female figures who helped transform the "passive image" of South Korean women at a time when feminism had risen as an issue in the country. The group's music also sets them apart from other K-pop artists. K-pop idols in general suffer from a prejudice that they aren't considered "real artists" by music critics in their native country. Because of the group's diverse musical inspirations and styles, they claimed that Red Velvet has pushed the boundaries of "idol music".
In February 2018, Time magazine named Red Velvet as one of the best K-pop groups, highlighting their versatile musical styles. Red Velvet was 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 fifth 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.