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‘Chill Kill’ Review: A Smothering in Red Velvet’s Talented Vocals and Rich Storytelling

4.5 Stars

Red Velvet released Chill Kill on Nov. 13.
Red Velvet released Chill Kill on Nov. 13. By Courtesy of Red Velvet / SM Entertainment
By June K. Park, Crimson Staff Writer

Six years after their last studio album, Red Velvet returns triumphantly with their third studio album, “Chill Kill,” and displays one of their most mature musical masteries to date. Whereas Red Velvet’s first studio album, “The Red” represents the bold, addictive pop, “red” side, and their second studio album “Perfect Velvet” demonstrates the darker, classy “velvet” side of their musicality — “Chill Kill” is the perfect marriage of “red” and “velvet” to produce the quintessential “Red Velvet” sound. The new release is packed with ten intense songs that smother listeners with the quintet’s talented vocals and rich storytelling to create one of Red Velvet’s most dangerously delightful and ambitious albums yet.

When asked about the curious title of the album and its namesake song “Chill Kill,” Joy, one of the members, wrote in a press release that “the term Chill Kill refers to a situation or a person that disrupts the silence. The song is about missing Chill Kill even though it changed one’s world. It also sings about wanting hope.” Thus, in addition to the union of “red” and “velvet” sounds, this album explores a new duality: hopefulness and tragedy.

These two dualities are explored in the album’s title track and namesake “Chill Kill.” The song starts with vibrating synths, haunting vocals, and a gliding bass to mark the beginning with eeriness and mystery. However, as soon as listeners think that this song will be another dark, mature “velvet” track, the chorus hits listeners with unexpected brightness and catchiness that characterizes the group’s “red” side. This sonic switch-up has had mixed opinions among listeners who were often thrown off by the bright melody. But, the chorus is more complex than just cookie cutter brightness — underneath all of the vocals and chords are devastating lyrics that speak about both hope and tragedy: “Don't think about tomorrow / Forget about your sorrow / Gonna change, and you can't leave me / Tears down my cheeks melting that ice.” The song continues to build in dramatic instrumentation and intricately stacked vocals, including Joy’s ethereal vocalization of “Until the end ('Til the end of time, yeah, yeah) / End of time,” before catapulting into a grandiose final chorus. The five members sing together for what seems like a conclusive end until the final line sung by Irene. With Irene’s haunting vocals, “Chill Kill” ends on an unfinished and even uneasy note, which wraps up an unpredictable, but complex musical journey showcasing the best combination of “red” and “velvet” yet from the group.

For those who want more of Red Velvet’s “velvet” side, the second song on the album, “Knock Knock (Who’s There?)” fulfills that craving, serving as the darker counterpart to “Chill Kill.” The five members lean into their eerie vocals as if they are sirens calling the listeners into a mysterious game to create a song worthy of Halloween playlists. Meanwhile, the fifth song on the album, “Nightmare,” develops an unexpected chorus that sounds like a Christmas carol because of its chord progression and inclusion of bells in spite of its Halloween-esque title. Moreover, this track features varied vocal techniques from Yeri’s rapping to Irene’s whispering to Wendy’s ad-libs that make a delightful listen on top of the holiday touches.

Throughout the album, Red Velvet flexed their musical storytelling skills through diverse lyrics and unique sounds. “One Kiss” utilized crunchy rhythms and pounding bass to feature lyrics boasting Red Velvet’s ability to captivate anyone with just one kiss. “Bulldozer” is another high-energy song, but a bit slower and groovier than the previous song, with catchy sound effects and one of the most memorable lyrics of the entire album: “I’m your poet / I'm your pain.” Meanwhile, “Will I Ever See You Again?” takes listeners on a musical journey through an addictive, flowy synth melody. However, the best song on the album for storytelling was “Underwater.” This unique track begins with a dreamy solo by vocalist Seulgi before passing vocal duties to the other members who each have their turn at the beautiful melody. “Underwater” cleverly uses the suave melody, sound production, and delightful vocal performances to make the song sound like it’s actually underwater.

Red Velvet proves again that they are the Queens of the B-Sides. In addition to some of the cutest lyrics connecting falling in love to drinking coffee, “Iced Coffee” features softer Red Velvet vocals, especially as members harmonize across different registers. “Wings” starts off strong with serene acapella harmonized woos from the five members. The vocals continue to float above the instrumentals and the ad-libs from all of the members at the end of the song are gorgeous. The album then ends with “Scenery,” which is a slow, swaying song that gives another opportunity for the members to demonstrate their unique vocal tones and colors.

Despite its collective success, there is one missed opportunity with the album: the lack of Korean traditional instruments. From the album teaser images to the packaging, Red Velvet boldly draws from and pays homage to traditional Korean culture and aesthetics. For example, the album logo is cleverly designed with the English letters in “Red Velvet” to look like Hanja (Chinese characters used in the writing of Korean). However, the sound production of the album featured many modern instruments and techniques like synths, but no influence from Korean traditional music. Korean traditional instruments could have added such a depth of eeriness and longing to the more “velvet” songs — perhaps even to the title track of “Chill Kill.”

Nonetheless, “Chill Kill” is a dynamic album that features the depth of Red Velvet’s abilities as multidimensional artists who showcase not just their “red” or “velvet” sides but their full Red Velvet capabilities. The album allows all five members’ vocals to shine and directs listeners down a magical, mysterious musical journey, making the six years between studio albums worth the wait.


—Staff writer June K. Park can be reached at june.park@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @junekimpark.

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