[Review] Red Velvet get adventurous with spontaneously fun “Sappy”

Japanese releases are often telegraphed weeks (and sometimes months) ahead of a time, but SM Entertainment artists seem to drop their J-pop music videos whenever they like. “Sappy” was only teased yesterday, and here it is today. That sense of spontaneity is kind of fun, and matches the adventurous structure of the song itself.

Red Velvet’s last Japanese single, “#CookieJar“, presented a relatively straightforward burst of sugary pop with brass influences. In many ways, “Sappy” feels like its mischievous cousin, bolstering its hooks with off-kilter tempo shifts and unexpected instrumental loops.

The song kicks off with a rubbery electronic beat and descending harmonies that remind me of 2013/14-era f(x). From here, the instrumental takes a mind-bending break into off-tempo, brass-driven madness before reverting to a more standard sense of electronic propulsion. This is jarring at first, but that’s the point. Unlike the off-putting vocal runs of “Really Bad Boy, “Sappy” knows how to use its oddball arrangement to its advantage.

The chorus brings back the brass, punctuating it with a chant-like vocal hook supported by those same airy vocals from the song’s first few seconds. These elements may seem incongruous on paper, but they come together to form an addictive sound collage. I especially love the contrast between the old-fashioned — almost vaudevillian — brass riff and the ultra-modern electro percussion.

Through it all, Red Velvet deliver a robust performance that gives us big vocal moments without going overboard. Like much of their more experimental work, “Sappy” won’t be for everyone. But, the more you hear it, the more its charms begin to pull you in.

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