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Tag: red velvet

Red Velvet Appreciation Post: Body Talk

I don’t think I’ve talked about Red Velvet on this particular blog. Red Velvet has a special place in my heart.

One of the fun side-along problems with my autoimmune problems has been a propensity to depression and melancholy. I don’t think I’ll ever shake my love of melancholy, but after cleaning up my diet, I no longer get depressed or on a melancholy streak or “coffee depression” like I once did.

I know this, because I’ve started listening to much happier music. Namely, k-pop. Red Velvet was one of the groups that clued me into this, because in the past I never would have been able to listen to “pop” music for a long period of time without it grating on my nerves for going against whatever (bad) mood I was in.

Now, Red Velvet is a very R&B-inflected pop group who doesn’t shy away from dark themes and minor keys, so it’s pop that is very much in line with my melancholy tendencies. It’s just way happier overall.

So when I realized that I was listening to almost nothing but k-pop, I realized that on the whole I was in a much better mood, and had been for a few months. I realized this while listening to Red Velvet’s “Ice Cream Cake,” which is still one of my favorites.

Specifically about Body Talk, tho

“Body Talk” is one of my favorite b-sides from Red Velvet. (For those of you new to k-pop, a b-side is basically any song published by a group that’s not a title track–the ones with the music videos that are used for promotion.) It’s a fantastic example of the RV girls doing their best R&B-inflected singing, and I am particularly fond of atmospheric, orchestral pop arrangements. The harmonies are lush and the chord progression is really interesting. As with most k-pop I listen to, it’s better with headphones.

I also really like how it reminds me of those late-80s fantasy movies with the synth-heavy theme songs.

Always A/B Testing

One of the things I admire most about SM Entertainment is that they are constantly iterating and A/B testing the groups, songs, and concepts that they produce.

If you pay attention to how they operate as an entity, rather than focusing exclusively on one of their groups, you can see a real-time example of why they’re one of the biggest entertainment groups in k-pop.

They’ve created entire “entertainment properties” to showcase this A/B testing.

SM Rookies

Before NCT debuted as its various subgroups, SM conducted rigorous testing through the online series SM Rookies. They tried out various different configurations of trainee groups. Sometimes this is really rough, as with the “SR15B dance practice” video, or music-video quality in the case of “Bassbot” and “Super Moon.”

“Super Moon” is interesting because of the three members–Taeyong, Johnny, and Hansol–featured in it, Hansol did not debut with any NCT units. In fact, he’s no longer under contract with SM Entertainment.

I suspect this is because Hansol has an almost identical “look” as Yuta, who did debut with NCT 127.

[Warning: unknown quantities of confirmation bias ahead.]

With male groups, SM tends to assemble a variety of different types. For example, if you compare a photo of EXO with a photo of BTS, you can see what I mean. EXO members each have their own charm, while–with the exception of Rap Monster–BTS members have a similar vibe. NCT is no exception to this, as you can label each member as “The ______ One” even if you know nothing about their personalities.

If you compare Hansol and Yuta in other footage from SM Rookies, Yuta is hungrier. Despite being Japanese, Yuta has been described as “more Korean than the Koreans.” You can literally watch Yuta work solidify his status as “the sexy one” as NCT 127 has practiced, promoted, and performed “Cherry Bomb” this year. (I have the YouTube receipts for this–let me know in the comments if you want me to post them.)

From my completely outsider perspective, it makes sense that if you have two trainees who look almost identical but have different work ethics, you’ll pick the one who is going to work harder.

SM Station

One of SM’s staples on YouTube is SM Station, which features single songs that are collaborations, off-brand concepts for an existing group, or other “random” things. There are a lot of fun songs under this umbrella. (Don’t mind me plugging my boy Chen again.)

Right now, I suspect that they’re testing a subgroup or solo venture featuring Wendy from Red Velvet. In the past months, she’s been featured in two different SM Station releases.

One is a jazz version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which prominently features the fact that she’s an English speaker and a strong vocalist.

The other is a collaboration with singers Baek a Yeon and Jaehyun (from NCT). Another seasonal song, called “The Little Match Girl,” but it’s in Korean and puts Wendy’s voice in a different context than Red Velvet.

SM is also simultaneously running a test between Jaehyun and Doyoung as soloists from NCT 127. Jaehyun has gotten two SM Station songs so far versus Doyoung’s one (although Doyoung has been featured in some live stages), so we’ll have to wait and see what comes of this.

The one downside that I can see is that all of the tests attract at least some fans, so you still have a small contingent of NCT stans who wonder about Hansol. I could see this building up into ill will if SM made the wrong decision, but clearly NCT is succeeding reasonably well without Hansol so I doubt it will become a huge problem. I could see this negative feedback being another metric to check your decisions against.

I don’t really know what SM’s intentions are with SM Station, or what the outcome will be.If I can figure out a way to reverse-engineer YouTube views I’ll see if I can put together a predictive post.

In the meantime, I’m determined to learn from SM how to A/B test in real time while also producing quality product that people enjoy. The sheer volume of content that they produce is staggering, and I don’t doubt that it has a direct correlation with why they are so successful.

Photo editing impacts fashion styling

It’s the power of cropping, folks.

I never realized what I huge difference the crop can make. The potential difference is rather obvious when it comes to composition (at least, for any of us 90s kids who grew up watching the “formatted for your TV” version of so many movies — I still remember that moment when I realized that the VHS version cropped out 30% of each shot!), since the surface area show of a photo directly impacts what parts of its subject are shown.

However, you wouldn’t think that the crop of a photo would mess with the styling impact of its subject.

You would be wrong.

Now, keep in mind that K-pop groups are usually styled for group effect, so that particular tropes and/or colors are balanced among the members. This outfit set was clearly designed for Wendy at the center (for once!!).

Consider this photo of Red Velvet that was posted on allkpop earlier today.

Top: Yeri, Joy, Irene / Bottom: Wendy, boots, Seulgi

Not bad. They look good — no clashing reds — and other than the fact that plaid-clad Wendy is not in the center of the photo, all seems to be well.

Except…Joy’s black boots. They stick out like a sore thumb. Even though they are similar in shape and tone to Joy and Seulgi’s long dark hair, there is something eye-pulling and offputting about those dang boots. They don’t belong in that sea of red.

As a result, the photo seems off balance. This is exacerbated by the fact that the torsos of the girls in the bottom row have been dramatically shortened by the crop, also lending an off-balance feel.

Here’s the original photo:

Much better, right?

Those boots just fade into the background, leaving a naturally-occuring visual hole that would have otherwise been filled by the dark wood of the stops behind the group.

The girls can breathe, the color palette makes sense — the bottle green floor makes a huge difference in offsetting all that red — and the spacing is not overly formal but still balanced.

This is a picture that makes sense.

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