Friday, September 20th, 2019

Red Velvet – Umpah Umpah

It’s certainly no “Rumper Pumper”


Kayla Beardslee: This is a perfect song… for the end credits of a Disney Channel Original Movie. Hooray, the love interests at this summer camp finally get to hold hands! As an actual piece of music, however, this is corny, unoriginal, and unnecessary, made worse by the knowledge that Red Velvet can do so much better.

Michael Hong: It’s not until directly after the final chorus that you get a real sense for what this is, with the five girls singing in unison over handclaps revealing it to be a glorified High School Musical 2 soundtrack. Beyond that, “Umpah Umpah” is simply content with acting as a reference point for previous tracks, most notably with the bubbly bass and distorted male vocals that recall “Red Flavor.” Unfortunately, “Umpah Umpah” isn’t quite as unforgettable as teased, the whole thing blowing past you like a fresh summer breeze. It’s warm and refreshing, but it doesn’t quite stick and the entire thing just feels like a showcase for Joy, Seulgi, and Wendy to do their high note. Everything in between is just far too campy, too childish, and too juvenile, like a regression back to Ice Cream Cake or The Red without the bulletproof hooks that rattle around your brain for eternity. At least the self-referential rap is a lot more tolerable than the awkward “Dumb Dumb” references to Michael Jackson.

Alex Clifton: Oh thank God! “Zimzalabim” was a fluke and Red Velvet have gone back to giving me grade-A summertime bubblegum. It’s a bit dorky — the shout-outs to title tracks of years gone by don’t make a whole lot of sense, but then this is also the band that forced a bunch of Michael Jackson references into a delightfully bonkers single — though I find it endearing and not cloying. Dorkiness doesn’t matter when you’ve got a magic moment where the bass drops out and all we have is acapella vocals and clapping. When that happens, I want to run out a window and fly because my heart feels so light. Red Velvet’s music consistently delivers small electric thrills, and “Umpah Umpah” is no different.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I’m reminded of SNSD’s “Party,” which is to say that this is moderately catchy and extremely joyless. The girls sound like they’re on autopilot, and the vocal sample that gurgles the titular line is a trick that was done better on “Red Flavor.”

Katie Gill: Summer songs are a state of mind, even when logically speaking, they should have been released earlier in the summer. “Umpah Umpah” is a bright, sunny, fun jam that’s catchy as hell, but whose main failing is that Red Velvet have already basically released it at least twice, and that both of those times were way better.

Jessica Doyle: If this were a nugu group, I’d probably be more generous in the scoring. (Although I listened to this and the similarly summer-themed “Tiki Taka” by Weki Meki, and I’m honestly not sure which one I’d be more likely to replay in the future.) But from Red Velvet it sounds like filler. The name-checking in the rap, itself a callback to “Dumb Dumb,” just serves to remind us that there are better and more ambitious songs in the group’s discography. (Actually, now that I think of it, you could say the same thing about Weki Meki.)

Alfred Soto: Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” hook cleaned and re-presented in a polyurethane shell — why has it taken this long? 

Katherine St Asaph: The relentlessly cheery, sparkle-polished teenpop, something like a Hoku-A*Teens collaboration, is almost worth its title getting the Oliver! song stuck in my head.

Joshua Lu: Being a fan of Red Velvet over the past few years has been difficult, as their output has tended to oscillate between being pointlessly weird or mincing and disposable. “Umpah Umpah” easily falls into the latter category (even with that very weird and very pointless second verse self-tribute), its hollow cheeriness reminiscent of the High School Musical soundtrack or a Twice b-side. “Something unforgettable” this is not.

Reader average: [6.71] (7 votes)

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2 Responses to “Red Velvet – Umpah Umpah”

  1. I am in pain hearing this budget version of Red Velvet. Luckily, the absolute stunner “Eyes Locked, Hands Locked” is included in Day 2 to save the day.

  2. The chorus is very addictive. This is the perfect summer song.