Monday, January 13th, 2020

Red Velvet – Psycho

You drive me crazy…


Ryo Miyauchi: Mania as portrayed in “Psycho” is too choreographed to feel like genuine anxiety or horror watching the crash-and-burn narrative unfold. It plays into what you’d expect from dark Red Velvet: goth brass pomp, orchestral plucks, vocal trills that show just enough crack in the otherwise pristine performance. The ease with which they summarize their experience with that titular hook doesn’t help either. It’s all too controlled for it to come off as the mess they try to make it out to be.

Ashley Bardhan: I do kind of wish we were past the point of self-identifying as “psycho” because we’re in love, but since I don’t know Korean, I will assume this isn’t “Sweet but Psycho” levels of egregious and let it slide. The synth loop sounds like a sugar-high waterfall, which I like, especially when it pours into that brassy, jump-roping chorus. It makes me think of people dancing in slow motion. Nothing too crazy about that.

Jessica Doyle: For those delicate strings, the restrained singing, and the closing refrain that everything’s going to be okay, “psycho” is the wrong word to repeat. (Pabo, which means “fool,” might have been better.) I suspect the goal was to reach that sense of skewness that powered previous singles — think the self-deprecating, amused depiction of infatuation in “Dumb Dumb” and “Rookie,” or, more to the point here, the combination of menacing lyrics and early-video-game innocence of “Russian Roulette.” But here the suggestion of a relationship gone dangerously out of control never quite convinces, and Red Velvet come across as less desperate than bored.

Joshua Lu: I feel like I should be more excited about what’s being heralded as a return to form for an excellent girl group with a middling 2019, but “Psycho” isn’t nearly demented enough to match Red Velvet’s peaks. A title like that coming from a group like this sets expectations of what kind of craziness is to come, but instead they deliver Ava Max levels of psychosis, with bland verses that are too neatly set and a chorus that’s mushy and lethargic, with or without the music video version’s added strings. Not even the lyrics are capable of adding any tension — “Hey now, we’ll be okay,” they chant, but I’m left wishing otherwise in the off-chance that some turmoil leads to something more interesting.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The music video version is superior: the strings, alluring for their dizzying intensity, add flair to the prim arrangement. Still, the song’s chorus isn’t quite complete; it could use some affected vocalizing or a catchier hook or some flashy pyrotechnics — anything to break Red Velvet free from their stuffiest single to date. Still, this sense of suffocation is apt: a reflection of how trapped they must feel in wrestling with (the optics of) a not-so-“romantic” relationship.

Michael Hong: Typically in modern media, when a woman is portrayed as a “psycho,” portrayals shift between two phases: 1) the cool, even-tempered women, one who appears to be completely accommodating to the whims of the characters around her; and 2) the unstable woman, prone to random acts of aggression and manipulation, and a general lack of control. Red Velvet’s “Psycho” is fixated on that first phase with the instrumental tamped down to a chillingly placid state. Wendy and Seulgi’s falsettos adorn the strings and arpeggiating synths with the grace of a tightrope act, but it’s the breathless “psycho” that gives “Psycho” a hint of menace. Even the rap, despite Irene bragging that she’s “original visual,” lacks any surprise and feels relatively tame, even after the bland “Umpah Umpah.” The tension is dramatic, but “Psycho” still leaves me yearning for Red Velvet to completely lose it.

Alex Clifton: Red Velvet have now written the quintessential K-pop song about being in love with your straight best friend. It’s less experimental than some of their other material, which is disappointing, as I love the wonky moments in Red Velvet’s discography where the melody takes an unexpected turn and surprises me. It is, however, super-gay, and I am here for that.

Brad Shoup: When I saw the news that an English version of “Psycho” did not, in fact, make the Birds of Prey soundtrack, my first thought was I guess they already had an Ariana Grande song. This is good Grande-core, sure: the major-label orchestral arrangement woven into the processional click-and-pause R&B. The title is almost incidental, or perhaps refers to the level of detail.

Alfred Soto: The chorus builds to a convincing rattle and blare: the sticky-sweet vs sour dynamic Red Velvet has often handled with aplomb. 

Will Rivitz: A few years ago, Red Velvet became my favorite K-pop group thanks to their deeply compelling uncanniness: Their eerie, off-mainstream electronic influences (I maintain that “Peek-A-Boo” remains the best song Murlo never produced; ditto “Zimzalabim” and SOPHIE) consistently speak to me like no other K-pop I’ve heard has. “Psycho,” by contrast, draws its intro from Julia Michaels, its verses from OneRepublic, and its chorus from every electronic-friendly pop singer in 2017. Interchangeable pop from a group I love dearly for their iconoclasm.

Thomas Inskeep: The nearly-classical, stately pace, the surprising oompah horns on the chorus, the swirling keyboards on the verses, the strong vocals: Red Velvet is at the top of their game right now, ladies and gents. “Psycho” is one of those records that sounds like 4 or 5 different songs at once, and gets all of them right, and knows how to blend them.

Reader average: [8.4] (10 votes)

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One Response to “Red Velvet – Psycho”

  1. It’s insane how much better the music video version sounds, it almost makes the streaming version sound like a demo.

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