Red Velvet is a group that I’ve somehow avoided writing about until now. Thanks to “Dumb Dumb,” I’m fairly certain that’s going to change as Red Velvet’s latest comeback showcases the group’s considerable talents in a way that is in turn delightful, shrewd and wildly exhilarating.
“Dumb Dumb” is one of those songs that seems specifically designed to not be an easy listen. From the very first second of the song, a chanting playful chorus of “Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb” is thrown down like a mocking challenge while punctuated percussive claps and farting horns are aggressively utilized keep one from pre-emptively writing off the song as a joke. Then, the verse hits like a hammer and Red Velvet seizes control of “Dumb Dumb” and absolutely slays what should honestly be a disaster of a track. The song doesn’t flow so much as it jerks to and fro between some awesome funk-inflected verses, hip-pop flavored lines, a properly bombastic chorus and a “dumbdumbdumbbededumb” hook that is executed with an oft-kilter stutter that perfectly mimics the chaotically addictive qualities of EDM. And while that much genre-mashing is usually a recipe for disaster, especially given K-Pop’s tendency to overproduce when it comes to beats, Red Velvet’s strong and varied vocal performances tie it all together. The “dumb” chants are perfectly robotic while the verses are packed with a soulful power that sounds straight out of a R&B track. The hip-pop rapp(ish) parts bring another layer of gleeful disorientation that Red Velvet skillfully employ to guide the song’s manic pace and style. Songs this packed with ideas shouldn’t work but “Dumb Dumb” does thanks to the five masterful members guiding it to the finish line.
The dance-in-a-box concept is still present in the video but “Dumb Dumb” has a creativity to it that is admirable, especially for an SM Entertainment joint. The video’s restrained use of lighting and the complete absence of strobes go a long way towards making “Dumb Dumb” an enjoyable and decipherable experience despite the various effects and colors that the video employs. Set backgrounds, and wardrobe pieces cleverly evoke themes of duality, whether that be through contrasting colors, sunglasses lenses, or even tights. It’s a nice “show, not tell” thematic element that dance-in-the-box videos are often too lazy to incorporate or too brazen in highlighting.
Other shots seem to be straight ripped out of Orange Caramel’s playbook of marrying strong, perfectly packaged color schemes with surrealistic, often unsettling, living doll imagery. Still, it’s difficult to call this a lazy ripoff of anything. The song’s clash of styles sounds right at home in a video that thrives off its ability to present dual versions of Red Velvet as lively charismatic idols AND as robotic dolls (girl groups do this all the time but rarely is it ever so textually explicit as it is here). The end result is a video that successfully highlights its songs strengths (the delirious unfolding of various influences and styles that don’t really hinge on a strong melody or easily digestible hook) while showcasing Red Velvet in all of their charming and talented glory.
The scary thing about “Dumb Dumb” is that this is the sort of song that starts off being fairly catchy and then quickly becomes insanely addictive. The song always seems to be at the edge of spiraling out of control but Red Velvet gamely corrals the song and never seem out of their element, even as the song demands that they switch gears every few seconds. The video is a smartly made blast of color that is neither too one-note nor randomly haphazard. Amazingly, as busy as the single is, it’s balanced. For a song entitled “Dumb Dumb,” Red Velvet’s latest comeback is an amazingly good (and smartly constructed) ride.