To Red Velvet’s credit, the group has never had anything approaching a bad music video. Somehow, while the group’s videos definitely have all the elements of SM Entertainment conservatism when it comes to music videos (almost eerily sterile sets and lighting, an adherence to dance-in-a-box that borders on fanatical), Red Velvet videos manage to stand out thanks to ambitious editing, creative set pieces and the performance of Red Velvet themselves that usually falls somewhere on a scale between adorkable and faux-bot. The group’s latest music video, “Russian Roulette,” has all of the elements of a Red Velvet video but, in a twist that is fitting for the last remaining lazy summer days, it’s much more relaxed than some of the group’s better, more memorable efforts.
The weaker moments of “Russian Roulette” begin and end with the beat. Appropriately light and stuffed with enough sickly sweet synths to cause cavities, the production for “Russian Roulette” ends up having all the substance and impact of a mound of cotton candy. The one standout moment, a truly joyous instrumental riff that accompanies the outro, comes in too late to redeem the whole song. Red Velvet themselves are left to carry most of the song and while “Russian Roulette” does give the group an enjoyable catchy hook to sing and a chorus that is actually quite pleasant, the song is constructed in such a way that the group can never really rise above it. Slickly constructed pop doesn’t leave much wiggle room for improvisation. Red Velvet do well with what they are given in “Russian Roulette,” but they aren’t given THAT much to work with in the first place.
However, while the song may be somewhat average, the video is quite strong. True, Red Velvet has made videos that are much more visually impressive and they have put together videos that are more instantly striking. But, it can’t be said that “Russian Roulette” does not have a charm to it. While the concept is amusingly opaque (it seems to mostly be 1970’s PE class mixed with…horrifying death?) and the execution is pretty standard Red Velvet fare (Adorkable faux-bots! Synchronized dancing! Staring blankly straight into the camera while singing! Staying eerily still like mannequins!), the group’s more grounded apparel and more… realistic (?) set pieces go well with the song’s easy vibe. The video’s direction, use of animation and use of special effects all help sell the pastel coated Cartoon Violence Land that “Russian Roulette” is peddling quite charmingly as well. And charm, at the end of the day, is what Red Velvet’s band of adorkable faux-bots deals with in spades.
Considering that the music video appears to be Red Velvet’s own attempt at a light and breezy summer track, it isn’t that surprising that the end result is a bit muddled. The light and breezy summer track usually requires a sort of manufactured casualness (think of any of SISTAR’s “ZOMG SUMMER” music videos) that is almost the polar opposite of Red Velvet’s more abstract approach to videos. Nevertheless, while “Russian Roulette” may be an awkward fit for Red Velvet, it’s not a bad fit. The song, while mediocre, is enjoyable in that “middle of playlist” sort of way while the video has just enough of that Red Velvet flair to be worthy of an end-of-the-summer recommendation.