This week marks the fifth anniversary of one of my favorite contemporary K-Pop groups, Red Velvet. They arrived on the scene with Happiness in 2014. (Where does the time go?)
Red Velvet’s debut wasn’t the smoothest. Happiness came when dissatisfaction with SM Entertainment’s management of their current artists was reaching a tipping point; this was around the time when storm clouds were forming over the heads of f(x), their other five-member girl group. Fans felt frustrated: “why debut a new group when you can’t even take care of your existing ones?” was a common refrain surrounding Red Velvet.
Furthermore, Happiness itself managed to get itself caught in a quagmire of Korea-Japan politics when viewers discovered not-so-hidden references to the bombing of Hiroshima and derogatory slurs for the Japanese hidden in the music video. While SM Entertainment promptly issued an apology and re-uploaded an edited video, the damage was done.
At the time, Red Velvet’s success seemed far from assured, especially given that their follow-up track to the bubbly Happiness was the overtly moody, jazzy Be Natural. However, within the span of a few years, they would comfortably settle into the mantle of one of K-Pop’s next-gen headliners, on the backs of unique songs like Ice Cream Cake, Dumb Dumb, and Russian Roulette.
P.S.: You may notice that one of Red Velvet’s members, Yeri, is absent from this music video. That’s because she didn’t join until 2015.