Red Velvet’s Joy takes us down memory lane with ‘Hello’

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The Red Velvet lead rapper and sub-vocalist remakes some of her all-time favorite Korean songs from the ‘90s and 2000s in her first solo release. Photo courtesy of SM ENTERTAINMENT

2021 has been a good year so far for Red Velvet fans (well, kind of). After opening the year with the “SMTOWN Live Culture Humanity” with all five members together once again, another member is now releasing her own solo album.

Just a month ago, Park Soo-young — more commonly known as Joy — was the MC for the press launch of Wendy’s solo album, “Like Water.” On a fine Monday afternoon, they switch roles as Joy releases her album “Hello (안녕)” through an online album listening session.

SM Entertainment has been very generous with solo albums, with most of them having five to six tracks. (And not “four,” with two being the instrumental versions. You won’t feel short changed with these guys.) They’ve also been very synergized when it comes to content, often having members from different groups perform together, or just having their current crop of artists make their own version of tracks popularized by their sunbaes (seniors). A personal favorite of mine is Red Velvet covering the BoA original song “Milky Way.”

“Joy is really hard on herself, so I sent her a lot of love and support,” says Red Velvet’s Wendy, who served as the MC for the launch of Joy’s album, “Hello” Photo courtesy of SM ENTERTAINMENT

This became the natural approach for Joy’s solo album. She has been a regular on original soundtracks of famous dramas, in the past year alone, her remake of the 1996 song “Introduce Me a Good Person” by Basis was a feature track in “Hospital Playlist.” She’s also had a duet with Mark of NCT for the 2018 series “The Ghost Detective,” along with tracks she sang for the series she starred in, “Tempted” and “The Liar and His Lover,” while the Red Velvet song “Future” was the title track for the wildly popular show “Start-Up.”

Her vast experience in doing remakes led to the six tracks that were included in “Hello,” inspired by songs released between the 1990s to the 2000s.

This was also the primary reason behind the styling of the album that had this very familiar retro feel that made numerous edits go viral right away.

Ahead of the album release, the live version of “Je T’aime,” was uploaded on the Red Velvet YouTube channel and already garnered 1.6 million views. The cover of the 2001 release by Hey captured the refreshing voice that her members and fans refer to as “vitamin voice.” The jazzy song is interpreted through a bright, classical band arrangement that reflects her joyous disposition.

“I thought I wouldn’t be nervous because I’ve performed many OSTs and solo songs, but I’m very excited and nervous to release my solo album,” she shares in the online press conference. “It feels more real now!”

She also opens up about her approach for the album. “There are six tracks that are remakes of iconic, all-time favorite Korean songs from the ‘90s and 2000s. I interpreted them with my emotions. They’re some of my personal favorite songs — I used to sing them often, so it was an honor to be able to remake these.”

“I wanted to sing songs that resonate with people of all generations, so I thought of songs from then,” she adds. “They’re songs that a child and their mother can listen to and enjoy together. I also love retro vibes. I would love to be able to travel to the era if I could. This album is a very good reflection of my personality and musical taste.”

“I’d like to express my gratitude to the original artists for allowing me to remake these masterpieces,” she adds. “Since these are masterpieces, I tried my best to capture my voice and emotions well without drastically changing the original song’s emotions.”

On the track selection, Joy says: “They’re some of my personal favorite songs — I used to sing them often, so it was an honor to be able to remake these.” Photo courtesy of SM ENTERTAINMENT

The listening session starts with “Day by Day,” a song by As One that she has enjoyed listening to since their trainee days. “I’m very happy and grateful that I am able to work with this song as it is about the desire to carefully approach the person who stood by your side for a long time, so I concentrated on delicately expressing that feeling.”

“If Only” was released by Sung Si Kyoung in 2002. The ballad is translated into a duet with Paul Kim, Joy’s primary preference for the duet. “Since the original song is sung by a male, I thought the song could stir more emotions when sung as a duet. I really appreciate Paul Kim for participating and creating the perfect harmony with me,” she adds.

Joy and Wendy dance along to the next track, the 1999 Kwon Jin Won release “Happy Birthday To You.” “The piano melody for this song is very famous, so I decided to replace it with the acoustic guitar, which adds a catchy beat,” she shares. “Since everyone has a birthday, I decided to add this song so that I can congratulate everyone!”

The last B-side track, “Be There For You” is a remake of the TOY original from 1996. “It was arranged by my friend Park Moon Chi, who told me to sing it as lightly as possible because the lyrics were calm and warm.”

As to why she decided to go with Park Hye Kyung’s “Hello” as her title song, she says “It’s my first album as a solo artist, so it’s meaningful to say hello!”

She shares that the music video was shot in Jeju Island, and with a concept that she came up with. “I wanted to convey bright energy in the video. I go on a trip and I happen to meet a child who is lost. It’s a story of communicating with people I meet on a journey to find the child’s family.”

Aside from the video concept, she added some more personal flavor to the song. “I made a new bridge part that wasn’t in the original song.”

Surrounded by the bright green that represents her color, it was quite clear that she really embodied the meaning of her name. “I had a message in mind that I wanted to convey. My name is Joy and I want to become someone who can give joy to people. I wanted to give joy to people but I also felt joy from fans and the team so I was really grateful.

Aside from her solo album, Joy has also been confirmed as a main cast member for the upcoming JTBC drama, “Just One Person,” where she will be joined by Park Sung Hoon (“Memorials”, “Black Knight”) and Ahn Eun Jin (“Hospital Playlist”), and where everyone can expect at least another song from the OST.

Joy at the press conference for her album. Photo courtesy of SM ENTERTAINMENT

There’s plenty of Red Velvet everywhere else, too. Yeri was cast with Pentagon’s Hongseok for a web drama titled “Blue Birthday,” which is slated to air in the second half of 2021. Irene’s movie, “Double Patty” is available on iQIYI. Seulgi is an MC in “The Wise Music Encyclopedia,” where she is joined by music critic Kim Zakka to interview guests about their experiences with K-pop.

The group will celebrate their seventh anniversary this upcoming August, and fans are holding out hope that their group comeback will happen before then. It’s very promising seeing different sides of the members shining through their separate releases. Irene & Seulgi’s “Monster” had very edgy and catchy dance tracks, Wendy’s “Like Water” had very powerful ballads on reflection and healing, and Joy’s “Hello” brings the shiny, laid-back summer vibe.

At least until then, ReVeluvs will have a lot to listen to and be joyful for.