As one of the only senior girl groups still active in the K–pop industry, Red Velvet has made a lasting impact on the genre. Title tracks like “Red Flavor,” “Dumb Dumb,” “Zimzalabim,” and “Psycho” display a sample of the group’s wide and expansive sound. No matter if the group showcases its “Red” (the bubbly, colorful pop side) or its “Velvet” (the darker, evocative R&B–influenced side), listeners know that the five–member girl group has one of the most diverse and creative approaches to the K–pop genre.

Chill Kill–The 3rd Album arrives after a one–year hiatus after their previous EP, The ReVe Festival 2022–Birthday. Its eponymous title track, “Birthday,” was received with mixed reviews as critics were divided over the creative use of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” paired with questionable trap beats. Nonetheless, the EP showcased the group’s willingness to incorporate classical elements into their sound—a trend that started with their March 2022 EP The ReVe Festival 2022—Feel My Rhythmand proved that the group’s B–sides remain untouched in their quality and diversity. With Chill Kill–The 3rd Album, Red Velvet learned the lessons of the past and perfected the craft of red and velvet, while perfectly marrying the group’s strengths of melody and top–notch B–sides.

The album begins with its title track, which perfectly exemplifies the masterful blend of their two sides. “Chill kill enters like thunder / That thrill be makin' my mind ill,” member Irene sings behind a melancholic melody, before a tonal switch occurs in the chorus, backed with optimistic lyrics such as “What a chill kill, I know you will / Bring me lightning like a winner.” The concept of “Chill Kill,” too, juxtaposes “wanting hope” with being “trapped in a tragedy,” adding an extra layer to the duality of hope and despair. The song finishes with an incomplete chorus, ending with “Gonna change myself at long last” as if contemplating whether or not to, at long last, actually change. 

Knock Knock (Who’s There?)” takes a more taunting approach to the matter, calling love “a gamе where we keep wandering around looking for each other” and “it's so bittersweet but I like the chase”. The instrumental is playful yet unsettling, almost as if the girls are controlling their lover like a marionette. So too is the aptly titled “Nightmare,” where the girls try to decipher what is reality and what is a nightmare that “swallowed us up in the middle of the night.” Backed by trap beats and eerie synths, this tune could easily slot in the soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas for its whimsical nature contrasted with its spooky atmosphere. 

To balance these previous “velvety” tracks, Chill Kill–The 3rd Album offers “red” songs like the vocally–driven “Iced Coffee” and the soft “Scenery.” The former sounds borderline Christmas–y, almost as if anticipating the season and gifting listeners with a soundtrack. With a twinkly instrumental and string–backed chorus, “Iced Coffee” lovingly details drinking a chilling coffee even on a cold day but how the girls love “this cold and ecstatic feeling / 'Cause you make me feel all this fantasy.” “Scenery” is wishful and romantic, where two lovers draw out “a landscape that resembles us”. These simpler tracks are where the group’s vocals get to shine, showcasing the group’s harmonic skills and power ad–libs.

Despite its strength, there are minor departures that prevent this from being a perfect album. Thematically, the album marries hope and tragedy, and the songs reflect this double nature. The promotional material, however, incorporated traditional Korean elements (the group name is even morphed to resemble Han characters), suggesting this comeback would include something of tradition. Thus, a missed opportunity arises when none of the songs have any traditional Asian elements, especially when the girl group hasn’t included many Asian instruments in its discography thus far.

In addition, many of the songs embody the spirit of Halloween, like the title track, “Knock Knock,” “Nightmare,” and “Bulldozer.” Even the promotional teasers appear to be something out of a horror movie, with its uncanny visuals and dark tone. Yet, this project was released in the middle of November, when Mariah Carey and Christmas songs began their seasonal dominance in the charts, even in South Korea. What could’ve made this release better is an earlier release day, and this album could go down in history as a Halloween season classic, even with the Christmas–sounding “Iced Coffee” in its tracklist. Instead, it risks getting lost in the sea of Christmas songs. 

However, these are smaller logistical things that ultimately don’t detract from the quality of the end product. Red Velvet has proved once again that they aren’t afraid of showcasing their musicality and vocal skills. In the competitive K–pop world, branding is everything, and Chill Kill allowed the group to shine and incorporate their styles to the fullest without losing their sense of identity. As the group continues to hold its ground in the industry, Chill Kill is another magical step forward in its stellar legacy.