EP review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water

EP Review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water | Random J Pop

Red Velvet member Wendy has released her debut solo EP. And at this rate, we’re probably going to get EP’s from every one or two members of Red Velvet before their comeback. Three down, only Joy and Yeri left to go.

EP Review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water | Random J Pop

Like Water is a complete deviation from what you expect from a member of Red Velvet, especially after Irene & Seulgi’s Monster. But it’s absolutely the kind of thing you would expect SM to do - which comes with the good and the bad.

The good is that Like Water is not just Red Velvet material sung by one or two members. But the bad is that you don't know if what you're getting here is SM and Wendy's vision for Wendy, or just a a case of SM filling a sonic gap in their musical offering. After all, Taeyeon seems to be over ballads for now, so there's a space for somebody to take that spot, and Wendy can sing good - SO HERE WE ARE. But maybe this is too early to call. 

At the very least, Wendy’s Like Water is consistent and a showcase of her talents. Irene & Seulgi’s Monster sounded very cobbled together and gave you no real sense of Irene or Seulgi specifically, because, to me at least, all of the songs sounded like songs for BoA, each of which she would have done a better job with. But more than that, they were also so vanilla. Even a song like “Naughty”; as good as it is, you could give it to BoA, Chungha, any K-Pop bitch, and they would have done great things with the song. It was the choreography and Irene and Seulgi’s execution of it that made the song more than the song itself.


Back to Wendy.

Wendy has one of the strongest voices in Red Velvet. And if there’s one criticism to lobby at Red Velvet’s music, it’s that it doesn’t always showcase it. Which I get, given the styles of their songs. This is why it’s nice and also justified to finally have Wendy go solo and just show off how well she can sing.

EP Review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water | Random J Pop

Like Water lets you know immediately that Wendy ain’t got your regular K-Pop vocals with the opening song “When This Rain Stops”, where she goes for notes, gives you a few riffs and runs here and there and BELTS. It's a really beautiful song and a flex, because not any old singer could sing a song like this and really own it, but Wendy does. It has a very Bruno Mars vibe about it. It’s a shame that this wasn’t made a title track, because it showcases Wendy far better than the actual title track “Like Water”. It would have been such a strong statement for SM to lead with a song like this and help buck the trend that every idol K-Pop title track has to be uptempo, colourful and TikTok-able. It’s a stand out song for me, because not only is it not what I expected, but it is just a great song which could be a staple ballad for Wendy if K-Pop appreciated entire discographies as opposed to just the song of the moment, or the most popular title tracks. “When the Rain Stops” is gorgeous. Easily the best song on this EP, right off the bat.

After a strong opening however, the rest of Like Water is pretty unremarkable.

The album title track “Like Water” is boring. It’s a nice song, but it’s boring. Wendy, once again, shows she’s more than capable of holding a whole bunch o’ notes, but a different type of vocal would have gone a long way towards really having me lean in and want to take in more of it. A voice with more grit, husk and a twang would have really made this song pop and cut through the music. The likes of Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga or Mickey Guyton would have sounded great on this.

“Why Can’t You Love Me?” is a nice change of pace, introducing a bit of soul and a doo-wop vibe into the proceedings. It’s a memorable track by proxy of it sounding different to all of the other songs on the album, but it doesn’t have a great deal of impact. Especially compared to “When This Rain Stops” which gave you big vocals and “Like Water” which at least have you sweeping arrangements, and its follow-up song “The Road” which has this gradual build-up. “Why Can’t You Love Me?” needed to be bigger. It needed a big middle eight, a horn section, live strings, all the things. Because of the sound of the song, you’re half expecting a build to something and for the song to truly pop off. But nope.

EP Review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water | Random J Pop

“The Road” is the EP’s second big ballad moment, which feels like a combination of the 3 songs which precedes it. It has the big vocals of “When This Rain Stops”, the warmth of “Like Water” and the doo-wop adjacent vibes of “Why Can’t You Love Me?”. It’s a really nice song, but as with “Why Can’t You Love Me?”, I needed it to be bigger. The song swells and builds, but when it peaks, there’s no explosive signature moment, which is what it really needed, and the song telegraphed it was going to give us. Mariah is an artist who was the master of this. In “Vision of Love” we got a huge build to a whistle, which few big mainstream artists had popularised since Minnie Riperton, and then we got a big ol’ belt. In “Lead the Way” it was an insane riff ‘n’ run and then a big ass note which lasted longer than f(x). Mariah’s ballads always led up to *Does Mariah hands* A MOMENT. If Wendy wasn’t able to give anything vocally that could create a defining moment in the song, then the music should’ve delivered something instead.

The final song “Best Friend” features fellow Red Velveteer Seulgi. I wish there were more moments in the song where they harmonized together, and their vocals overlapped; with Seulgi doing ad-libs over Wendy’s vocals and visa-versa. Only at the end do we hear the two of them singing together, which is the best part of the song. It’s just a shame it takes 3 whole minutes to get there, and that nothing leading up to it gives much.

EP Review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water | Random J Pop

The production on this EP is decent, but it needed more in the way of grandiosity. The songs think they’re giving bigger moments than they are actually giving. I felt like Michelle Visage on the RuPaul’s Drag Race panel whilst listening to these songs, because I was sat saying ‘More. I need you to give me more’. It was the same situation with Irene and Seulgi’s Monster EP; a case of good songs which just didn’t give enough, from artists signed to a company, as part of a group who put out songs which always do the absolute most.

EP Review: Wendy (of Red Velvet) - Like Water | Random J Pop

Like Water is a really nice EP. Taking the music as it is, it’s nice and Wendy sounds great on all of the songs. But taking the EP as more is difficult to do, because it doesn’t give you much to go on in terms of whether the music is a reflection of Wendy herself, or SM just giving her a sound to fulfil a purpose. Because the vibe of this EP feels very reminiscent of Taeyeon’s I and Christmas EP. And with Taeyeon having moved out of slow balladry with her EP What Do I Call You and Girl’s Generation no longer putting out albums with a bunch of ballads, Like Water could be a case of SM just having Wendy filling that space. But knowing SM, when Wendy finally does drop a full length album, it’ll probably be of a completely different sound. But, who knows!?

I really like that SM didn’t just give Wendy a bunch of uptempo club joints, and that we got a complete change in pace from what I was expecting not only from a Red Velvet members’ solo EP, but from SM Entertainment, period. Especially after their run of releases over the course of 2020, and what we’ve gotten in 2021 thus far. But Like Water is so unremarkable as a whole, despite opening with such a remarkable song.


■ When This Rain Stops 🏆
■ Why Can’t You Love Me?