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[Herald Interview] Why you can’t stop listening to Red Velvet’s ‘Psycho’

The masterminds behind the track explain how the catchy earworm came to be

(S.M. Entertainment)

(S.M. Entertainment)
Diving straight in with a grandiose operatic intro with dramatic pizzicato strings, Red Velvet’s latest hit bursts into the swooping chorus, “You got me feeling like a psycho, psycho.”

For 3 1/2 minutes straight, the five singers showcase their skillful vocals as the story of a hot-and-cold relationship unfolds.

Released in December as the lead single from the band’s latest album, “The ReVe Festival: Finale,” “Psycho” continues to please, after topping major weekly music shows for weeks and spawning a slew of positive reviews on YouTube.

With all due respect to its other works such as “Zimzalabim” and “Umpah Umpah,” “Psycho” is the most successful release from the group in recent years, both commercially and critically -- a fitting result as the track concludes the “ReVe Festival” trilogy.

So what makes the song so great? Well, in the words of the producer of the track, the slow yet rhythmic, danceable but sophisticated tune is a “bop.”

“In music, we call this a ‘bop’ -- a song where the rhythm keeps your head constantly moving or ‘bopping,’” says LA-based producer Andrew Scott.

It’s the hi-hats and drum beat that keep the song’s pace, he explains.

“If you take them out the song could be a laid-back ballad. The syncopation of the hi-hats in the chorus on top of the trap-friendly melody keeps the listener engaged, like if Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’ had 808s and hard hitting-kicks.”


The song came to be at S.M.’s songwriting camp in Seoul as Swedish songwriter Cazzi Opeia was put in a group alongside Scott and EJAE.

One day, they were drinking coffee and chatting about life and love before the conversation turned to the feelings that follow a breakup.

“Someone said something like being heartbroken is almost like feeling psycho. We then decided we wanted to write a song with beautiful chords that tells a story about this. And that’s how ‘Psycho’ was born,” Opeia said.

She also worked with Kenzie, a renowned songwriter at S.M., who translated the English lyrics to Korean for “Psycho” as Opeia and EJAE wrote the top line -- melodies and lyrics -- over the instrumental.

“We kind of felt in the studio while we wrote it that this is something really good,” she added.
Cazzi Opeia (left) and Andrew Scott
Cazzi Opeia (left) and Andrew Scott
Working on the chords that Scott played on the piano, melodies came naturally for Opeia. And when she sang that operatic melody for the pre-chorus, Scott knew they’d made something unique together.

Starting off with sophisticated pizzicato strings followed by a verse punctuated by distorted sounds, the track marks one of the quintessential Red Velvet moments -- a group known for being able to do both “Red” -- strong and powerful -- and “Velvet” -- soft and elegant.

As a producer, Scott decided to take advantage of the group’s versatility.

“Red Velvet loves to play off of their classy and bold style so I wanted to blend the two.”

Coming from a classical music background and having produced songs in the R&B and hip-hop world, Scott said it was natural for him to bring those elements into the mix.

“The distortion against the classical chords is psychotic in itself and once Cazzi laid down a couple of ad libs, I took them and added a delay filter that I created called ‘Psychodelic.’”

“Psycho” follows a consistent pattern of hit singles since the band’s debut in 2014.

And six years on, it would appear that Red Velvet shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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