The five members of K-Pop group Red Velvet, Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy and Yeri, during the promotional photoshoot for their Japanese release Sappy

Is Red Velvet KPop or JPop?

Even if the K-Pop industry is made up of hundreds of different groups, there are some very broad and very popular trends that make sure they all have something in common— and one of those things is that at some point in a group’s career, when it’s well established within its domestic market, it will expand to Japan’s music scene and start to build a discography aimed specifically at Japan.

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The reason is very simple—Japan is a massive music market and a huge fanbase to bag, and releasing albums aimed specifically at Japan means a lot more money headed towards the entertainment agency’s way, as well as a lot more popolarità for the group in question.

You’ll notice that all major groups have Japanese discographies—made up of both the Japanese versions of their Korean releases as well as original songs written and produced directly in Japanese. Red Velvet, one of the “big three” girl groups of the 3rd generation together with JYP Entertainment’s TWICE and YG Entertainment’s BLACKPINK, is no exception. 

The group has two Japanese releases in its discography. The first is the mini-album #Cookie Jar, released in 2018 and featuring three original Japanese songs —including the lead single #Cookie Jar — and the Japanese version of three Korean singles —Dumb Dumb, Russian Roulette, and Red Flavor — released with previous albums. 

Then there’s Sappy, another mini-album, released in 2019 and following pretty much the same scheme as #Cookie Jar—three Japanese songs, including the homonymous title track, and three Japanese versions of Korean singles, which for this EP are Peak-a-Boo, Rookie, and Power Up.

(SM Entertainment)

So does this bit of content aimed at Japan mean that Red Velvet should also be considered a J-Pop group as well as a K-Pop group? The answer is no, even though it might seem like a logical conclusion. It has been said multiple times before, but even though the “West” thinks of K-Pop as a genre it’s actually more like a massive label under which falls a lot of different music styles—K-Pop is a signifier of a group’s origin, both geographical and cultural, rather than a genre in and of itself. And the same —with some differences, of course —could be said of J-Pop.

While Red Velvet has released music in Japanese before, they are a South Korean group based in South Korea and managed by a South Korean company—which makes them a K-Pop group that sometimes sings in Japanese.

(featured image: SM Entertainment)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.