Rising K-Pop stars 레드벨벳 (Red Velvet) are best known for up-tempo dance tracks, but their 2016 R&B-style ballad release “One of These Nights” shows an entirely different side of the vocal quintet. A persistent theory among the group’s fans is that the video’s somber mood and multiple references to water, small life boats, flickering lighting, etc. symbolize a memorial to the victims of the South Korean Sewol ferry tragedy of 2014. The Sewol sank suddenly, killing hundreds of passengers, most of whom were high school students.
The tune is full of modulations, further enhanced by a huge harmonic vocabulary. After the string intro, the verse begins at 0:14, loosely based around G minor; at 1:05, the chorus begins with a devastating downwards modulation to F# minor. The pattern holds for verse 2 and chorus 2. Finally, a bridge shifts briefly to a sunny G major at 3:06, but at 3:20, just where we’d expect a cliche upwards modulation by half-step, we instead get a 4-second pause before falling back down into the plaintive F# minor chorus. The group’s occasional mixing of English with Korean lyrics only adds to the affecting intrigue.