When f(x) released “Pink Tape” last year, I was blown away by the huge step up in quality from their previous releases. It was a solid album filled with electropop gems and sonic surprises that are typically absent in K-pop. Looking back, I wouldn’t say that it was an avantgarde, experimental release; let’s not get too pretentious here. It was a solid release that sampled music genres rarely heard in a genre that was too saturated with the same sounds.
One year later, not much has changed in K-pop – rookie and veteran groups alike are still hopping aboard various trends, dishing out tracks that sound catchy but aren’t too inspired. The domination that Brave Brothers has exerted on the industry is just baffling – they practically produce the same song every time, peppering each song up with different spices to make it sound a bit different, and yet their tracks win big in K-pop. I digress a bit but my point is that f(x) could have very well hopped aboard the RnB/hip hop meets retro pop train but they didn’t.
Instead, “Red Light” chooses to set trends by pulling in international musical influences and continuing the sound f(x) had established in “Pink Tape”. While they were a little late to the welcoming party for the trap wave in K-pop (2NE1’s “MTBD” and Hyosung’s “Good Night Kiss” beat them to it), their lead single for the album sounds edgy and fresh (if a bit confusing and messy) with the addition of trap elements. “Red Light” has its flaws that are more glaringly obvious than their last release but, if anything, this release is still just as cohesive. There are clear instrumental themes spread across some of the tracks – while “Pink Tape” focused on jazz, rock, and swing, this time, we got trap, we got chiptune/electronic music, we got country pop.
There are outliers but, for the most part, if you listened to “Pink Tape” (which, if you haven’t, you definitely should), things in “Red Light” should feel familiar because there are a lot of tracks that continue along the musical direction of songs from last year’s release.