[Year-End Special] #4: f(x) – 4 Walls

“소리 없이 다가와 / 내게만 펼쳐낸 신기루”

I did something grievously sinful on this blog this year and it was that I did not cover this album when it came out. It has become a tradition to cover f(x) albums when they come out but the last two came out during the summer, when I have more time, and this one dropped during the middle of fall quarter, when I was drowning in academia. The best I can do for now, I suppose, is to include it on this list and maybe a full review can follow next year.



[Album Review] f(x) – Red Light

f(x) - Red LightWhen 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.


[Single Review] f(x) – Red Light

Looks like f(x) did not pull a SISTAR19 teaser on me because that hardcore sound from the teasers is actually included in the final song. In fact, all of the teasers for “Red Light” released thus far have been not in the least bit misleading, which is refreshing because K-pop teasers often advertise something so wildly different from the final product that it’s annoying and disappointing.

“Red Light” is a conglomeration of three different songs. Yes, it is one of those songs, in the same family as SNSD’s “I Got A Boy” and EXO’s “Wolf“. While transitions between the portions of the song are poor to non-existent, the parts of the track themselves are pretty hardcore and intense, harkening back to f(x)’s “NU ABO” days, though f(x) has matured much since then. “Red Light” is a tiring song to listen to but certainly it is an exciting song that deserves that title track slot. The music video tries to be as deviant as the song as well and I will give SM props for their effort.

While I can guarantee you that this release will not be met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, I still believe it is one of the stronger title tracks from SM this year. The amount of edginess that “Red Light” exudes makes SNSD’s “Mr. Mr.” sound like a child’s lullaby. Where it lacks in cohesion, it tries to make up for it with intensity and uniqueness. I suppose you can always count on f(x) releases to be different and “Red Light” is definitely just that.


[Upcoming Release] f(x) – Red Light

After “Pink Tape”, f(x) is finally coming back a year later with “Red Light”. I see what’s happening here. To make an f(x) album, you just gotta name it something like “Blue Elevator”. Or “Silver Printer”. Or “Orange Washing Machine”. SM Ent, you best not be stealing my brilliant album titles.

The album highlight medley was just released and, just as I expected, SM realized that K-pop listeners do, in fact, enjoy listening to interesting music and they have decided to continue on building upon the standards set by “Pink Tape”. It’s too early to tell if “Red Light” will exceed or meet expectations but this album preview seems promising.

Brilliance does not seem to be equally distributed among the entire album, which is a slight letdown (but let’s be real, it’s K-pop and there is bound to be two or three filler tracks per album), but the promising tracks have much potential to surpass their predecessors on “Pink Tape”. I think the title track was appropriately chosen because it sounds the most intense and exciting out of all of the tracks on the album. Definitely crossing my fingers that all of those previews for Red Light are not lying to me and definitely hoping that f(x) will earn a larger degree of commercial success with this release; they sure deserve it.


[AKR’s Playlist] The Sounds of 2013: Homebound

AKR's Playlist - The Sounds of 2013 B

“Homebound” encompasses songs that were either released or that I had discovered between July and September. This playlist is entitled as such because it was the first time I longed to be home for the summer break. After spending a school year at college, I realized how connected I was to my home, how comforting the familiar can be, how nice it feels to truly to know where you are. I’ve certainly been lost many times and across many contexts during the year and I felt like summer was when I could finally be found again. K-pop songs have decorated my life since I heard my very first k-pop single and, in a way, it has become a roaming piece of home. When I listen to k-pop, I feel that sense of familiarity and, regardless of where I am, I know that I’ll always be at least homebound, constantly searching for what I feel is home. (more…)

[Single Review] Henry – 1-4-3 (feat. f(x)’s Amber)

Henry - 1-4-3

Henry’s solo activities continue with his follow up MV release for 1-4-3, which is pulled from his EP released last June. With the support of labelmate Amber, 1-4-3 provides Henry with another opportunity to solidify the legitimacy of his solo career. Though his voice isn’t legendary, the guy has a very delicate voice that deserves attention.


[Album Review] f(x) – Pink Tape

f(x) Pink Tape

f(x) released their Pink Tape album today and it certainly is an f(x) release, through and through. The album is packed with some experimental pieces with interesting musical influences from different genres such as jazz, swing, hip hop, and even rock. While some creative pursuits did not quite achieve the full effect it sought, there were many shining moments in the album that makes this a standout release among the waterfall of releases this summer so far, reasserting f(x) as one of the top tier k-pop girl groups out there.