f(x) is back, bringing 11 new tracks your way! Known for their distinct, unique musical style and ability to adopt challenging dance routines, they've dropped their third full-length album following 'Pink Tape.'
The album starts off with the title track "Red Light," which scored an all-kill, slaying the charts at no. 1 on a staggering number of eight music sites - Bugs, Daum, Genie, Melon, Mnet, Olleh Music, Naver Music, and Soribada. I was pumped up when I first heard it. Very electro-house and very reminiscent of their older, pre-2013 output. Stylistically, it reminded me of "NU ABO" with the start-stop machine-like verses. The lyrics ask you to stop and enjoy life. I just say stop and enjoy this track for awhile.
"MILK" is a pleasant listen, starting off with the sounds of a cat, apparently defending its milk. It made me laugh, except for the sound of a gun being cocked. This track is smooth like its namesake. I can imagine a remix of this song being put to Caribbean steel drums. The song is about trying to use milk to cool down after a heated breakup. I love this tune. The repeated refrain "Pour it on my heart, pour it in my heart, my milk, burned" is incredibly catchy.
The third track is "Butterfly." The staccato verses backed by a synth track are pure f(x) with a chorus that seems to float lazily like clouds on a summer day. A nice and skillfully executed piece of soft pop that alternates between catchy and airy. Here the girls compare a lover to a butterfly.
Next up is "Rainbow," mid-tempo and playful. I like the chorus, but Amber's repeated line "kongdak kongdak kongdak kongdak kongdak kongdak Rainbow" was jarring, lending an uneven feel to the song.
"All Night" is velvety and playful in a good way. Teddy Riley is responsible for this one and it shows. Except for the Korean lyrics, "All Night" would not sound out of place on top 40 radio. Funky and upbeat, the whole song works from the verses to the chorus.
For those who do not already know, "Vacance" is French for vacation and is similar to "bakangseu," the word Koreans have adopted to mean the same thing. Not hard to figure out what this track is about. A very upbeat and enjoyable party track.
"Spit it Out" reminds me a lot of "Zig Zag" from 2012's 'Electric Shock.' That's not a problem as I like both these tracks. The song is about spitting out a lover's lies that give one indigestion. Rapid-fire raps, hurried vocals, staccato-style song structure, and electronic breaks combine to make this song incredibly catchy and fun.
Another piece of electro-pop, "Boom Bang Boom" almost appears to dial down the tempo, and the girls weave their vocals nicely in the main verses, but the chorus, "Boom Bang Boom," is a little out of place. Fortunately, it doesn't pop up as often as it could. It's not a bad tune, it's just that the chorus doesn't have enough set up to it and is too sudden for my taste. The lyrics speak of standing up for yourself and being confident.
"Dracula" is uptempo with staccato vocals, like we've come to expect and love from f(x), married together skillfully with silky harmonies while Amber belts out verses in between. An odd choice for summer, this song properly belongs on a Halloween party mixtape. That is easily overlooked for this is a standout track.
The 10th song, "Summer Lover," starts out laid-back, but when they reach the chorus they belt it out. This is pure K-Pop, people, from the catchy beat to the repeated lyrics. And I like it. I can't tell you why, but it is a nice fit to this album.
The final song is "Paper Heart," an easy-going mid-tempo track with very pretty parts and a locomotive-like chugging beat. Beginning with a ukulele or banjo, the song takes on an ethereal quality as it progresses. As you might expect, the girl is asking her lover to be careful with her heart, delicate like paper. Hook-filled and accomplished, it's a great ending song to a great album.
In case you couldn't tell, I enjoyed this album a lot. Some of the songs remind me of their earlier, more experimental albums, which is a great thing. 'Pink Tape' was not to my liking, seeming too generic and trying to be more accessible, and they dumbed down their dance moves for the single "Rum Pum Pum." As a techno fan, I can definitely suggest this album to anyone who wants a lot of synth to their K-Pop.
Recommended tracks: "Red Light," "Dracula," "All Night," "Spit it Out."
By the time this article was being written up, the video for "Red Light" racked up 4.5 million views and had 2 million views on its first day out. Apparently there's been some controversy surrounding it from accusations of Bible burning to the song itself getting banned from play by KBS until the word "Caterpillar" was changed, Caterpillar being the name of a company that manufactures mining equipment, construction machines, and locomotive engines.
The girls have gone for a darker image with this MV. The video evidently takes place inside an airport hangar or something similar. Darkened sets, light streaming through windows, various outfits, and black & white scenes are interspersed with color. According to press releases, Krystal was tired of looking pretty, and so they deliberately shot for less colorful and cute imagery.
While the dance moves are reminiscent of "Rum Pum Pum," the video itself has a very different feel. Some of the outfits are of a military-sexy cut, similar to 4minute's "I My Me Mine." It lends the girls a very different image, and it seems to work here. They also smile a great deal less than in MVs like "Hot Summer," giving the video a more serious air.
I'm not sure what the phone, the burning book, or the heterochromian cat have to do with anything, but they add to the dynamic environment. The abrupt cuts, costume changes, and strange symbolic imagery help energize this video. In a strange way, it reminds me of a darker, more somber "Electric Shock." I have to give kudos to the directors. It might be called "Red Light" but there's no stopping as I've watched this every day, multiple times a day since its release and I haven't tired of it yet. Maybe it's the tune itself.