f(x) - 4 Walls
1. 4 Walls
3. Deja Vu
5. Rude Love
7. Traveler (Feat. ZICO)
9. Cash Me Out
10. When I'm Alone
'4 Walls' has a lot of 'four' influence in it from the title song to the number of members in the group (*sniff* we'll miss you, Sulli!), to the fact that this is their fourth LP. But f(x) is back and haven't lost any of their experimental nature with this release. This is their first album as a foursome.
"4 Walls" starts out quiet but insistent and soon picks up a beat in a bit of defiance to its synth washes, which disappear during the chorus. It's smooth and stylish, a nice bit of deep house. It's a lot quieter than previous title tracks like "Red Light" or "Electric Shock," but in some ways it's better with unexpected bridges and a sense that everything builds toward the majestic ending. I particularly love Luna's parts, in many cases blending seamlessly with Krystal's vocals.
The second song, "Glitter," didn't grab me as the first song did. Not too sure about the main verses; they seem disjointed and the chord progression is off. I like the chorus and bridge, though, when their voices go high and soft. "Glitter" also has a nice hook: "Crazy crazy for your love. Glitter Glitter Glitter." The song is primarily about a guy.
"Deja Vu" begins with a zigzagging synth and Krystal's sweet voice. I love the way this builds to a more complex song with nicely-timed bridges and raps. This one is also insanely catchy with great hooks. The message is that when they look at a guy, it summons up memories. Not quite the same as Deja Vu, but keep trying. Someday, K-Pop will get it right.
Synth wubs characterize "X," a piece of synth funk, well-behaved and smooth, and you can hear an occasional horn in the chorus, too. A little bit Prince + a lot of f(x) is awesome. At first seeming like the perfect song to go with an EDM-style direction (drug reference), it's more about the magic moment when you touch hands with that special someone.
"Rude Love" launches with rapid keyboards in piano mode, but soon kicks it up with a sweet dance groove. I wasn't entranced in the beginning, but it did not disappoint, with awesome vocal layering and a build and fade to autotune and back. There's a hook that buries itself in the music, "I'm wantin' you baby," until it finally drowns in the bridge and surfaces again, clearer towards the end. It's all about dispensing with courtesy and just going for it.
"Diamond" owes more to a trap influence than anything else. It's got a nice chant where Amber's voice is the clearest, and the happy patter of synth drip-drops here and there before a silky harmony in the chorus. It's sharp and edgy, like a diamond.
The tune is about toughening up and knowing your value.
"Traveler" is a bit impertinent with an occasional echoey synth cough layered over some bass. It starts out with Zico, which I thought was a bit odd, almost like Zico ft. f(x) than the other way round. He does a capable job, but I have to ask why? It's a pretty song, not ballad but chill. The lyrics are about wanderlust, but there's enough in there to indicated that it could be a metaphor about a lover's encounter.
"Papi" is one of the highest energy-songs on this LP. It starts with a bit of chanting, and then Amber's rap helps kick into high gear. It's incredible, body moving, and sassy, and not only that but also Amber has a second rap just ratcheting up the awesome. It's got that trademark f(x) sass that I love so much. The title is
the Central American term for father (or French for grandpa), and it's not explained well at all. The song is a bit open-ended, but I can well imagine the girls grabbing a guy's hands and running off with him.
"Cash Me Out" starts out peppy and straightforward, seeming like something that we might hear on 'Electric Shock' -- until a minute in, where the synth and EDM builds to a crushing crescendo. What's funny is after that, the song proceeds apace, like nothing epic had happened, at least until the last third, where it kicks up again. The lyrics are about giving all your love: "My heart is like the rich/So Cash Me Out"
"When I'm Alone" is the finisher, and it's slow and chill, until the chorus gives life and body to the piece. That's when the beat comes in and suffuses the rest of it, and the killer synth effects are as sharp and crystalline as broken glass. Full-bodied and epic, the message is easy to divine: they're asking the guy to come to them when they're alone.
More focused than 'Red Light,' I've got to say this is one of my favorite f(x) albums. It's got a lot going on, as you can hear by the songs, and some masterful arrangements keep the tunes from becoming a gigantic electronic mess. Each of them has a definitive melody, and other than "Glitter" none of the tracks fall on their face (and even that one has something to redeem it). It's gonna be hard to top this one. f(x) fighting!
Watch the girls make their way through a forested wonderland in "4 Walls!"
We see the girls in an apartment, presumably meant to be their dorm. The scene is all bound in a tight, square frame (4 Walls, anyone?). They drop tea cups, pour boiling water on a table, and such. When one of them slips and falls, Amber starts in on her rap, and the screen widens. Next we find them in a mystic wood that freezes some of them in time, in different places.
The wardrobe is for the most part appropriate. You don't spend a lot of time staring at someone's ostentatious choices, nor much of the girls except as a whole -- the focus is on what they're doing, not so much what they're wearing.
Like "Red Light" before it, this has to be one of the weirder videos I've seen. If there's a lot of symbolism here, I have yet to find it. It runs right along with the music though, and things are usually in focus, but it's still strange. And it might be because the effects are not eye-popping, but rather surprising, a little out of the ordinary, and more than a little spooky, appropriate for the season. This is awesomely produced, though, and never boring.