I decided to give f(x) 3rd album Red Light a listen because of its highlight medley. Well, technically that would be secondly; firstly because Milk and All night have stuck in my head since first listen/watch. Both performed on their comeback stages last week. And from the snatches in the above montage, it seems that all the songs are great, including the title track (more on this later). Only after i listened to all tracks in full did i realize that the video isn’t titled highlight medley for nothing. What gets featured there really is the high point of each track, bar none.
Whether the full version lives up to the snippet is up to the ear of the beholder… For me, it’s half-half with slightly more hits than misses.
Arashi is practically the only artist/group whose activities i follow quite religiously. For other idols, singles (MVs and live performances) and several clips/TV appearances are as far as i go. I thus have little knowledge regarding an artist’s discography, musicality, growth and career development and those sorts of things. I weigh their oeuvre simply based on whether or not it appeals to me, regardless of the lyrics (unless i speak the language or look the translation up), production quality, or factors like if it’s their old or new sound or if it fits their concept. Disclaimer much? ;p
Onto the title track Red light. It doesn’t veer off course too much, it’s still synth heavy, their signature sounds despite the song’s darker mood. I usually dig songs with mysterious vibe like this one, but it is so disjointed it’s hard to enjoy the song. Every part of the song (i can’t even identify which is which) sounds like a separate entity they don’t mesh well. The transition, if any, doesn’t help bridge the gap either. Their last single, Rum pum pum pum, has contrasting segments too but manages to become a solid track that’s really alluring. Red light unfortunately doesn’t follow suit although it does sound more coherent after repeated listens. The MV is great though.
If you’re like me, then you’ll easily gravitate to Butterfly and Dracula more. The former’s intro and verses hint at pop-rock, the pre-chorus and chorus are unexpectedly dreamy. The vocals are great, the song’s tuneful. The latter is even better. It’s dark, intense, and thrilling through and through. Delish eargasm! If anything, i wish the verses are layered because individually their voices sound reedy there. The shrieks however are extraneous Dracula could very well do without. Still, it should’ve been the lead single imho.
Milk probably has the strangest intro — cat’s meow, dog’s bark, glass’ shattering, and gun’s cock sounds. We’re soon greeted by (timbal?) percussion and sinuous melody. It’s so Middle Eastern-ish i would have anticipated slithering, slinky moves had i not watched the performance. The chorus is not any less unique, with whistle and accentuated “my milk dein/bein”, so catchy it’s impossible to fall off your radar.
I like f(x) sass and edge, outlandish style and punchy choreos, but they can also do cute and sweet if need be. All night proves it. The album’s poppiest and most straightforward track, it could’ve been sung by any other girl group with the same effect. To its defense, All night is highly easy listening i bet no one’s skipping this relaxing number.
Is it just me or Krystal’s voice comes off a lot like SNSD’s Jessica’s throughout the record? They’re sisters, but i don’t recall such timbre from her before, as if enhanced with certain effects. But i digress.
The rest is the group’s ‘quirky’ songs. The “kongdak kongdak mujigae” was the only snippet i disliked from the highlight medley, and i hit next at 2-minute mark when that part is repeated endlessly like a broken record. Rainbow, that’s the title by the way, is as jarring as Red light and although the chorus is playful, the above snatch is grating. Sorry not sorry.
Spit it out and Boom bang boom join the club. Zestful techno tracks. Foot-tapping Spit it out is a club-friendly number with headbanging synth loops. It’s either sickening or intoxicating. The verses in Boom bang boom are more melodious despite the trippy beats. It’s loud and cacophonous. “Yes, i love this song,” concludes Krystal. Not in a million years.
Shifting gears, Vacance could very well be your go-to summer/on-the-road companion track. It’s fun, zippy, and delightful. On a vacation with Summer lover, how’s that sound? The penultimate track has laid-back verses which build up to the more powerful chorus, kicking enough to hook you. If you like Amber’s androgynous tone, you’ll be happy to hear more of her singing in the song she co-produced. Especially when she takes on the climax (“So baby come and be my love!”) — gratifying!
She even tackles more lines in Paper heart. Her voice has more body (like Luna’s) and her timbre is the most unique hers just stands out from the rest. Paper heart may come off as the ubiquitous midtempo ballad. The tune is pretty simple and may not appeal to you, but the hook will. “I got a pa-pa-pa-pa-paper heart~” is such an earworm. And if i’m unaware that i was listening to f(x)’s record, i’d naturally think it’s another Taylor Swift’s country song. Blame it on the banjo 😉
All in all, Red Light is a solid album. How it fares compared to the extolled Pink Tape? Hmm… I sampled the 2nd album twice, skipped a lot of tracks along the way, and never looked back. Only the lead single and Ending page appealed to me, the rest was too bizarre, too much synth, and too all over the place for my liking. I’d be tempted to say Red Light is way better just because i enjoy 7 out of its 11 tracks, but i think those who gushed about Pink Tape would actually love the other four tracks instead.