Posted in Music, Review

The 4 Walls of f(x)

Is it a coincidence that that 4th album of f(x) is titled 4 Walls as the group is now down to 4 members? Or is it deliberately selected to signify the new lineup? It is a case closed by now and i wish not reopen old wounds as i believe a change in lineup is the second last thing we’ve ever wanted to happen to the group we like (the last thing is disbandment, right?). Curiously, i don’t see many comments/questions about Sulli that i guess fans have already moved on from this issue. However, it is really regrettable that they had to cut short the promotion for Red Light because even though i still don’t like the title track, the album has so many great tracks.

I nearly scrolled through the group’s latest music video as it doesn’t have the word “f(x)” in the title; thankfully, Krystal’s face caught my attention. The MV itself has an enigmatic concept that it’s rather confusing to grasp the meaning of the parallel, maze-like sequence. Some commenters pointed out that it’s all about the butterfly effect — we see Amber break the cup so when Krystal pours the water, it spills over onto the floor, which causes Victoria to slip and fall head first, whereas Luna gets a bleeding foot after stepping onto the broken cup. Everything is interrelated that when they’re presumably given the chance to turn back time, Vic saves the cup from shattering and nobody’s hurt.

Despite some eerie shots, the video is captivating and sharply edited to match the song’s tension. Storylined-MVs like this is nice to watch (although i also enjoy the ubiquitous boxed dance ones) as it also makes me look forward to the comeback stages to see what the choreo’s gonna be like. 4 Walls isn’t as the electrifying as the group’s previous singles and the choreography mirrors that — it is equal parts intricate and elegant, tho’ still as sharp as ever. The seemingly IT move, the leg-spreads, is also present although it fits into the whole routine instead of looking forced just for the sake of including the move. Overall, it’s as alluring as the MV and the song.

4 Walls starts with a whirling tune that quickly reels you in. The tempo and singing pitch remain pretty constant throughout the minutes that there isn’t really the high and low point of the song. Everything glides on smoothly that the little spikes in tension are caused by the trippy chords rather than the vocals. It does pick up slightly toward the end as the beats tighten, high notes added in, and the choreo quickens during the repeated “areumdawo oo-oo-ooh~”. 4 Walls is composed and arranged by LDN Noise, who also did SHINee’s View, which explains why it sounds familiar. Besides carrying similar rhythm, both are nice house music jams. If you like one, then you’ll feel the same about the other.

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If the title track slightly deviates from the group’s typical singles with heavily accented beats and strong hooks, the other album tracks shall give you the feeling that you’re indeed listening to f(x) record. At least Deja vu, Diamond, Papi, and Cash me out do that to me. Synthesizers are used prominently in these tracks although if you like f(x), you certainly don’t mind it.

Deja vu has a playful tone to it (“every time i look at you, it’s like a deja vu” *woo-hoo~!*) that makes it fun to listen to despite the dizzying synths. Diamond is the other song performed by the group on their comeback stages. It’s an edgy hip-hop-y track but i only like the melodious verses and smooth vocals. Seeing the live performance, i think this is too gritty for them. Papi is the club banger of the album — it’s a wild number with high-octane chorus that’s closer to excited cheers than actual singing. I found it too rowdy at first but the more i listen to it, the more it grows on me. The rapping is gritty and badass, which i like. I still can’t put a finger on the thumping beats in the beginning of Cash me out, but the song is so f(x) as well as a single material — it has clear progression and powerful hook. Too bad the gratifying build-up ends at the pre-chorus; the tension drops in the chorus.

These songs may be gripping and exhilarating to listen to, but they’re too harsh for my feveryday jams that i tend to spin calmer tracks more. Glitter, Rude love, and When i’m alone are also minimally syncopated, if any. Glitter begins with playful tunes, moves into staccato-ish verses, and stays light throughout even though the choruses are peppered with successive high notes. I like the gentle vocals, guitar-driven bridge, and overall warm and fuzzy feel it projects. Keyboard-driven Rude love is mid-tempo dance number with just enough hints of autotune to preserve the electronic sound that is f(x) signature sound. The melody is kinda vanilla but i enjoy it. When i’m alone closes the album. The drum is resoundingly loud but the verses are quiet; it slowly gains momentum and energy toward the big chorus which is delivered with soaring full-bodied vocals. The way the voices are echoed adds the mysterious air to the song that it ends up somewhat haunting. It is one of my top picks nonetheless.

The other two tracks from the record are my least favorites: X and Traveler (feat. Zico). I don’t have much to say about them. The melody, the rhythm, the accompaniment — none of them appeals to me. I’m okay with X‘s arrangement until the shrill falsetto-fest chorus comes in. As for Traveler, the persistent low vibrating sound weirds me out though i endure till the chorus before hitting next.

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In the end, i’m okay with 7 out 10 songs, which is not bad at all. I don’t manage to like all, and i don’t have to, do i? I’m not sure if 4 Walls is more coherent than Red Light but songs-wise, i gotta say last year’s is better. And even though f(x) has become a quartet, i don’t feel weird watching them as four; instead, i think it’s still balanced, if not more, and the line distribution is fairer? If anything, it’s a shame that they lost a member even before they have an official fandom name or a chance to hold a solo concert (why is it so?) but what’s done is done.

I have said it before, and i’ll say it again, that i do like f(x) sound and style. When other girl groups are mostly divided into cutesy or sexy concepts, f(x) is neither. Or perhaps in between. Which is pleasant to see as they don’t have to try darn hard to work the aegyo or the provocative moves. They look effortlessly gorgeous onstage (and offstage too). And although i once read that military precision dance isn’t what they aim for, their moves are still highly synchronized. As long as they stay as the f(x) i came to like, they’ll remain one of my top K-pop girl groups. That is all.

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