This is f(x)’s second EP and first release in the year 2012. It was released on June 13 of this year and peaked at #1 on South Korea’s Gaon Weekly album chart and #2 on the United States’ K-Pop Billboard chart.
This cover is pretty hipsterish but I still kind of like it. Although the animal masks are not my favorite look on them (lol), I still like the high contrast in the colors and I think this is an alright jacket image.
Though quite flawed, 저트별 (Jet) (Jeteu byeol; Jet Star) is a catchy opening track. Starting with a strong electropop sound, the song also features stilted, robotic vocals as well as the cutesy sing-talking we’re so accustomed to hearing from f(x). No exactly my favorite, but I will forgive it. I love the sugary effervescence of the chorus and the unusual bridge, so those are some pluses. The vocals aren’t outstanding or anything, but to be frank, this is not really the time for vocal acrobatics. The one thing that disappointed me the most was the lack of a rap from Amber. I would really have liked to hear something from her other than the stock (stupid ) phrases she was given (“JUST LIKE A BUTTERFLY!” oh Amber), especially seeing as she’s improved a lot since debuting with the group. Thankfully, she gets the spotlight a couple tracks later. Overall, not a super memorable song, but it has f(x) written all over it. Make of that what you will.
Electric Shock is exactly the type of song at which f(x) excel: catchy, fun, harmless dance pop. I was immediately drawn to the strong electronic instrumental and the girls’ appropriately aggressive vocals (Amber even gets some parts – in Korean!). In fact, everyone pretty much gets a turn at the microphone, which is refreshing, since, as with most groups, certain members tend to dominate. As for the song itself, I totally dig this style of electropop, and this makes me more willing to forgive the vapidity of the lyrics. There’s a nice dropoff before the chorus, which is essentially the title of the song repeated several times. I can’t really come up with any outright bad things to say about this song, because it’s not meant to be high art and it never tries to be, and since I like my pop music pretention-free, I appreciate that.
I find 지그재그 (Zig Zag) a bit confusing. At first, the beat seems catchy, but once the vocals come in, the melody has an unusual quality to it that makes it difficult to groove to. I can’t really put my finger on it, and it prevented me from ever fully settling into the song, if that makes sense. I did, however, enjoy the harmonies during the chorus. I’m not entirely sure what else to say other than… huh?
Ugh, guys. I absolutely love Beautiful Stranger. A trio between Luna, Krystal and Amber, this electro-R&B number combines melody, groove and vocal to create a really nice number. First off, seeing as Krystal and Luna have been the official duet partners of the group since day one, it goes without saying that they have great vocal chemistry. The real dark horse of this song, though, is Amber, who delivers the best rap performance of her career with f(x). She gets two verses and a bridge, all of which are 90% in Korean, and while I can’t really speak for her accent or how good she sounds, it certainly comes off as much more natural than other performances we’ve heard from her. I’m a pretty big Amber fan (understatement), but I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that she’s not that much of a rapper. But her presence on this song totally turned my expectations around. She really sounds like a rapper here, and the song benefits as a result.
Love Hate is kind of like the opening track in that it has a bunch of good things mixed in with a bunch of bad things, so it’s hard to tell whether it’s a good song or just a mess. As for the things I liked, the vocals are really not bad and they reflect the tongue-in-cheek sound of the song. I also liked some of Amber’s parts, which, though not rap, were close enough and didn’t sound completely stupid. On the other hand, I really can’t stand the chorus. It’s typical f(x) “I don’t feel like singing and I want to sound cute so I’m gonna yell!” shouting, and to be honest, it’s really grating and not at all endearing, at least in my opinion. These opposing factors really balance the scales on this song, making it not bad or good, but solidly average. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “irredeemably awful” and 10 being “absolutely perfect in every way,” this song is a solid 5.
Thankfully, I feel pretty good about 훌쩍 (Let’s Try) (Huljjeok; Swept). The song’s official description says that it has elements of reggae, and I can hear it. That said, it’s a very watered down version of reggae, but that’s fine with me. This song has a pretty, laid-back sound to it, but the girls never sound lazy, which is actually very nice. Probably one of the better songs on the EP.
Summary: I’ve been a fan of f(x) for a while now, so I feel qualified to say that their music is definitely not for everybody. Although their dance songs are really catchy and great, their filler tracks run the gamut from innocuous to slightly grating to downright crap. As a fan, this disappoints me because I feel that they’re kind of like the unwanted stepchildren of the SM Town family tree, and that if they were given better material, they could be really good (Beautiful Stranger and the title track are, in my opinion, proof of this). However, one of f(x)’s crowning achievements is that they have attained a cohesive sound. You know when you’re listening to an f(x) song or album, even when if the songs are not that good. Once again, make of that what you will.
Album Grade: B
Beautiful Stranger | Electric Shock | 훌쩍 (Let’s Try) | 제트 별 (Jet)