Album Review: f(x) – “Electric Shock”

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.

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Album Review: f(x) – “NU 예삐오 (NU ABO)”

Tracklist:
1. NU 예삐오 (NU ABO)
2. Mr. Boogie
3. 아이스크림 (Ice Cream)
4. ME+U
5. Surprise Party
6. Sorry (Dear. Daddy)

This is f(x)’s first mini-album, which was released on May 4, 2010.

I was so hoping for something better than this as the cover, but… I suppose this will do. (Am I the only one who finds the blindfold vaguely erotic? Lol, I’m a perv.)

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I won’t lie to you – it’s hard for me to pick a place to start in reviewing NU 예삐오 (NU ABO) because I love it so much. But I will. First off, the music is better, and certainly darker than that of most of the songs released  so far this year – take the strong beat and synths of Chu~and combine them with the stylish charm of LA chA TA, and you have this song. The vocals in the verse are a kind of rap-talk-singing, which, you know, I’m okay with – I wish they’d actually sing more, but it’s catchy even so. The sections involving actual singing – Luna’s, for example – are absolutely amazing. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the cheering that can be heard in the background; others say it gives the song atmosphere. My take on this is that I don’t really hear it. The song is so engrossing, I don’t notice it at all! If you can’t tell by my gratuitous praise, I love this song. Really love it. f(x) couldn’t have come back with a better single!

Here comes Mr. Boogie, the song f(x) fans have been waiting for [im]patiently for months. It’s been hailed as a hit that would bring f(x) into superstardom, and I have to say that I agree. A dance song with blaring synths and a dark beat, Mr. Boogie is catchy without being in-your-face. The melody is pretty easy to follow, and the chorus lacks the extra dimension of harmony, but it also features an interesting call-and-response effect, almost like an echo. It’s definitely different compared to f(x)’s other songs because all the lyrics are sung – even Amber has a singing part. And they all sound great. Between this song and NU 예삐오, I think f(x) has come out with two of the strongest K-Pop songs so far this year.

With 아이스크림 (Ice Cream), I was pretty skeptical at first because it seemed to be just your average cutesy song. In some respects it is, but I feel like it manages to be cute without going overboard. Amber’s rap is the only ridiculous part. I have to commend her for rapping in Korean, and she does a good job, but it’s reminiscent of her rap from Chu~♡ rap in a less-than-flattering way. This is a decent song, but it’s really average and stereotypical K-Pop.

ME+U is a really great and catchy song… until the vocals come in. To put it lightly, they sound like anime characters on crack. I’m not going to say right out that this is a bad song – it’s got some pretty catchy parts, especially the chorus. The weirdness of the verses makes a little more sense when you learn the concept of the song: a student’s unrequited crush on a math teacher (talk about something that wouldn’t fly in the U.S., lol). The fact that they’re playing characters lessens the bizarreness of it a bit, but if hyper-cute things put you off, I’d approach this song with caution, or skip it altogether.

The shortest song on this mini-album, Surprise Party is a simple, easygoing R&B song à la Wonder Girls. More or less, it’s a feminine song about wishing one’s significant other a happy, happy, happy birthday. That’s relatable enough, right? Well, long story short, this is a really standard K-Pop R&B song. Make of that what you will. I liked it, but I don’t think it’ll be on heavy rotation on my iPod any time soon.

Finally, capping off the whole thing is Sorry (Dear. Daddy), a duet between Krystal and Luna, and of course, a ballad. I feel like this is a really nice way to bring the album to a close because it’s everything a ballad should be – pretty without being cheesy, and emotional without being weepy. The fact that it’s sung by the two best singers in the group helps, too. I don’t know if anyone feels this way, but I interpret this song as an answer to Girls’ Generation’s song Dear Mom. They’re very similar, only with different parents as the subject. Either way, it’s a really nice track, and it ends the mini-album on a classy note.

Summary: I’ve been waiting a long time for a full mini-album from f(x), and for the most part, NU 예삐오 does not disappoint. The lead single, along with album tracks Mr. Boogie and Sorry (Dear. Daddy) are really nice with things even non-f(x) fans will like. The others are more acquired tastes, but I’m sure more dedicated fans of the group will appreciate them. I think with this mini-album, f(x) are starting to make a name for themselves other than “the female SHINee.” They’ve got a look and sound that are all their own, and I’ve no doubt that they’re aiming for the top.

Album Grade: A-
Recommended Tracks:
NU 예삐오 (NU ABO)
| Mr. Boogie | ME+U | Sorry (Dear. Daddy)

Single Review: f(x) – “스릴 러브”

Tracklist:
1. 스릴 러브 (Thrill Love)

This is f(x)’s second digital single and third single overall, released on March 17, 2010. The song is a part of the OST for the drama Romeo and Juliet.

No comments on the cover since f(x) isn’t on it. Lol.

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A commenter over at Omona They Didn’t! on LiveJournal pretty much summed up the way I feel about this song: What is this? ;__; WHAT HAPPENED TO FEMALE SHINEE?? The only conceivable way that f(x) would have ever been made to record this song is if someone mistakenly put one of the demos in the Girls’ Generation pile into theirs. If you listen to the song, you’ll see what I mean; a song like this would have sounded totally normal from SNSD, who do cutesy stuff like this all the time, but with f(x) it sounds sickeningly sweet and just wrong. Even Amber’s rap, which I would normally praise because it’s pretty much all in Korean, seems horribly contrived.

Summary: TL;DR – wtf is this shit.

Single Grade: D-

Single Review: f(x) – “Chu~♡”

Tracklist:
1. Chu~♡
2. Step by Me
3. You Are My Destiny

f(x)’s third single was released on November 9, 2009.

Not sure what to say about this cover. It looks really pose-y and staged, and lol @ their clothes.

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Having only recently discovered f(x) through their debut single LA chA tA, I figured reviewing their first physical single would be the next step because, well, these girls are great. However, Chu~♡ is something of a step down from f(x)’s massively catchy debut in that it sounds trendy to the point of being formulaic. The song starts off with the heavily Auto-Tuned hook, Do it do it chu~, which I find catchy although the following verses are sort of bland. I actually do like the aggressive synth here and the way it exaggerates the dance-y beat. Krystal, Victoria, Sulli and Luna all do a fair if not all that spectacular job with their sections, and things are going pretty well until Amber’s rap comes in. Um, trying too hard much? Sorry, Amber. In truth, this song was rather enjoyable, however I think some more fine-tuning may be needed for the girls to find a sound completely their own.

Step by Me surprised me, considering my expectations weren’t all that high. It’s a bouncy, cute pop song with enough girlish flair to last for days. I’m normally not a fan of this type of song, but when done correctly it comes off as cheerful as opposed to irritating. That said, the combination of deep R&B beats and sunny piano do a really nice job of framing the girls’ feminine vocals. It’s a simple but pleasant affair. However, going back to the formulaic issue, Step by Me sounds VERY Girls Generation-esque – make of that what you will. I personally liked it, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was waiting for Taeyeon to pop out of nowhere.

With a name like You Are My Destiny, it’s got to be epic, right? Well, depends on your definition of ‘epic’. This song is, in all fairness, a really nice and pretty ballad with some pretty damn good vocals to its name. Does it sound kind of predictable? Sure, but predictability isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it comes to sweeping ballads of this caliber. It might just be because it’s winter now and I’m in the ballad-y mood, but I really enjoyed every moment of the twinkling piano and cascading strings in this song. You can hear the emotion going into it, which always makes for a good end product.

Summary: When it comes to up-and-coming artists and groups, I tend to want to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the hype surrounding them is justified. In the case of f(x), a five-member girl group formed in the wake of the recent 2NE1 phenomenon, there’s certainly something to get hyped up about. LA chA tA was a great debut, and it sure made SM Entertainment’s claims of them being “Asia’s pop dance group” seem legit. However, with the release of Chu~♡, the group’s first physical single, something seems to have faltered – all of a sudden, f(x) sounds like Anygroup, a blank slate onto which trends can be projected. The single’s three songs sometimes reveal glimpses at something great, however I believe they need more time to soul-search and find what makes f(x), f(x). Which, by the way, is not a tomboy female rapper who sends the fangirls into a fit of girlish squeals.

Single Grade: B