Here it is. Ladies and gentlemen, the Critical Kpop review of f(x)’s newest album, Red Light. We’ve already written about the archetypes in the music video, and the need for SM to treat f(x) as the future of Kpop. But what about the album? Does Red Light stack up to our (admittedly) high expectations? Below we review each song before giving our final grade.
1. Red Light
We’re calling it. “Red Light” is the song of the summer. It’s taken us until July to find a worthy candidate, but “Red Light” pushes all the right buttons. It’s fast-paced, sexy, and seductive. It also has everyone scratching their heads trying to figure out the meaning. Here’s our advice: just listen and enjoy. f(x)’s harmonies are spot on, the transitions are enjoyable (how often do you get to say that?), and Amber’s rapping is perfect.
“Red Light” is also a functional extension of previous hit, “Electric Shock.” Though a great song, it’s cause for concern. Hear us out. f(x)’s last album, Pink Tape, was brilliant, but the group only promoted “Rum Pum Pum Pum.” Red Light is a similarly great album (spoilers!), but if the group only promotes one single, they’ll have wasted so much potential.
We can’t help but wonder if “Milk” should have been the promotional single over the more disjunctive but amazing “Red Light.” It’s just so easy on the ears. But we get it. Kind of. The song does have similarities to “Rum Pum Pum Pum,” a not quite Caribbean/faux Arabic mix that moves with the smoothness of, well, milk. Melodically, it’s the most satisfying song of the album, building and falling organically. While “Red Light” took a few listens to grasp, the simplicity of “Milk” grabbed ahold of us immediately.
We’re sure there must have been many late night debates deciding if “Milk” or “Red Light” would be the single promoted. It’s not an easy decision. We get it. But we don’t have to like it.
“Butterfly” is a synthpop song with a downtempo vibe. It’s relaxing, it’s refreshing, it’s a great song. Our only concern is that it doesn’t exactly lead into “Rainbow” very effectively. But it’s hard to care about that when we close our eyes and listen. This is the type of song that will stick with you for a long time, but will never get the recognition it deserves.
“Rainbow” gives the impression of a clubby mix, but the song slows down considerably and surprisingly, which would be fine except the club beats don’t quite mesh with the lackadaisical summer song. It’s like two songs mashed together, maybe three? When the song literally stops at 1.50, and then picks up again, you might mistake the returning club beat as a different song, but then “Rainbow” tries to come together for a strong finish. And, amazingly, it works. Almost.
5. All Night
This song is old school, 80’s pop that reminds us of early Madonna or Michael Jackson. When it comes down to it, “All Night” may be the most jarring out of the whole album. It’s like we’ve fallen down a musical vortex. We might just like it based on nostalgia alone!
“Vacance” is a summer song, a vacation song. “Vacance” makes no sense. Unless f(x) is singing the French word for vacancy. Although this song is a lyric disaster of “NU ABO” proportion, it’s still incredibly fun. We love the trailing vocals in the chorus and the conversational feel to the song.
7. Spit It Out
Maybe the most electronic song in the album, “Spit it Out” shoots out with energy and attitude that seems perfect for a midnight rave. It almost feels like the song was made in a video game or from the insides of a supercomputer. And we don’t mean that as a slur, this song really moves.
And the lyrics are hilarious. English translation: “You just picked up and ate anything. Even my heart that you didn’t want. So yummy. You thought, who cares if it’s anything. You just swallowed and wiped your mouth.” How could you not love this song?
Just before the Dubstep drops, f(x) asks us, “Are you ready for it?” Even though “Boom Bang Boom” incorporates plenty of EDM, the song avoids easy classification. The verse, bridge, and shout chorus are all distinct, but come together nicely in this high-octane song. Definitely one for the dance party playlist.
Is this f(x)’s “Thriller?” Dracula has nice horror elements and sound effects that would make a fun fall concept. Just take a look at some of these (translated) lyrics: “Yeah, when the moon hides behind the clouds. Yeah, I’ll secretly fly. Yeah I’ll go after the lonely you…”
It should really be one of their singles, being one of the album’s best songs, if SM would go that route (which they should). We’d love to see this performed or produced as a horror music video. Picture: Krystal as a vampire, or Amber as a mummy! Make it happen, SM!
10. Summer Lover
This song isn’t bad so much as forgettable. In an eleven song album there’s one song that just isn’t going to stand out, and this song is it. Disagree with us?
11. Paper Heart
“Paper Heart” is a surprising gem buried at the tail end of the album. This ballad will keep you engaged with great vocals and choral repetition. We’d like to see f(x) perform this one at some point, maybe as a lead-in to one of their bigger songs.
If you’ve read our review so far, you’ll have noticed that we’re pretty enthusiastic about nearly every song on Red Light. A recipe for a great album, right? Maybe. Unfortunately, Red Light feels a bit like a greatest hits album: all the songs are good, some are really good, but they don’t fit together with any real cohesion. An album should be more than the sum of its parts. When the parts are this strong it’s hard to dock Red Light too much though. Here are eleven solid songs that will make you ecstatic that f(x) is back. Here’s hoping that they’ll promote more of the album and stay around far longer than just the summer.