I know. Most of you might think that I seem to worship the ground f(x) walks on. From my background, to the heavy load of video sharing I do on random posts, to the large number of articles focused on this K-pop group, my promotion never ends. In fact, it seems like f(x) is a favorite among most critics.
f(x) Pink Tape
f(x) Red Light
But that doesn’t mean I think every album of f(x)’s was top-notch. I have my least favorite. I really don’t worship them as much as most people may think. But I am a fierce promoter of things that I believe deserve attention, and even f(x)’s worst is still pretty good. If you noticed, f(x)’s Electric Shock is not one of the albums that have a review from me…
I loved the concept. The title song was good, although the video was…meh. But the actual EP? Well, let me elaborate.
I got into an interesting discussion with the Assistant Chief Editor of Hellokpop, a popular K-pop news media website. They’d recently given their review on the Red Light album, and to my surprise they found Red light to be f(x)’s weakest album since the Nu Abo EP. Of course, I had to disagree. You know I already did my review on Red Light.
I stated in my comment to them that in my honest opinion the weakest album/EP from f(x) was Electric Shock.
This may shock many of you. It certainly shocked Hellokpop, to the point they asked for my reasoning for pinning Electric Shock as f(x)’s weakest. I didn’t realize that so many people, including critics, deemed Electric Shock as praiseworthy. I mean, compared to many K-pop albums, it was one of the most experimental albums out at the time, and it had some of the most interesting lyrics. Sure, there wasn’t a boring song on the album. Every song was catchy. They really sounded like Shinee in that era. But in comparison to f(x)’s other work, I have to disagree with most people when they deem Electric Shock as f(x)’s greatest “masterpiece”.
This is actually a review of sorts, only I’m not really giving a rating. This is my reason:
I suppose Red Light has less of an impact on usual k-pop listeners than Pink Tape and Electric Shock.
I knew about them through “Electric Shock” MV, but I really just started examining their work closer five months ago. I’ve observed them carefully. I was never into K-pop until I heard f(x)’s Pink Tape.
Pink Tape had a couple of artistic pieces, such as “Shadow” and “Good-bye Summer”. I felt the sound of “Shadow” cleverly conveyed a “shadow” with the smooth vocals, and the eerie feeling. Even if the listener couldn’t understand the lyrics, the tone conveyed feeling, to the point you could almost picture the “shadow”. It was a true form of art. That level of artistry is most commonly found on Broadway, or in musical movies, like in Disney’s Fantasia.
The Electric Shock EP, in comparison, lacked that kind of artistry or feeling. The sounds didn’t convey the feeling of the lyrics. I couldn’t picture anything solid through the music. It was almost as hollow as any pop album.
“Electric Shock”, the song itself, conveyed the feeling of an “electric shock” running up the body, while the first blush of love occurs, quite well, and one of the most commendable pieces on that EP. The others were left dry.
“Jet” was about being too busy to have a love life. I couldn’t feel that with the melody, tune, or lyrics. Neither spoke to me. As English is my first language, I couldn’t know what that song was about before translating the lyrics because the sound was simply catchy, but didn’t move with the lyrics as if they were “speaking” to the listener. Though it was meant to be a song expressing female independence, I was left feeling that it was a party song, not even picturing a girl turning down a lover. It was electronic, and just like electronics, hollow like a robot.
“Zig-Zag” gets mixed up with “Jet”. The song is about having a complicated love life, but the melody, the instrumental, didn’t convey that. It did convey a “zig-zag”-like feeling, but I never understood that this was a love song.
“Beautiful Stranger” was one of the very few songs that conveyed passion. The song is about two foreigners falling in love, often having cultural and language barriers. Amber, being the natural “rapper” of the song, conveyed passion in that song, as it apparently related to her as a foreign artist. The low tones in the verses conveyed a person trying to reach out, fiercely stating the obstacles, when it gets to the bridge/chorus we can almost picture the person stretching their hands towards the person in an attempt to try to finally reach out and confess the feelings, despite the language barrier. It’s almost like putting lyrics to imagination, making a “scene” out of the song. If we were to do the same with “Jet” or “Zig Zag”, we would end up empty-handed.
“Love/Hate” also failed to feel like a love/hate song, and sounded more like a cheer-chant. The “ups-and-downs” they were supposed to be feeling in the song was lost. I wouldn’t have known what it was about had the title not had love/hate in it, and the chorus didn’t shout it out a hundred times. They didn’t paint a picture of love-hate through the melody or vocals the way “Shadow” did in Pink Tape. What we find, in fact, is that “Zig Zag” and “Love/Hate” are really about the same thing: A love/hate relationship…
“Baby Let’s Try” also did really well in conveying girls being caught up in a romance with someone, and just wanting to run away or “leave” a particular place with that person. It carried that light air with it. I knew it was a love song even before I knew what the lyrics were saying. Though I think it was a generic love song that didn’t make any interesting references, nor did it have any interesting metaphors, it was still expressive.
I always feel music should be expressive. The point of lyrics-to-music, in my opinion, is usually to tell a story. Electric Shock didn’t tell me a story. It really didn’t tell me anything but to dance. If I wanted to just dance, I could hear an instrumental without lyrics. But then again, I keep Opera and Showtunes in my collection of music. I listen to a lot of world music, from Turkish Tarkan to classical Ludwig.
Another reason I felt Electric Shock was f(x)’s weakest was because of the lack of variety. While each sound was experimental, it fell mostly in the average up-beat, pop dance genre. “Jet” was upbeat, but lacking in terms of depth. I could really take or leave that song. It was awkwardly cute, and sounded like it was for children under the age of 12, which I don’t mind, as long as the instrumental conveys the right feeling . “Love/Hate” was typical of Asian pop (I listen to J-pop, C-pop, V-pop, many Asian pop songs). It simply had a catchy chorus, a lot of shouting, zany, but at the heart of the lyrics was a message about fickle love, something that was left unclear by the sound. “Love/Hate” was upbeat like most of the other songs. There wasn’t something for everyone, which I felt Red Light delivered. Mostly only people who like upbeat, dance-pop music would like the Electric Shock EP, but if you preferred ballads, acoustics, piano instrumental, House, Trap, retro, or even a mature, sexy evening song, you couldn’t find it. Electric Shock was a bit repetitive, and I often felt I was hearing the same song over and over again, especially between “Electric Shock”, “Jet”, and “Zig Zag”. The same “electronic” feeling was heard throughout all the songs. The concept killed the variety and emotional artistry, as well as vocal potential.
Even Nu Abo delivered the variety. From “Dear Daddy”, we have a soothing piano ballad. “Nu Abo” was fierce, and catchy. “Mr. Boogie” was sexy and silky. “Me +U” are for people who like more upbeat, bubblegum entertainment. “Surprise Party” was mellow for those who dislike a bunch of head-bangers. Pinocchio and the re-package had variety. With the variety, we at least can see the scope of their talents. I felt their talents were stifled in Electric Shock.
With Red Light, it carried variety and artistry. I’m just going to take “Red Light” for example. The low verses carry a ticking sound, like a bomb is ticking, bringing in an experimental trap feeling. When the bridge occurs, we are told to “stop for a moment and breathe”. Just as the lyrics say it, the song follows suit, so it feels like they are speaking to the listener. Then the chorus erupts into the House genre, just like the revolution they are trying to portray. The lyrics are encouraging us to re-examine our values, symbolizing themselves as activists trying to boldly make a statement to us, trying to make us really see the world beyond the superficial, according to Arirang‘s BTS of f(x)’s “Red Light”. Using Caterpillar, the American diesel-fueled organization, also known as CAT, as symbols, they embark to show us all we take for granted everything under our noses.
“All Night” is a slick sound, good for an older crowd who enjoys smooth 70′s disco numbers (the seniors seem to gravitate to this song), and the song is so sexy, it feels like something seductive is happening “all night”.
“Paper Heart”, the folk, Taylor-Swift-like country song, draws in those fans that love meaningful songs. The light sound is delicate just like a “paper heart”.
“Butterfly” is an example of this too. “Butterfly” sounds light and wistful just like a butterfly floating lazily in the sky.
Even “Boom Bang Boom” begins intensely, expressing the anger that occurs between two girls, when Luna’s bridge comes, she challenges the girl to enter the ring, once the chorus comes, they are fighting. We can feel that and picture it as they sing. So many other examples, but it would be even more long-winded if I continued.
I’m just going to also add the fact that they actually used their vocals in many songs instead of the heavy synchronization present due to technology, like in Electric Shock. The Red Light album draws in all kinds of people of different musical tastes.
The level of artistry is similar to Pocahontas’s “What’s Around the Riverbend”, especially how each sound inconsistently conveys each emotion she sings. It’s like when you hear Tom and Jerry. They don’t speak, but you can hear what’s going on by the song in the background. f(x) translated this to pop music in Pink Tape and Red Light.
Electric Shock failed to do that. It was simply designed to play at people’s parties and BBQs, holding back in depth and substance, chomping down on electronics, which disguised the girls’ vocal potentials, and pumped out dance numbers without stopping to help the listener get the sense of what each song was even about. We have one song that actually expresses something artistic, and that song excludes two of five members. The other song, “Baby Let’s Try” is distinctly different from the others, and is a solid pop song. It’s just not particularly interesting lyric-wise. For a person native to the language, maybe that kind of person could overlook the lack of feeling. If you just want to dance, sure, that kind of person would, too. But if you’re alone in your room, trying to find a meaningful piece to think about and contemplate like you would art in an art museum, Electric Shock would be last on my list. Well, Electric Shock probably has more substance than other K-pop albums I hear, where at least the lyrics are interesting, and the melodies are original and zany. At least in “Love/Hate” the verses move “up and down” as they sing to show the “roller-coaster” like feelings being expressed. But in comparison to other albums, Electric Shock does this the least.
But this is just my analysis. Many critics give props to things, but that doesn’t always classify it as “art” in my book. Critics so often go on their own tastes, and don’t often consider the tastes of the “collective”. There are many genres out here, and many different ears. If one artist can capture 10 genres within one album, drawing new fans every time, that’s pure genius for me.
I’m sorry this is so long. I was trying to explain my point thoroughly.
So, that’s my spin on Electric Shock, and why it’s my least favorite f(x) album. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. What’s your favorite and least favorite f(x) album, and why? Do you think I have a valid reason for believing Electric Shock to be f(x)’s weakest?
For more f(x):
f(x) the Korean “Spice Girls” + Amber Liu in the Spotlight
f(x) Red light Review
f(x) Pink Tape Review
f(x) Summer on GN!
Which f(x) member are you? quiz
f(x)’s charm and Venus
f(x)’s Ideal Types by Sun and Mars
f(x) Around the World
f(x) in the USA
f(x) on Olleh: Korea’s most Unique Girl Group
Just how Talented is f(x) Sulli?
Just how Talented is f(x) Victoria?
Just how talented is f(x) Amber?
Just how talented is f(x) Krystal?
Just how talented is f(x) Luna?
GN’s Top 10 F(x) songs (so far)
Girls’ Generation vs F(x): Chocolate Love
Why does GN love f(x) so much?
Funny Reaction videos to f(x) “Red Light”
Who is your f(x) bias?
USA’s Nylon writes about Girls’ Generation’s Jessica and F(x)’s Krystal, Jungsis!
F(x) Amber and Got7 on We Got Married Global! Which man wins Amber’s heart (Natal chart reading)?
F(x) Gets treated unfair by SM? And EXO is treated better?
Make Your Move, SM’s first American movie has songs from F(x) and Girls’ Generation in it!
F(x) Amber, a part of androgynous inspiration!
The Korean Wave
Venus signs and Love Stories, F(x) Amber Liu is mentioned
Music Core, f(x) mentioned
Jackie Liu, Amber Liu’s Sister, Gets Hurt by Fan
f(x)’s Amber in a parody Korean drama for A Song for you!
A SPECIAL BULLETIN FROM GN:
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