With two months of tumultuous drama, f(x) Amber’s solo debut crept up on me! Before I know it, I hear that Amber’s ALBUM has dropped! I had heard that Amber’s solo was due to come out in February, but so much had happened, I was taken off guard. Anyway, I immediately purchased the album as soon as it dropped.
I suppose it’s a good thing I was so busy. Last year, when I was anticipating f(x)’s Red Light comeback, I was so anxious and excited, I couldn’t stand waiting.
This time, it showed up at the right time, right when I needed a smile on my face.
If you don’t know who f(x) is, read my article f(x), the Korean “Spice Girls” + Amber Liu in the Spotlight
f(x)’s Amber is considered the “charming” tomboy of the f(x) group. She debuted with her group in 2009 and has garnered much attention since then.
Amber is one of the few females in K-pop who presents a “boyish”, or rather comfortable, image. Within f(x), she already stands out. But among other female K-pop idols, she is also very unique. This made her popular first. What added to this imagery, was her likable personality. Amber is known as a “social butterfly” in K-pop. Who DOESN’T know Amber? She knows everybody! She has featured in others’ music videos often, collaborated with several artists, is always asked to MC for shows, and everyone calls her “friend”. She is liked among her fellow idols, but also among those idols’ fans.
Amber has “layers” to her personality, and that makes her interesting. She’s funny, she’s always showing herself having fun, and she has the “heart of a teenage girl”, as one Korean radio station put it. In other words, she’s very youthful and high-spirited. She’s straightforward and down-to-earth, but has also shown herself to be understanding and open-minded. Although Amber has a tomboyish side (where she likes basketball, skateboarding, taekwondo, and wears baggy clothing), she has also shown more feminine sides to herself (where she enjoys cute doggies and stuffed animals, enjoys shopping, and doesn’t mind wearing heels here and there). All of these qualities make Amber interesting to people.
Amber has a “humble” air about her. She’s an idol, but acts like a fan. She’s a queen, but mingles with commoners. She’s a senior, but makes friends with rookie idols. She has many talents, but hides them quietly. K-poppers can only fall in love with her.
Thus, it was no surprise that Amber was the first f(x) member to go solo…
Well, it may have been shocking for some…
Amber is known as the “rapper” of the f(x) group. Many people only knew Amber as a rapper. Some other f(x) members, such as Luna and Krystal, were better known for their vocal and dancing abilities. To add, Amber never had the perfect female idol “look” or image. To add even more to that, Amber is from the USA. Her accent and language skills are not as fluent as some of the other members. Some people assumed Luna or Krystal would be the first to debut for these reasons.
So, there are some who don’t know what to expect from this album. I’ll bet people’s expectations are very low, which will be good. Why is this good? Because it will be fun to see the surprised look on many K-poppers’ faces when they actually hear this album.
The title of the album is Beautiful, which is the name of the first track on the album. It suits the album. I’ll explain why later…
First, like I do with every review, I want to review the debut as a whole. I usually start with the teaser images and overall packaging…Especially when it comes to f(x) and their members…
If you want to read reviews about f(x)’s other albums, click the links below:
Electric Shock Review
Pink Tape Review
Red Light Review
As you all may know (or not), f(x) is a group from “powerhouse” label SM Entertainment that pulled me into the Korean Wave officially. I’d always been interested in BoA since 2003, but I purchased more of her Japanese material than I did her Korean material (though I enjoyed both). I’d heard about f(x) on one of BoA’s fan websites. I didn’t initially take off with them…At first, I just couldn’t understand the big deal with the K-pop group craze. But then…
Amber. Yes. I was doing an article about androgynous fashion. I was super interested in that sort of look. Amber was one of the first women to pop up on google when I was looking up artists who embrace the style. My interest in her grew. Later, I found out she was from the USA, the same country I’m from. Her English made it easy for me to relate to her. Soon, I’d given many of f(x)’s songs a chance. I heard some good stuff.
f(x) is an unconventional group. In other words, you never know what to expect from them. I can honestly tell you to expect the unexpected when it comes to their solo debuts as well.
I explained more here —> Why I chose f(x)
So, yes, it seems that I might be a little bias in this article. But I just want to be honest: I will give it what I think it deserves. I may be a fan of f(x), but as most of my readers know, it doesn’t mean I thought everything f(x) came out with was perfect. You may have gathered that if you read the reviews above…
With all of that aside…
There is only one way of putting this debut: It’s very “Amber”. If you know Amber, she is lively, bold, and colorful. She presents herself confidently, even when she is not really feeling that way. The teaser images for Amber show Amber’s unique and humorous personality. She is seen wearing her usual comfortable clothing and everything is absolutely colorful. Amber’s favorite color is red, and so we see a lot of that color in the photos. Amber reveals her striking charisma throughout the debut.
Most people have seen the “Shake That Brass” MV that accompanies the album and promotes Amber’s debut.The MV has received a lot of attention for reflecting Amber’s personality to a “T”. Amber shows all of her interests: She plays basketball in the MV and hangs out with all of her friends. There is even a reference for her affectionate nickname given by fans, Llama.
Amber has stated in her mini biography: “Creating a stage where there are no restrictions is my dream. And it doesn’t even have to be on a real stage, a street is fine. Just as long as it’s a place where everyone can join in and have fun!” In this MV, Amber seems to be living out her dreams. The song and overall style of the MV is without the normal K-pop restrictions. Everyone seems to be having genuine fun. The most genuine person is Amber herself.
Read more about the MV here: Amber #ShakeThatBrass MV
In interviews, Amber revealed the freedom she had when dealing with this album. She personally asked SM for this solo debut. She personally requested Taeyeon to feature in the song “Shake That Brass”. She also wrote several songs for the album. So, this debut is pretty much ALL AMBER.
The MV included all of her friends, and all of those friends were idols themselves. Of course, her connections made this a spectacular debut.
The album itself didn’t disappoint, but it may have been a bit shocking. Just from listening to the first song, you wouldn’t expect the album to carry such substance and depth…And if you don’t know Amber well, you really wouldn’t be expecting what’s about to come next…
This album was truly for the fans. Fans have been asking for the following things FOR YEARS from Amber:
1) For Amber to sing more (Because her die-hard fans knew she could sing all along)
2) For Amber to write more music (Because her die-hard fans knew she could write music)
Fans also love Amber for her charm, youthful spirit, humor, and all of her darn K-pop connections.
Combine all of the wants and desires of fans with her personality, and this album delivered it.
This was Amber’s goal for the album: “This album is like an introduction about myself. Every track represents my experiences in life. It’s kind of album that saying ‘Hello~ I am Amber’. I hope to get a lot of support from you” (Amber).
I will review each song.
This is the first track on the album. It is also the title of the album and it was the first song Amber promoted on Twitter. In far contrast to “Shake That Brass”, “Beautiful” is a meaningful ballad with acoustic undertones. Amber personally wrote, composed, and arranged the song herself. It sounds like her style of music, if any of you are familiar with the songs she has written before.
Amber reveals to the “less-informed” her melodious voice in this song. This song is sweet, but also carries substance. Amber revealed that she wrote this song three years ago.
It’s a song that seems to focus on Amber’s struggle with having a tomboyish image and her fears of being judged. Tomboyish Amber is not like all the other girls, and she is constantly pressured by people (including fans) to be more feminine. But Amber has learned to be proud of herself and love herself. There are plenty of fans who love Amber for her tomboyish appearance and support her (that’s how she got to where she is now). But there will always be closed-minded individuals out in the world. Amber has had to deal with this. In the lyrics, she mentions how people have said “Hurtful things” and how she had to suck it up and put on a smile. However, instead of being angry at those who criticize her, the song expresses Amber’s happiness with “being herself”. The song truly is “beautiful” and inspirational. Fans who listen to the song know exactly where it is coming from. The lyric video is moving, displaying a collage of photos from when she was a little girl, photos during her debut, and her new, more mature images for Red Light. Amber thus shows us how much she has blossomed. This song reveals a side of Amber most don’t know or understand. It reveals the first part of Amber’s personality.
This song is tasteful and refined. I love this song. It brings tears to my eyes. This is a must-listen.
Amber has a brief rap segment in the song. It almost feels as if Amber is featuring herself. lol <3 doe.
2) Shake That Brass
This is the promoted song and the second track off of the album. I can see why this song was promoted first. 1) It is the only upbeat song on the album. 2) It reflects the “Amber” personality everyone knows and loves the MOST. She gives us the “rapping” Amber that she’s known for.
The song is lively and upbeat, just like Amber herself. Within the lyrics of the song, Amber refers to her “pet name” Llama, given to her by one of her fans. The whole phrase “shake that brass” is exactly something “Llama” would say on some posts on her Twitter or Instagram. The song is exactly a reflection of Amber. The first two songs on this album reveal Amber’s two very different sides.
“Brass” is in reference to a “brass” instrument. And, of course, it also is meant to be a a cover-up for “ass”.
Amber stated in a radio interview (SBS Cultwo Show) that she made this song last summer. She also said she wanted a song that talked about herself…Which was pretty obvious.
This song seems to, again, fulfill Amber’s dream of a “free stage”. It’s a song anyone can dance to. It’s not over the top. It conveys Amber’s cool and yet dorky charm. But the song is just so darn catchy. It doesn’t have the same depth and substance that the other songs have, but it certainly livens the mood a bit.
The song has the light message of letting go of all of your troubles for awhile, just having a good time, and letting go of shyness.
For some, the song seems a bit out of place on the album. But I thought it fit well with an album that is meant to reveal more about the artist.
Amber sort of reminds me of Will Smith in her rapping style and with how fun she is. Songs like “Switch” and “Getting Jiggy With It” come to mind immediately.
This song is featuring Girls’ Generation (SNSD)’s Taeyeon. I personally enjoyed hearing her voice in the song. I thought it added some sparkle. But there are a lot of people who hoped that Amber would do all the singing and rapping by herself, which is understandable. Many people are hoping that Amber herself would shine for her title song, rather than letting the vocals of an SNSD member shine. Some people felt Taeyeon was a random debut because most people do not understand Taeyeon’s relationship to Amber or the song. Personally, I felt her vocals made the song great.
Amber personally asked Taeyeon to be in her song. She was thinking over who she wanted, and thought Taeyeon would be perfect. This works for live performances. Amber is not used to performing alone, and said she needed someone around to critique her. I think having a feature in the title makes Amber feel more secure about the performance. She’s used to working in a team. I think Taeyeon is the perfect teammate. Taeyeon is her senior and has experience with music.
3) Love Run
This song is one of my favorites. Amber’s English shines in this song. It’s a moving, soft pop number, revealing Amber’s soft vocal abilities yet again. I absolutely love this song. It reminds me of some of Utada’s songs, like the “Flavor of Life”. And y’all know how much I love me some Utada.
Amber’s vocals also shine in this song, and it’s surprisingly catchy for a soft tune.
Believe it or not, this song was said to be based on a drama about a dog. XD All of Amber’s fans know how much Amber loves dogs. This song has thus become an addition to the album as a reflection of Amber’s personality. Amber seriously has a soft spot for those little dogsies.
I’ve really enjoyed how deeply personal and expressive the album is…
This song also reveals Amber’s vocals, but it is more of a synth-pop number. The song is really catchy. It is one of my personal favorites. The song seems to be about Amber’s time as an idol. One line mentions how tired she gets sometimes, but then it seems in the bridge she mentions how others remind her to keep pushing forward. She even mentions that sometimes she gets scared. This song seems to be about her long, hard journey through K-pop, and thus another puzzle piece to Amber’s whole picture is revealed.
The song is encouraging in a wistful way. It both makes the listener reflect on days gone, but also encourages the listener to keep moving forward. Man, so many songs take me to another world. Amber’s voice is addictive as well.
5) I Just Wanna
The final track of the album (Yea, I know just five songs, right?) is “I Just Wanna”. Does this song sound familiar to you? That’s because there was a song called “Good-bye Summer” from f(x)’s Pink Tape album with the same sound.
What most people didn’t know is that Amber wrote this song originally in English. It was called “I Just Wanna” before it ever became “Good-bye Summer”, re-written and translated for a Korean audience. Plenty of f(x) and Amber fans got wind of this and were upset that Amber did not get a chance to sing it. In “Good-bye Summer”, it was sort of hijacked by Krystal, Luna, and EXO’s D.O. Everyone felt it was sad that Amber wrote a song and didn’t even sing her own song. Fans begged and pleaded for the full English version.
So, this caters to the English-speaking fans, and makes this album multilingual.
Well, surprise, surprise! Amber put the song on her debut album! This is “fanservice”. That, in itself, shows that Amber is very connected with her fans and their interests.
The song itself feels a little different from “Good-bye Summer”. It adds Amber’s personality in there. “Good-bye Summer” focused on friends who love each other but can’t seem to tell each other. “I Just Wanna” was also about friends who love each other, but it’s not as evident that the feelings can’t be expressed. One line says, “I wish I could say these things to you”, so the two lovers can’t quite get their feelings across in the English version either.
Eric Nam featured on this track. Eric Nam and Amber did a phenomenal job with their duet. I always knew Eric Nam was an amazing vocalist, but he and Amber harmonize their voices well. They are best friends after all, so it’s only natural that they would sing so well together and convey the feelings of the song like it was meant to sound.
The interesting part is that Eric Nam is NOT an SM artist. Since when has an artist from another unrelated label featured in a SM album? SM, the Korean label that Amber is under, usually recruits artists within their label as features on fellow label mates’ albums. “Good-bye Summer”, the Korean cover of this song, featured an EXO member.
I wonder if B2M is getting some of the profits from this song…
Well, that’s it. I know. That is all. This is an EP, so it was not meant to be too long. But honestly, everything was so good, I really wanted more.
Overall, the album had some amazing surprises. The concept and overall feeling of the debut was very true to Amber. It was genuine. The concept was not at all surprising or different from what most fans expected, but Amber was definitely being herself. The most surprising sides to the album were the number of ballads and soft pop numbers introduced on the album. And not one song is horrible. Most of the songs are beautiful and meaningful, hence why I think “Beautiful” was the perfect album title. To add, I think this album showed Amber’s natural beauty and the things that make her attractive as an artist. She’s a rapper, singer, song-writer, and composer. She also speaks both Korean and English throughout the album, appealing to a wide-ranged audience. All of these talents and skills are valuable in K-pop, and even somewhat rare to find, especially among female K-pop artists. Thus, the album itself is valuable.
The only disappointment was that there were only five songs. This lead to other disappointments. Because there were only five songs, it was lacking in variety. Only one song was upbeat. The other songs were softer. If there are people out there who hate ballads and soft songs, they may be disappointed to find only ONE upbeat song. But that doesn’t necessarily take away from the album. The songs are high quality and really good. This is a strong debut album and shows Amber’s professionalism. She has music experience, and this album shows it.
I give this album a 9/10. It is a very professional album. The songs are amazing, surprising, and shows the best of Amber’s talents. Amber’s inner beauty shines, making the title, “Beautiful”, perfect. The only issue is the lack of variety and the fact that this is not a full album, which are not major issues, just my preference. The overall album is a must-listen. I recommend this album to all K-poppers. It’s the perfect debut from a solo female artist, and possibly my favorite.
If you want to see more of Amber’s talents:
Just How Talented is f(x)’s Amber Liu?
You can purchase this album on MeLoN or order a hard copy at Yesasia, Kpop Town, and KTown4U.
You can purchase “Shake That Brass” merch here: Shake That Brass @RedBubble
So far, most people have had mostly positive things to say about this album. f(x) fighting! Amber fighting!
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