After abruptly ending promotions for their last album, “Red Light”, and becoming a quartet instead of a quintet, f(x) is back. The four members Luna, Krystal, Victoria, and Amber are ready to show their new sides with their latest album, “4 Walls.” It’s an album full of experimental pop, deep-house, EDM, techno, and even some Latin influences. f(x)’s return is better than ever, showing that they don’t need to be a five member group to shine.
The album opens with the title track “4 Walls,” which was cleverly accompanied by amazing marketing for presenting f(x) as a quartet. The girls have us going back to what SHINee did with their comeback for “View” earlier this year.
“Four Walls” sees the girls singing on a deep house track with sultry and raspy vocals combined with added sound effects to impact the mystery of the song. The lyrics are unclear about who the girls are professing their love to but the title’s idea of keeping things between “4 Walls” leads to interpretation of a secret love affair.
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With the next track, “Glitter,” f(x) has all the ’90s kids nostalgic for one of the best cartoons, as the first three beats seem very familiar to “The Rugrats” theme song. The girls leave their sultry and raspy vocals from the past track behind and their vocals become sweeter for this record. The track is a hybrid of electronic and organic sounds, from guitars to applause and synthesizers. A quick song, which falls under the average industry run time of three minutes, about falling in love that uses glitter as a metaphor for the bright future you can see in a romantic relationship.
“Déjà Vu” quickly explodes into a heavy EDM beat as soon as it starts. The song feels a little chaotic with all the crazy heavy beats in the back but they mix very well with the girls vocals and give that crazy feeling of when you get a déjà vu. A great song that seems familiar to what we are used to hear from f(x), that crazy experimental pop that they pull off so well. The chorus is very addicting and has a great flow that almost feels like a rap. The fast beats never seize in the track, making it a perfect dance song to get crazy to.
With “X”, f(x) slows us down after the chaotic “Déjà Vu,” and gives us some more ’90s cartoon refrences –Chemical X from “The Powerpuff Girls.” This track has the members singing very seductively, which is probably their sexiest vocals yet. Pay close attention to how the girls stretch their vocals throughout the song, making them increasingly sexier and sexier. The subtle bass that repeats in the backtrack has heavy influences from the late ’70s and early ’80s funk tracks. The record is dark, sexy, and mysterious in many ways, feeling retro and modern at the same time.
The following track “Rude Love” carries the tropical deep house theme of “4 Walls.” It’s a track that seems to come from the late ’90s and early 2000’s when techno and house where at their peak. The repetition of the title in the chorus gives that feeling of being a song from those era but still feels very current and fresh. It’s a sound style that SM Entertainment started experimenting with SHINee that definitely suits f(x) very well. Amber is being used more as a singer than as a rapper on this song and her voice is very nice as we had seen in her solo track “Beautiful.” The chorus is so catchy and addicting, it makes the listeners keep singing “I want your rude love” repeatedly. This song is definitely a contender for the best record on the album.
“Diamond” has a very interesting sound, it almost feels like an older and mature sister of their debut track “La chA Ta.” Luna’s vocals on this track aresolutely aboutstanding. Her voice really shines through in the bridge and blends seamlessly towards the trap section before the chorus. This song is the one on the album that Amber raps in the most. It’s not one of the best tracks in the album, but it’s certainly not a filler. The complex beats and the trap elements mixed with Amber’s raps and the girls vocals create a very interesting track that’s worth a few listens.
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The next track has a collaboration from Block B‘s Zico. “Traveler” takes the album back to the ’80s with its experimental synth pop era and industrial music influences. The heavy synth sounds alongside Zico’s rap reinforces the juxtaposition of the song’s dark and happy feeling. Zico provides a certain darkness with his strong voice while the girls offer a sweeter feeling with their vocals that explode into a happier chorus. I only wish we could have heard more rap from Zico and also get an Amber rap in this song. But, nevertheless, the record is incredible and a great contender for one of the best tracks released this year.
“Papi” is the track where we see Latin and tropical house influences coming out. The song has the girls in the chorus cheering atop of a brass soundtrack with dubstep and Latin sounds. The music is difficult to understand at first, but the nonsensical combination of influences works very well with f(x) making this a very fun track for their fourth album.
“Cash Me Out”
The next track in the album is “Cash Me Out,” which is probably the most EDM-influenced track on “4 Walls.” The record mixes seapunk beats with dubstep and typical EDM drops and buildups. The track could have gone without the heavy EDM in the chorus; in all honesty it makes the song mediocre. They could have kept the seapunk vibe and mix it with either deep house or 80s’ synth pop and would have made a much more interesting track.
“When I’m Alone”
The album ends with “When I’m Alone,” an upbeat ballad that serves as the perfect conclusion for this album. The track is full on synth pop and R&B and has f(x) fully engraved in the experimentation of this genre. The repetitive chorus brings the listeners back again to those early 2000’s songs that had choruses repeated over and over and are stuck with us until this very day. Their vocals are back to the sultry and mysterious tones of the title track “4 Walls,” but “When I’m Alone” has their voices exploding in the chorus, showing great harmony between the girls.
With this album f(x) proves that they are the queens of experimental Korean pop. They are not afraid of trying new genres and completely making them their own. Yes, the band doesn’t have Sulli anymore and, as much as being one of the most popular members in f(x), there seems to be no apparent absence of her presence. f(x) is back stronger than ever and proved to all of us that they are as good as a quartet as they were when they were a five member band.
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