(f)x are known as one of South Korea’s most vibrant and energetic young girl groups. They have consistently stunned with their combination of eclectic fashion, edgy material and fresh faces since their debut back in 2009.


As it has been a little while since the group has released anything; the girls’ comeback with their mini-album Electric Shock was hotly anticipated. This excitement was further fuelled by the individual teasers’ showing a very Lady Gaga-style fashion sense. The girls are shown combining pastel colours and bold prints that emphasises an altogether more feminine and soft image, however even the album cover alone – which shows the members wearing weird animal-head masks – showed that they were still ready to push the boundaries.
Upon release, the mini-album achieved the much sought after “all-kill” on many Korean music portals.
So, has this rather psychedelic set-up lead us to a great result?
And would it be enough to break the UK market?

Track One: Electric Shock
This track was released as (f)x’s first single, and as one of the UnitedKpop staff has previously written a great in-depth review of this single, I won’t go into too much detail here. (Be sure to read that review, too!)
It is easy to see why Electric Shock was released as the comeback single for the group.
It is a crazily upbeat and catchy song, and the MV showed us bright and colourful outfits and sets that ensured f(x) came back on the scene with a bang!
I defy anyone not to get the chorus of the song stuck in their heads after the very first listen, the few English words used are pronounced perfectly (as to be expected from the members that are fluent in the language!).
I was a bit disappointed when I first heard the “na na na na na na na na” part, as I always feel like this is just lazy song writing. However, I can now see it as the main hook of the song that works to add to the fun feeling and flavour.
The girls many costumes show them all as unique fashionistas in their own right and adds to the dazzling quality of the video.
Overall, a happy electro-pop song that makes to want to wiggle along unashamedly!
UK Potential 4/5: This song has a simple message and fun concept that makes it relatable to listeners from all cultures. I think it would do pretty well over here, but the fact that it is completely pop through and through may put some people off.

Track Two: Jet
The second track greets you with yet another electronic sound. The beats of this track are quite heavy and very reminiscent of many 80’s electro songs. This gives it quite a nostalgic feel for anyone who loves music from this era, but f(x)’s vocals are fresh and light enough to make the song very modern and up-to-date.
A very small problem I have with this song can be found in what I call the “break-it-down bit” (I think it’s called the middle eight). This part is a little bit unsettling as it changes the tempo of the song quite rapidly. I think that it messes the flow up a little bit. However, I thought exactly the same thing with Super Junior’s “Mr Simple” when I first heard it, but I now see it as an interesting twist on the song. Perhaps, after a few listens my opinions will change.
UK Pontential 3/5: I reckon that UK listeners will love this retro-sounding track, the chorus is a little bit cheesy, but if tracks like “Call Me Maybe” can be successful here, the slight cheesiness of this song will not hold it back!!

Track Three: Zig Zag
This song is incredibly edgy and cool. The heavy beats plod along beneath the girls’ unique vocals.
However, the lyrics make absolutely no sense! From what I can discern, the persona(s) are stuck somewhere in between reality and a dream, travelling through some sort of fantasy land as they experience mixed feelings about their surroundings.
Despite this, the song is very different to any that I have heard before and this makes it very refreshing to listen to. I actually think f(x) should release an MV for this one. I can imagine an Alice in Wonderland concept going so well with it!
UK Potential 4/5: This song is simply very cool and I think this would be a great song for f(x) to use if they were to debut in this country. With their talent unique fashion, I think a UK audience wouldn’t be able to get enough of them!
The only downside is the completely nonsensical nature of the lyrics which MAY confuse people…however, I believe there is enough lyrical nonsense out there for most of us to be used to it!

Track Four: Beautiful Stranger

This song is sung by only three of the members; Amber, Luna and Krystal. The sound of the song seems to capture each of their singing styles well as it is a slowed down, yet heavily electro track that contains a solid mix of rapping to singing.

The slowed down electro beat creates a kind of angst-y and pained vibe for the song, which kind of makes sense when you take a look at the translated lyrics. It seems that the song is about, well…a beautiful stranger funnily enough. Parts of the song seem to be talking about seeing a stranger and thinking that they’re misunderstood in some way, and also that even though the persona in the song doesn’t know anything about this beautiful stranger, they still want to go with that person. This is probably something many people will be able to relate to; just seeing someone on the street that you don’t know, but wishing that you did. As such, this song will probably appeal to a wide amount of people.  Plus, there is a lot of English in this song and it all makes good and coherent sense, which only surprised me for a second; SM has notoriously bad English in their songs. But seeing as two of the F(x) members are proficient in English (one is a native speaker), it makes sense that the English is good, which again is going to attract people to this song.

UK Potential 3/5: This song has great English and a great sounding beat, but compared to other songs on the album I don’t think it would do as well. This song is undeniably cool, but I think it doesn’t leave a huge impression after the first listen.

 

Track Five: Love Hate

Something about this song feels slightly retro and almost nostalgic, with the slightest 60’s feel to the beat which is fashionable in the UK right now.

There’s not much English used in this song except for the repetition of ‘I hate you! I love you!’ in the chorus. To be honest, it sounds a little juvenile and reminds me also a bit of 90’s bubble pop music. This sound isn’t really to the taste of most people these days, but it might appeal to children.

The meaning of the song is pretty universal; it’s about knowing someone that you have a love-hate relationship, and from the song context it seems to be a boyfriend. This song would perhaps appeal to more people if there were more English lyrics so they could understand the song a little better as they might relate to it.

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After a couple of listens this song has grown on me a little, but there is still nothing particularly outstanding about this song. The beat is quite fun and bouncy, and Amber’s rapping sections give it an edge, but apart from that it seems a bit of a ‘filler’ song. It’s a bit boring in my eyes, at least compared to their other songs.

UK Potential 2/5: With a slightly juvenile sound and bubble-gum pop feel, this song probably wouldn’t be the biggest hit here in the UK.

 

Track Six: Let’s Try

This track is slightly slowed down, with a more meaningful feeling to it. It has a slight reggae beat (as a Ska-punk lover, this is amazing) accompanied by some charming vocals and harmonisations. The members harmonising in this song surprised me at first because most K-pop songs have clearly divided up sections for each member to sing and voices rarely are overlapped, but I’m glad this song moves away from that as it adds a whole new dynamic to the song.

There’s very little English used in this song, but the English that is used is well pronounced and easily understandable; ‘Baby, let’s try’ and ‘Alright, alright, alright, yeah’.

This song has a really refreshing feel to it, and despite not really understanding the meaning of the song, it makes me want to stick it on repeat and listen to it all day. It seems that the persona in the song wants to get away from a situation they’re in, and go somewhere they love with someone they love. This is an easily relatable concept for a song, and even if we can’t understand the lyrics, the upbeat yet laidback melody should win many people over.

UK Potential 4/5: The reggae beat to this song gives the track a really memorable quality, and with Caribbean style and music becoming a more popular and accepted genre (mostly thanks to Rihanna embracing her roots) I think this song would stand a good chance in the UK. It might not be the best song to release as a debut, but it would make a great follow-up track.

 

Packaging

 

What to say about this packaging? What to say…wait, haven’t I seen this somewhere before? Did anyone else take one look at the packaging for Electric Shock and think you were seeing SHINee’s Sherlock album? I know that many people refer to f(x) as the female version of SHINee, but this is a bit odd to me. Maybe I’m overreacting slightly, but so much of these concepts are very similar! And obviously they’re from the same Entertainment Company, but I’m still a little disappointed. Check out these two photos below to see what I’m rambling about!

And…

We’ll now leave behind the comparisons!

So the first thing I noticed was the animal heads that the members are wearing on the album cover, and I have mixed feelings about them; it’s a kind of quirky and cool image to be presented with, but at the same time I fail to see the point of them. The rest of the images in the little album booklet are mostly comprised of high fashion-looking shots of the girls looking pretty, and as such I don’t see where the animal heads come into it. They kind of go straight past quirky and directly into weird. Already, just from this album cover, f(x) run the risk of alienating a large amount of potential UK buyers of their album as this odd image won’t appeal to a wide variety of people. If I hadn’t heard of f(x) before or knew that I liked their music, I would probably pass right over this album in a store based on that picture alone.

Other aspects of the album concept are more UK-friendly, such as the real 60’s and 70’s imagery from photos. The images also have been edited so that some of the colour is washed out which creates a really retro and vintage feel and an interesting visual. These are the kinds of images and style that has been made popular and quite mainstream in the UK by the likes of Florence and the Machine, and as such these images should appeal to many people.

As it is now, I’d give this album packaging 2.5/5 with regards to its potential appeal to the UK market. If they were to tweak the concept slightly and change the front image to one that is slightly more toned down, I think the album would have a better chance.

 

Conclusion: Overall, including the packaging, this album receives a 6.5/10 for UK potential. The majority of the songs on this album would definitely hold great appeal to UK listeners, but I’m really still not convinced by the packaging; I may be being way too subjective about it because I really don’t like those animal heads!

If f(x) were to try to break into the UK market, they would probably do well to do so with either ‘Electric Shock’ or even ‘Zig Zag’ as these have been given the highest scores in this review. They have amazing beats and edgy sounds which is an amazing combination that is most likely catch people’s attention. ‘Let’s Try’ also received the same potential rating of 4/5, but due to its relaxed and chilled-out melody, it wouldn’t make the same impact as a song with a banging electro beat.

Unfortunately, I can never shake off the feeling that any album produced by a band from SM Entertainment simply wouldn’t do as well in the UK as, let’s say, one produced by YG. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about SM that makes me think this, but it’s probably a combination of their penchant for excessive member numbers in bands and terrible English use in lyrics. When combined these factors are not conducive to creating the kind of music that has a very high potential of doing well in the mainstream UK music industry. On the other hand, f(x) is probably SM’s most viable choice for being successful in the UK for a number of reasons; they wouldn’t have to encounter the problems associated with having a large number of members in the band, or even have to change their style. Debuting Super Junior or SNSD would probably be seen as a gimmick, with the large number of members in each band. If they went with SHINee or Exo, they’d find that high fashion and make-up would not be received well when associate with a boy band.

Oh, and not to forget, this album is just awesome! I think that the title track, ‘Electric Shock’, with the concept and style exactly as it is, would really have the potential to be a massive hit here in the UK.

Click here to check out f(x)’s Electric Shock on YesAsia

Thank you for reading, and feel free to post any comments below. Do you agree with the scores or do you have a different opinion? Let us know!

This is one in our series of K-pop album reviews. You can read them all here.
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