The girls of f(x) recently released their second full length album, Pink Tape! Following the release of an ‘art film’ to promote the album, Pink Tape has earned a lot of success despite its outlandish style that veers away from mainstream pop. While f(x) have always had an interesting style, this album proves that f(x) are the guinea pigs of SM, stylistically and creatively at least.
The album opens with ‘Rum Pum Pum Pum‘, the song chosen for current promotions. Strong drum beats and rolls provide a ‘marching band’ sound, much different to the electronic feel of 2012’s ‘Electric Shock’. However rather than headstrong marching onward, the song seems to glide as electric guitar and bass plucking offer an effortless cool. The arrangement allows the song to take its time and build slowly. A round is used as the bridge between the first verse to the chorus, uncommon within K-pop, and the trademark high-pitched vocals and intricate harmonies of f(x) are not to be missed.
The album continues with ‘Shadow‘, a song with a romantic, girly sound. Boasting what is arguably the best intro on the album, ‘Shadow’ combines sweet vocals with soft, twinkly sounds and gives the description ‘love song’ a new retro twist. Moving on, if we ignore the intro and second half of the chorus of ‘Pretty Girl‘, it becomes an epic rock/pop ‘ballad’ with a lot of depth to its sound. Impressive pitches are reached and the entire chorus is impossibly catchy. The intro doesn’t fit well with the song but it is more than made up for with the strong guitar chords, relentlessly pressing on for the duration.
‘Kick‘ picks up the tempo of the album and we’re back in electro territory complimented by cute vocals – full of past f(x) nostalgia. While the the chorus is probably likely to be stuck in heads, the rest of the song is less of an easy listen in that it doesn’t follow a strict rhythm pattern (bar the bridge, though the transition into it is clumsy). ‘Signal‘ is certainly has an 80’s disco feel, with a jumping bass guitar groove and scattered electronic sounds. It’s easy to picture this song on the opening credits of a tv show, and it makes for much easier listening than its predecessor. ‘Step‘ has its highs and lows but it definitely has potential; harmonies are well executed and thought out, and certain phrases of the song are incredibly catchy. The droning synth during the chorus, accompanied by the honking sound that is present for most of the song, adds to the many layers of ‘Step’ and creates a growing atmosphere. Though it might not be everyone’s favourite song on Pink Tape, it is sure to induce some toe-tapping!
‘Goodbye Summer’ is a soft, mellow track written by f(x)’s Amber, and features EXO‘s D.O, though he carries the weight of the song rather than just ‘featuring’. The song lyrics are nostalgic and pull at a few heartstrings, particularly since the theme of the song is easy to relate to, in a more general way. The harmonies on this track are perhaps the best that the album has to offer, probably because they’re accentuated by the difference in the female and male vocal registers. The song closes sweetly, toned down after the initial build up to the end of the song.
The album slowly crawls back to bouncing pop with ‘Airplane‘, a song that could take a few listens to in order to really appreciate. The way the synth has been used throughout the song isn’t a far cry away from many western pop tracks but it still maintains a traditional f(x) sound underneath. We see some western inspiration with the next song, ‘Toy‘, but maybe only in the opening few seconds, and the dubstep break in the middle of the song (which becomes Pirates of the Caribbean-esque…) . Regardless,’Toy’ is an exciting track that pounds forward confidently.
‘No More’ has a more shy and sweet sound than ‘Toy’ and kicks off A Cappella. It isn’t hard to imagine this song in a musical; it has a glitzy ‘Hairspray’ feel and a strong, clear chorus. Transitions between sections are so smooth and the song picks up and quietens down again expertly. ‘Snapshot‘ is a show-style track with cute rap verses and brass accompaniment. It doesn’t climax at a particular point, but rather stays consistent throughout with a pretty outro. With it’s intro from Amber, this could probably have opened the album rather than been stuck at the end. The last track, ‘Ending Page‘, flows softly with melancholy hues and parallels can be drawn with many ballads from Girls’ Generation, in that the melody and chorus of this song are very similar to those that Girls’ Generation release. Though this feels like a lackluster close to the album, the song itself isn’t a bad song. The fact that it is more tamed than songs like ‘Airplane’, ‘Kick’ and ‘Toy’ makes it seem like a very quiet end to Pink Tape so maybe it would have been better further up in the album to break up some of the faster paced songs.
This album is one the most creative albums to have been released this year in K-pop and it is completely refreshing. Some songs are hard to like on first listen, but Pink Tape grows more and more likeable with each listen. Due to it’s unique nature, it’s hard to see this album breaking successfully into the UK pop market but for current K-pop fans, it’s a real treat! All things considered, Pink Tape gets an 8/10.