f(x)’s Amber has made a brief comeback with the song ‘Borders’ for SM Station. It’s no secret that the SM artist has stood out since her debut with f(x) back in 2009 with her tomboy style, however this allowed Amber to be able to be herself and to not conform to the typical stereotype of ‘how a girl should act’. With her solo debut last year, the catchy track ‘Shake That Brass’ was full of energy and vibrant with colour – the kinds of attributes you might link to Amber herself, though it was her first song on her mini-album entitled ‘Beautiful’ the meaning goes much deeper as it deluges into a journey of the artist learning to love herself.
It’s a first for UnitedKpop to be reviewing a K-pop song that’s entirely in English, so no need to look up any translations here! From what we can gather from the lyrics, it really does describe a journey taken by Amber. It starts off strong – being prepared off the hardships that life can bring. But, even the most strong-willed of people can easily bend due to the social pressures (i.e. sometimes there can be an urge to look away if people are staring at you) – these can really make people overthink things by wondering why people are staring – is it because there’s something wrong with the way they look? Then there’s a jump to wanting to please others by trying to conform to a certain way of doing things by being ‘perfect’ – which in itself is quite a subjective term as the word contains a different meaning for each individual on what they perceive to be perfect.
“Stand up straight, fight your way”
“All these people here
staring and looking at me
Shaking their heads eyes
down strong on me
What’s wrong with me?”
“And I’d do anything to be what they call perfect
Then maybe I could find
a place to call my own and belong
But if only I was strong..”
Then, halfway through the song, there’s a transition between the conflicting sides. The beginning was focused on wanting to please others and being worried about trying to fit in. Whereas on the second portion of the song, you might be able to imagine the fighter within Amber as she continues to strive, regardless of what comes her way. This stage of self-growth is very important, although it must have brought up pain and suppressed suffering, she’s come out of this stronger than ever.
There’s a sentence – “Never be afraid even when you’re cornered” – something that we need to take on board, there are going to things in life that will try to belittle you into thinking that you aren’t good enough – it takes a whole lot of courage to be able to stand up for yourself, because sometimes you’re the only person who can. To finish off, the following lyrics really does highlight the struggle of failing. However, there’s a key saying that should always be remembered if you’re going through any hardships in life, which goes along the lines of ‘You do not fail unless you stop trying’.
“Stand up, fall down, up again
Up against the pressure I am in
Slowly but surely I begin
Jumping trains ‘cause I know I can win”
Despite being a stripped back MV, the meaning is quite vivid. The main image that’s at the forefront is that Amber is trapped inside a box, perhaps this tries to symbolise her internalised frustrations of society’s norms that conflict with her own – especially as she was born and raised in the US thus how she was brought up with different groups of people may have influenced herself to be able to dress, act and look however she wanted to.
However, the kinds of stereotypes in societies of the western and eastern side of the world obviously have their differences. In her music, you can see that she conveys her own experiences into the lyrics that can act like a beacon to others – to not let the opinions of others rule over them and most importantly not to hide in fear of standing out but to be proud of who you are.
Check out the MV below!