Retro Rewind: Red Light – f(x)

With the burgeoning growth of K-pop in its current state, many newer fans are unaware of many of the genres past classics. That’s why every week I will be taking a look back at some of K-pop’s most exciting and iconic tracks that were released before the conception of this blog to shed some light on this now bygone time.

Year Released: 2014

Upon the release of LOONA’s bombastic So What, I was immediately struck by its experimental structure. In many ways, it came across as the darker, grittier younger sister of ITZY’s smash hit Dalla Dalla. And whilst this excited me for the future of girl group fare, it also brought be back to a time when SM entertainment were the fore-bearers of experimental girl group tracks, releasing two of K-pops most ubiquitous tracks; Girls Generation’s ever-changing I Got A Boy, and f(x)’s fragmented Red Light in the space of 2 years. Much like So What, Red Light was the darker, more propulsive younger sister; and my personal favourite single from the group.

Though we might never hear another song from f(x), there was a time when they were releasing fantastic pop song after fantastic pop song with no end in sight. And in a discography full of weird, experimental songs, Red Light is probably the most obscure, featuring a hodgepodge of elements that effortlessly complement each other to create a masterful listening experience. Nothing in Red Light is as you would expect it to be. Its constant modulations and rapid key changes might come across as jarring at first, but further listens truely unveil the songs charms. Its adventurous approach towards the electro pop genre twisted the trends of the time into much more exciting directions, and provided a breath of fresh air. The rubbery synth line that anchors most the song is a clear example of this. Under normal circumstances, a production choice such as this would come across as unnecessary or grating, but in Red Light‘s case, it’s special. The production here is fantastic, framing the synth as if its stretching to the point of breaking each loop, but pulls itself back just in the nick of time. Much like pulling a rubber band. This provides an addictive backing to the songs excellent verses which move from one point to the next without breaking a sweat. F(x)’s normally monotonous vocal timbers are especially suited to a track of this nature, and imbue to track with bucketloads of charisma.

But none of this compares to the brilliance of the tracks hard hitting centrepiece. Red Light‘s chorus is another beast entirely, propelling the track forward in thrilling fashion. The backing track explodes here, and sets up each chorus as its own little mini climax. I cannot stress how vastly this improves the songs overall listening experience. The rubbery synth line here is replaced by a more powerful blast of synths which provide the track with a more ‘club’ banging atmosphere. Though I detest the overabundance of trap in our current musical landscape, Red Light is one of the songs that utilises the genre to its full potential. Not only do the hi-hats easily, blend in with the barrage of sound surrounding them, but their frantic tempo ensures that the track never falls into muddled lurching territory. It stays at 100 throughout its entire 3:32 runtime.

The melodic bridge is probably the only segment where the track slows down, showcasing a heavy dose vocal prowess while also providing a riveting build towards the tracks climax. Once again, the tracks transition less nature throws the listener into the songs final chorus without any warning. But by now, it doesn’t even matter as, once Red Light has you in your grips, there’s no way it’s going to let you go.

As endlessly inventive as it is thrilling, Red Light is one of K-pop’s most dividing yet legendary tracks, and rightfully deserves to the label of ‘masterpiece’.

Verses: 10

Chorus: 10

Production: 10

Performance: 9

Final Rating9.75 / 10


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