Honestly, I did not give a damn about their comeback more so after the release of their intriguing teaser because I was still recovering from the Pink Tape “Art Film” betrayal. For all I cared, they could have released a song on traffic rules and regulations and I wouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I was expecting that. “Rum Pum Pum” left me that jaded. But then the phone rang, the book caught fire, and I was close to happy tears.
For the first time ever, I am glad that f(x) is SM’s ‘experimental’ group because only f(x) in the whole of SM – boy groups included – could have pulled this concept off so brilliantly. It has the quintessential f(x) sound, easy-to-emulate choreography and an actual concept! Not the wolves and doctors mediocre crap; we are talking revolutionaries here![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv-8-EgPEY0]
Fashioned as anarchists, f(x) are set out on a mission to run away from an oppressive system; the warehouse in the video being their refuge. The very title of the song –“Red Light” – highlights a state of emergency. The image of immediacy is furthered by the red filters and multihued lasers. “Red light” could refer to both an emergency for the state because f(x) is rebelling and also an emergency for f(x) because they are under siege by state sponsored minions aka the creepy gasmask wearing people. A sense of ‘wrong’ and an impending doom pervade the music video. A series of transgression are figured in the burning of the book, explosions, and the constant running away.
The patched eye look could mean two things. One, since f(x) has been part of the system their patched eye shows the metaphorical bruises and wounds that they have suffered. Two, the without makeup patched eyes could actually mean a part of their “true” self, the part which didn’t get brainwashed by the oppressive forces of power which is why they need to protect or hide it at all times. The smoky eye would, then, naturally hint towards their jaded side. This is the eye that has seen and knows everything, good or bad.
This is mirrored by the cat. The cat has two different eye colours at the beginning of the MV but it has the same colour at the end. This could again mean two things: either a complete change for the good or a reversion to the older system of power. I am inclined to believe it’s the latter because of the lyrics “But we wait for the blue light” and I can assure you that the cat’s eyes despite being partially blue before does not turn completely blue by the end.
Lyrically, the song is in sync with the video. Inspired by the Darwinian theory of the “survival of the fittest”, the song opens with the line “Under the rule of the jungle/ The weak gets devoured.” Now, of course, it is talking about society and is placing an unhealthy amount of importance on individual agency not taking into account the bazillion ways individual agency gets hindered because of that pesky varmint called “limited access to resources and power” but I get it, f(x) is not interested in the nitty-gritty of a revolution and neither am I.
However, what I am interested in is what if, hypothetically speaking, SM was foolish enough to create a song – “Red Light”– for their usually neglected group –f(x) — which exposed their poor management skills and really tyrannical administration? Because lines like “oops, I got stepped on”, “I don’t even know what’s wrong with the current situation”, “Try breathing”, “Your best excuse is just filled with doubt to me” sure sounds like SM to me!
Kenzie figured it out for you, ladies. Run f(x), run!
There are some strikingly eerie images in the video. Some of them are the desolate telephone, the odd-eyed cat, the stunning silhouette dance sequence, the constant reiteration of “caterpillar” symbolizing both victimhood and survival because the caterpillar will eventually blossom into a butterfly, the bright red eye which gave me extreme Hell Girl feels and the flower whose explosion to white dust is just fantastic. And of course, Luna.
Let me, dear readers, point out why exactly Luna steals the show. Of course you have your favourites but for the moment do not interrupt this besotted soul. Everything about Luna is absolutely stunning in the video. From the gorgeous, gorgeous hair colour to her make up to her apparels – she literally shines throughout the MV. The camera could have zoomed right into Krystal’s hair follicles but my eyes would have still sought the regal Luna. And every time she stared right into my soul the camera, I was tempted to write a creepy sasaeng love note to her. The last time I felt this spazzy was after Eddy Kim’s “The Manual” which was a long time ago — basically, my thirst is very real.
The song does not have jaw-dropping high notes which means Luna couldn’t show her full potential but she made full use of the little space she was given leaving an indelible impression on this listener.
Coming to notes and musicality, “Red Light” – the song – is, politely put, rather mediocre. The introduction is perfect with the strong, militaristic beats and claps. It literally throws you in the middle of a battle. Krystal starts okay but that’s ignorable because there is this feeling that the song will only get better. And then Luna declares “Ay Ay It’s the Red Light!” and you just know this song is going to epic. Then the chorus happens, and I want to throw myself into an ocean of tears.
The chorus was supposed to be the highlight! The moment of wild abandon! The peak of the revolution! Then what is this fast-paced, electronic, awkwardly halting mess? Why doesn’t it rouse me from my indifferent slumber? Why is it so boring? Everything, leaving the damned chorus, sounds splendid especially the bridge. Anything splendid has to have Luna but even Krystal’s voice opens up and sounds very clear. Amber’s voice with its distinctly different texture anchors the bridge which otherwise would have been too airy.
Oh yeah right, Amber sang.
And she rapped.
It is taking me an inhuman amount of effort to not resort to caps rage because SM, I hate you so much right now. Just because you gave f(x) a great concept, lifted them up from the pits of mediocrity, gave them excellent stylists does not mean I keep calm and take Amber’s ignorable presence in the video. For once, you didn’t try to aggressively portray her as a boy. For once, she didn’t stick out oddly as that member. You were doing things right, SM that is if you had bothered to give her some lines and more solo shots instead of inundating the video with Krystal whipping her hair back and forth. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Krystal in the video but I cannot deny that the other members were given far fewer solo shots than her.
The call is received, the cat meows and by now, I am sure I must have missed a clip of the Iron Throne somewhere.
Now please excuse me while I go back to staring dreamily at Luna.
Music Video: 4/5
(Youtube. Lyrics via kpoplyrics. Images via SM Entertainment)