Remember back in this post where I said I had no clear favorite girl group. Well, that has changed now. When I saw the teaser photos for f(x)'s new comeback, I think I might have squealed a tiny bit. I usually don't fangirl that hard over female idols, but I just couldn't help myself. The pictures looked so good and interesting and different and when living in a time where most girl groups all sound and look like each other, it's honestly delightful to see something not so ordinary.
As for this review, I'll try not to talk too much about the song itself (I'm saving it for the album review), but I do think the lyrics are quite interesting. While most songs are about love, in some way or another, or about life and its ups and downs, the lyrics for "Red Light" are definitely something different. While reading them along with watching the video it feels as it the world's facing an apocalypse and f(x) are the only ones left to put things right. The red light is a warning sign, and now the girls are telling you to "open your eyes wide" and "stop the collision from happening". Like you can tell, it's not a common theme and I'm really happy about that. Already when the teaser pictures dropped you could see how far out f(x) were going with this concept and how their ambition wasn't to look "pretty" or "sexy" but to convey a message and stand out. There are few groups that actually could pull off this kind of concept, but it seems nothing is impossible for f(x), in fact it seems they embrace their uniqueness.
The video starts with a phone ringing, a book burning and a cat looking into a camera with two different colored eyes. The video also ends with the same three symbols, but Krystal is closing the book, the phone stops ringing and the cat's eyes have turned the same color. The plot of the video is about fighting oppression, rebelling against the system and fleeing corruption, and for once SM has actually put thought into it which is crazy but much appreciated. This video is full of symbolism, signs and visual effects that enhance the theme and concept, and the execution is just wonderful. What kind of system are they fighting then? It's not entirely clear, but it allows your imagination to run free and come up with all sorts of scenarios. My interpretation is that there is some kind of higher power taking over the world and turning people into mindless objects, as the scene at 1:52 may suggest. F(x) are probably part of a resistance movement, and are out on a mission to warn and recruit others before it's too late.
The scenes with all the girls together, holding hands and looking at the skyline of a corrupt city are beautifully shot, and there's a sense of loneliness yet they are still holding up and looking out for each other. The book is still burning, and the gesture itself holds such historical and political meaning which is why it's so clever to use in this video. Burning books have been, and still is, a way for higher authorities to take control and destroy evidence that would work against them and material people could use to fight back, and while most people think back to Hitler's reign and the holocaust, the ceremony goes back in further in time. Also noteworthy are the eye patches and the eye makeup, as the eyes are different from each other (one being covered or heavily shadowed), and the cat that shares the same faith.
I learned about this only recently but I thought it was interesting and relevant; the movie "A Clockwork Orange" (based on the novel with the same name) also uses the same technique. The "makeup-on-one-eye" look was used here as well, and the movie also shares similar themes to this video. Taking place in a dystopian future Britain, it raises the question on how much you have to change a person's free will and mindset in order to make them a functional part of society and how far you're willing to go to do it.
The entire video is very dark, taking place in abandoned locations such as an empty warehouse, but there are also scenes shot in complete red light. The color red is for most people associated with danger and warning, so to incorporate it in that way helps bring forward the message even clearer. There is danger ahead, and from the various scenes of the entire group running and fleeing it seems it has already arrived. There are laser beams, flashing lights and silhouette dance sequences and this means that the group is not always fully shown. Their faces are sometimes partly covered with patterned lights and filters, which is a good way to mix things up from just the regular solo shots while still being relevant to the plot of the video. A worse example of this is Girls' Generation's "Mr. Mr" which made my eyes hurt, but it seems SM has learned from their mistakes. Visually, this video is spot on in pretty much every way. The cinematography, scenery, lights and effects are just right for the concept, the styling is the best it's ever been and it all helps bring an idea, a message, to life. I couldn't have asked for a better video for the song, and as I was expecting something totally unrelated to the teasers (I have last years comeback to thank for that), it managed to surpass those with ease. The song on the other hand, that's another story that I won't be telling here.
As for the choreography, it's not their best, let's be honest. Ever since they ditched the sneakers and swapped to heels, it has been on a steady decline. This one is probably better than last year's, but there's really not that much that sparks interest. For such a unique song with that many tempo changes and transitions between different parts, I wish the dance routine could have been a bit more dynamic. There are some moves more memorable than others, but as a whole it's a bit weak. Especially when compared to f(x) earlier choreographies, because those were truly the days of glory. However, I do really enjoy that it's not all butt-shaking or body-rubbing, because that's getting old and boring and I'm tired of companies using women's bodies as marketing tools.
All and all, I could not have been happier about this video. Not to say I haven't seen better, but for f(x) and especially SM it's a huge step forward. You can still tell that it's a box video, sort of, and it has some of the familiar characteristics you would expect to see, but compared to what has been released before it's a gift sent from the heavens. The video just works in so many ways. The plot and theme matches the song and lyrics, the locations are varied and appropriate and the styling is brilliant. If only the song had been better.