Feb 27, 2015
Amber Serves A "Beautiful" First Record
I probably wouldn't have bet my money on Amber being f(x)'s first soloist, but somehow it still makes a lot of sense. Amber has been gaining much popularity recently thanks to her appearance on reality show "Real Men" and is additionally known to have many talents in both singing, dancing and rapping. She is, however, probably most famous for being a social butterfly and a very likable one indeed, so even though she's not my bias I'm still a fan of her cool, grounded personality.
I went into this not knowing at all what her album's sound would be like and I had not listened to the pre-release track "Beautiful" beforehand, so when I watched the video for title track "Shake That Brass" I was hugely let down. The video in itself wasn't bad, in fact I liked the comedic moments and all the celebrity cameos, but it was a bit too much of everything. It felt childish, unoriginal and forced and although it does kind of fits Amber's image it wasn't what I had hoped for in any way. Same goes with the song, which is what really brought the video down if anything.
Let's just say it's lucky I did listen to "Beautiful" after I first heard the title track, because that track does give me something worth praising, unlike the other. Relying almost solely on the tender sound of an acoustic guitar, the stripped-down song does everything it can to showcase Amber's emotional side as a vocalist and lyricist. She's singing about being happy with who she is and knowing that she's beautiful no matter what others might say, Although her rapping still doesn't sit too well with me, the rest of the song more than saves it with it's gorgeous melody and vulnerability.
"Shake That Brass" is quite frankly boring, and also terribly unoriginal. It's a brass-driven dance/hip-hop track with little to offer in any department, and Amber doesn't even sing in it but hands it all over to Taeyeon, SNSD's own songstress. What makes me so angry about this is how her talents get completely overlooked with this song, and that someone as real and down to earth as her ends up with this gimmicky brand that could have been pretty much anybody else's. It's supposed to be fun, I know, but for me it provides basically nothing but second-hand embarrassment and disappointment.
The next song on the mini is "Love Run", which is a soft pop-rock track about love and longing, but the sound anything other than sweet and sticky. The mature approach of it makes up for the somewhat uninspiring lyrics, and it's written perfectly for Amber's slightly darker range. This is probably the track on the album which is most suited for her voice and the one where she actually sounds really good all the way through, which is a huge plus. I do wish it had a little more punch in it though, because although the melody is great and she sounds amazing it lacks that extra spark that would in my opinion make it even more memorable.
With "Heights" the dance-beat returns, but this time with a more enjoyable vibe than let's say, the title track. It's highly vocally-driven and allows Amber to sing within a much higher range than we've heard her sing in before. Now that's where the issue with this song lies, because her voice simply isn't suited for singing that high. It doesn't sound bad, but she does sound a bit strained at some parts and it unfortunately makes the song less pleasant to listen to. It's a shame because I think this song could have made a great alternative to the title, since it's also energetic and upbeat but a much better production in general.
"I Just Wanna" is the song to finish the album off, and when I first heard it I thought the guitar strumming in the beginning sounded suspiciously similar to f(x)'s "Goodbye Summer", and than it turned out to be a remake of that exact song. Eric Nam features on it, and he and Amber sing together in harmonies whilst also entirely in English. This is, in many ways, Amber's song as she helped write the f(x) version, but I am honestly not feeling this version.
Firstly, the lyrics are disappointingly bland and predictable, unlike the Korean lyrics which are nostalgic and bittersweet and much more interesting. The entire mood of the song kind of changes, and for someone who's used to another meaning it sounds a bit odd. Then there's the vocals that I don't think live up to the original version at all, and that's mostly because of Amber herself. Eric Nam sounds like honey and butter but Amber's voice kind of clashes a bit with his. It doesn't have that sweetness that this song needs, and thus the result is a bit too harsh for my taste.
Overall, this album was quite a good one, but the title track brings down the score an awful lot, unfortunately. It sucks that SM decided to play safe and predictable by putting arguably the worst song on the album as the one for people to hear, but that's almost always the case with SM's groups. Naturally Amber is much better than that, which thankfully is showcased in the rest of this subtly amazing album. My biggest complaint is that I still feel like a lot of potential was left unused and I still think that she's got a lot more to give, but I guess only the future will decide whether that will happen or not.
Highlights: "Beautiful", "Heights"