Friday, November 6th, 2015

f(x) – 4 Walls

What walls?


Madeleine Lee: f(x) is named for a function, so let’s do some math. Start with the [9] I gave “View” as a base, since this song also uses “View” as a base (being that it is a house track, being that it is also co-composed by LDN Noise, and being that SHINee and f(x) are expressions of a similarly experimental vision of pop, with SHINee being more pop and f(x) being more experimental). Then subtract 3 points for doing that thing where the middle eight sounds like a different song (a typical K-pop move, but one that I hate, because if the dancing wasn’t choreographed then the sudden change would make it stop and that is bad), but grudgingly add 1 back because despite everything the beat recovers as if it never left. Then add 1 point for Amber casually dropping triplets, and another for the way the final chorus returns with a renewed layer of synths, full and bouncy and vivid. Finally, subtract what the group loses as four members instead of five, which is nothing. And there you have it.

Iain Mew: I love how f(x), LDN Noise and team use such a similar approach to “View” but take it in a different direction — taking away the emphasis on motion and on asking for something more and leaving, at least in the chorus, total contentment, pride and belonging. The group’s singing of “love is four walls” is beautiful, Amber is on point as ever, and they take a mini-trend and make it totally their own.

Patrick St. Michel: So many into-to-K-Pop articles have been written over the last five years that nearly every corner of the industry has been touched on by now — performers go through intense training, they zig-zag between languages, it’s all very “now” though what “now” is rarely gets fleshed out. Not only are there K-Pop academics, there are articles about the academics. And I feel for the reporters and college types because I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about What It All Means. Yet when “4 Walls” is playing,  I’m left happily flailing around to the word “mirror” every time the chorus comes. There’s no shortage of details worthy of scrutiny — how f(x) have adapted to becoming a quartet, how they’ve grabbed the fading embers of future-house pop and found a thrilling new angle to it, how great the inevitable wave of tropical house K-Pop is going to be — but it’s tough to think beyond the twinkles and stutters and that moment when Amber delivers the best rap of her career. Plenty of good allow just enough space for outside factors to sink in, but “4 Walls” truly surrounds, making anything that aren’t these three-and-a-half ecstatic moments a waste.

Alfred Soto: That chorus comes out of nowhere — chordally and rhythmically (house!). Lovely harmonies.

Maxwell Cavaseno: f(x) would be the group who tried to make a future garage single in 2015 (though their goal is more than likely to emulate Disclosure or something). The plaintive quality echoes their current need for austerity, but holds a lot of stiffness in certain places that could really do with some extra propulsion.

Thomas Inskeep: Starts with an early ’90s R&B girl-group feel, adds contemporary elements like a squishy synth bass, the drum patterns occasionally veer into ’90s d’n’b territory, and part of the bridge is even reminiscent of Robin S’s “Show Me Love.” A delicious cake.

Jessica Doyle: Now I’m wishing that SM had given “4 Walls” to Girls’ Generation and “You Think” to f(x), if only to see what Seohyun and Taeyeon would have done with the pre-chorus here. But even they might have been defeated by the song structure, as the tension of the pre-chorus gets gurgled away in the declining wa-a-a-alls. So much of what’s here SM has offered elsewhere, and more compellingly — “View” for sound, Amber’s own “Love Run” for a more robust wistfulness, Red Velvet’s “Automatic” for marrying a declaration of surprise in overwhelming love to a more subdued beat. “4 Walls” is pretty, but those other songs will likely outlast it.

Will Adams: For a year in which even Disclosure’s newest offerings feel stale, “4 Walls” is fresh throwback house. Put it on the plush vocals undulating over the title, or LDN Noise’s quivering production. The Robin S. quote is well-timed: the bridge strolls in, and it feels more than earned.

Reader average: [8.55] (27 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

19 Responses to “f(x) – 4 Walls”


  2. the innovative structure and pacing are what make this song unmistakably k-pop. only SM could pull off a bridge that’s half-time, modulating major, and suddenly jazz chords all at once, with a build that’s impossible to tell where it’s going…in the middle of a future garage song. amber’s would-be-gratuitous rap happens in one of the least predictable places, too, but it’s just what the song needs there.

  3. Their album is so good. I’m glad they did well.

  4. even though our scores disagree I love Jessica’s referents to other SM songs here

  5. When Josh was asking folks on Twitter for their songs of the year, I forgot to mention “Love Run” and now I’m kicking myself for it.

  6. I wish I’d reviewed this to put the score above “View”, not that I dislike SHINee or anything but contra Jess that song hasn’t has much staying power for me.

  7. There are a lot of great songs on this album, but this one’s such a standout. so much wobbly momentum

  8. Although the chorus of “Papi” deserves a 10 on its own.

  9. chorus of “papi” is lowpoint of the record imo, lol. i love “view” too but this song is on a different level, it’s like SM used “view” as a way to warm up to this sound and “4 walls” is them bending it to their will

  10. what does everyone have against songs that stay in the same key

  11. oh, see for me the lowpoint is “deja vu”‘s chorus. i can’t deal with that “WOO HOO” to save my life

  12. SM has been a roll with their girl groups this year – “The Red” and “4 Walls” are both stellar albums (and wonderfully lean too).

    “Rude Love” and “Glitter” are personal favorites of mine from this album. Bonus points to SM for buying CRJ’s ode to self pleasure and cleaning it up and for making Amber’s swag believable on “Diamond”

  13. @maddie it’s not (just) about keys!

    @austin that’s another contender. “song 2” interpolation is a strange thing to put in a roided up aqua song.

    for me now, SM girl group albums would go the red > pink tape > red light > 4 walls. though 4 walls is good

  14. (IGAB might come after red light, but i need to relisten post-4 walls)

  15. also i should clarify, i think “view” is great. i’m talking an 8 vs. a 9 or a 9 vs. a 10 here


  17. “Rude Love” is my favorite on this album, for what it’s worth. Also “4 Walls” has been in my head all week (along with “I My Me Mine,” but that’s no one’s fault but mine) but I still feel like the song drains away after the prechorus.

    Also, I’ll throw out to y’all what I said to Maddie privately, that I half-wish this had been Luna’s solo debut ft. Amber.

    also also, “Campfire” >>> anything we’ve mentioned in this thread so far.

    also also also, where is Moses, I miss Moses

  18. “glitter” is like a fucking scritti politti song

  19. make that 4 “covered by Pitchfork Media” Walls