Review: f(x)’s Amber drops new mixtape Rogue Rouge (Listen to it here!)

f(x)’s Amber is back with new music. This time the talented rapper, singer and songwriter released a mixtape titled “Rogue Rouge” along with an incredible music video for Closed Doors.

Debuted as a member of f(x), Amber Liu, is known for her rap and prominent musical activities in the K-pop world. Her extraordinary composing, lyrics writing and song arrangement did not go unnoticed in the impenetrable yet exuberant industry.

Amber’s highly appreciated works are almost entirely written in English, embracing her signature electronic pop sound. Her music work usually share stories that are close to her heart – as well as positive messages relating to dealing with difficulties, dreams and self love. In no time, Amber has turned into an icon of individuality and strength – baffling mainstream K-pop culture audiences with her opinionated nature and androgynous style.

Coming back with new music, the Chinese-American singer and songwriter is ready to awe us with intricate electronic pop details and delicate vocals. This time, Amber decides to charm us with soft house beats and echoing synths (a must for added clubbing appeal), layering it with her mellow and emotive vocals. It’s fresh and I love it!

Featuring six tracks, Rogue Rouge is written, and thoughtfully put together entirely in English by Amber herself. As mentioned, the mixtape is pleasantly different. As much as we love her signature K-pop formulated musical productions, Rogue Rouge is acutely angled and elegant. I love how Amber works the melodies like an origami expert – quickly folding and refolding melodies. So intricate yet elegant!

The mixtape starts unexpectedly strong with “Get Over It” featuring heavy beats and unapologetic lyrics – criticising the symmetric industry. Blend it with Amber’s emotive vocals, the track stays true to her artistic mission – encompassing her iconic individuality while living up to its title.

“Get Over It” is an intense uptempo track built on gracefully sculpted beats and shimmering melody. Not exactly a lyrical enigma but we are convinced Amber’s latest work will continue to be empowering as she confessed,

“I ain’t fooled. I’ll choose what I want to do. What does it take?”

“Closed Doors” opens with a pleasant instrumental that sets up a vibe more chill than the previous track. Don’t relax yet, though. Amber’s heavyweight vocals and emotions soon enter sustaining her artistic mission.

Revealing the concept of her music more clearly through “Closed Doors” music video, “Closed Doors”  exhibits a balance of delicacy and danger. Amber keeps her listeners on their toes with risky energy and dark undertones. This will be more apparent as we go through the rest of Rogue Rouge. If this isn’t enough advantage of novelty for you, “Closed Doors”  music video’s strong yet sentimental aesthetic will be. We are sure familiarity is a decent substitute.

Portraying our endless journeys in life, Amber co-wrote the track with Gen Neo, who is also the producer of “Closed Doors” . The beautiful music video was directed by Stefanie Michova.

“High Hopes” production is simple and moody. It gradually grows with the addition of electronic synths as Amber consciously leave behind familiar ground to investigate her influences further. We love how Amber plays with depth, allowing each element room to move between the back and foreground. The track works like magic as Amber’s pitch-shifted vocals clash from high and low, finally uniting harmoniously in the middle.

There’s a certain fragility and melancholy sustained throughout the song with its melody. The lyrics is also perfectly in line with the paradoxically bright yet moody music as she’s torn between to “never turn back” and “they’re calling my name to run back home”.

“High Hopes” pivots with the interlude, pushing Amber to be more adventurous – enough to venture beyond the invisible, dystopian musical borders set for her, never turning back.

“I’m running fast my lungs can’t hold”

Amber’s voice strengthens, dancing over syllables with “Right Now”As her intimate and emotive vocals intertwine perfectly with Gen Neo’s, Amber continues to explore space. “Right Now” accelerates as the singer disrupts the stability of its central riff with cascading brassy stabs that both  percussive and melodic – sucking it all up into its weeping choruses.

“Right Now”, so far, is the most intense track with strong vocals and bridge. Great job choosing R&B to go with this track. What better way to express love and emotional wreck than R&B? The smooth production effortlessly showcase Amber’s intimate vocals.

The smooth production continues with “Lifeline”It is a gentler track compared to “High Hopes”, but similar to “High Hopes” as it also possesses the certain melancholy sustained throughout the song with its melody. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, full of reminiscences of earlier tracks.

“Lifeline” is gentle enough to listen to on repeat, with a persistent building baseline that hits in just the right places every time. A hypnotising chorus keeps you coming back, a creepily dissonant sound accompanied by the melodic hook fitting perfectly. The addictive track has the most electronically-driven sound amongst others. The EDM theatrics, trap beats, echoing synths and emotive vocals create a delightful result.

As we listen to Rogue Rouge, our hearts seem to have gravitated towards “Three Million Years”. It the sort of tracks meant to provoke an immediate and contagious emotions of its singer. Her soothing voice and beautiful melody are perfect allusions of repetition of the previous tracks.  “Three Million Years” lyrics are simple but poetic, and at first seem rather pretty, as she admits,

“Deep below the cracks, my heart didn’t want to show. Fade a little more, the times you sing. It’s so clear to me, you’re all I need.”

This sweet confession is an easy song to listen and sing along to. With Amber’s light and welcoming voice coupled with adorable lyrics, it’s clear it’s these twee undercurrents that manages to keep Amber’s Rogue Rouge nominally “indie”.

Not to mention, the gracefully sculpted beats, shimmering melody, delicate vocals, lyrical enigma, risky and dangerous undertones also provides crucial contrast with her productions with SM. She makes everything sound more cushy and cavernous, evoking the sensation of sitting on the most comfortable couch in the club after everyone leaves. Throughout, Amber manages to sound big without sounding expensive, forgoing nuance and detail for scalability. Stream it on laptop speakers and you can still picture every dazzling MIDI trigger in a live setting.

The mixtape is light and pleasing with an easy pop dose with relatable lyrical content Rogue Rouge itself is self-empowering.

Rogue Rouge is fitting for a record that finds Amber trying to stake their claim at pop’s center but ultimately retreating within herself. Looking at her mixtape, it is apparent that Amber’s grown out of her predetermined androgynous rapper role in the hysterical industry. She’s more than her style.

Take a listen below.

Rogue Rouge is free to listen to via SoundCloud now.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)