The K-pop group f(x) have released a new EP, Electric Shock. This follows their 2009 debut single, “La Cha Ta,” the 2010 Nu ABO EP, and 2011’s full-length debut Pinocchio, which was repackaged with bonus tracks and re-released two months later(!) as Hot Summer. They’re a five-member girl group, not unlike Wonder Girls, but their hard electro-dance sound puts them closer in spirit to 2NE1 (who have only four members). In fact, it seems pretty obvious that they’re being remodeled to appeal to the same crossover (that is, Western) audience that’s embraced 2NE1. Here’s the video for their first single, “La Cha Ta”:

And now, here’s the video for “Electric Shock”:

Note the multiple costume changes, the rock ‘n’ roll iconography (one girl is wearing what looks like a Grateful Dead hockey jersey), and the overall greater aggressiveness of the sound. Now, this is a more gradual evolution than it may immediately seem like; here’s the video for “Nu ABO,” from 2010:

There are some leather jackets and whatnot there (and rapper Amber is surprisingly androgynous), but there’s still a lot more unison dancing and less “dangerous/bad-girl” posturing – I mean, in the “Electric Shock” video one of the girls is playing with defibrillator paddles! This video reminds me of pre-Rhythm Nation Janet Jackson, honestly. They’re similarly squeaky-clean in the video for “Hot Summer,” released last June, even if they are posing in front of a pink tank:

Anyway, visual iconography aside, these songs are all ridiculously catchy, and the new EP (available on iTunes, where it hit #1 upon release June 10) is perfect summer music. As is pretty much the entire f(x) catalog. Time to play catch-up.

Phil Freeman

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