Release Date: January 10, 2020
- Hands Behind my Back
- Other People
- Ready For The Ride
- Stay Calm
Amber Liu (a.k.a. Amber) should be a name familiar to K-Pop fans. The Taiwanese American artist is best known as a member of SM Entertainment’s girl group f(x). The group had a very successful run from their debut in 2009 up to their hiatus in 2016 where they halted promotions to allow the members to pursue their own individual interests.
In March of 2016 Amber started to release her own English language solo material in the form of the digital single Borders. She followed that up with 2 more singles (On My Own and Need To Feel Needed) in May of that same year. The remainder of 2016 saw her keep busy with collaborations such as Wave (with R3hab and Luna) and Heartbeat (with Luna, Ferry Corsten and Kago Pengchi). In 2017 she remained relatively quiet musically only featuring on tracks from Shannon (Love Don’t Hurt) and Superfruit (Fantasy).
The same could be said for 2018 where her only releases were a mix tape Rouge Rogue on Soundcloud and two Korean digital singles White Noise + Lost At Sea and Countdown + Beautiful. That year also saw her hit a turning point by signing with the American agency Steel Wool Entertainment. This marked her intention to return to her home country. In September of 2019 her contract with SM Entertainment expired and she elected to not re-sign with them thus setting her free to start her career anew in America.
Fast forward to January of 2020 and we have Amber Liu’s debut American EP titled X. The lead single Hands Behind My Back sounds like a not so subtle swipe at her former agency wrapped in a catchy pop package. I could be wrong, but given her last 3 years in SM Entertainment it would not be surprising if the song was inspired a little by that period of time.
The remainder of the self-produced album is a blend of the high energy dance music and mid-tempo R&B/Pop crossovers. Much of the material is reminiscent of f(x) songs from Red Light and 4 Walls along with her own solo Korean works from 2017.
When it comes to the remainder of the album Other People and Numb are the next songs to go to. The former is a dance track about getting out of a bad relationship and replacing that person with positive influences instead. The latter is one of the two ballads on this EP and it covers love coming to a bitter end.
Both songs give Amber an opportunity to put a spotlight on her vocal abilities. Something that was not usually highlighted during her time with f(x). Numb in particular tugs at the heart strings with its soft piano/strings instrumentation complimenting Amber’s emotional vocals.
Curiosity is the other track from this EP worth mentioning as it is the most attention grabbing of the uptempo songs. It has an infectious 80s dance club vibe that really gets stuck in your head after a few spins.
In the end X creates a clear division between Amber’s past as K-Pop star and her current self as a burgeoning solo artist in America. On this album she appears to be embracing her creative freedom to the fullest. The end result is something that is definitely worth checking out.
X (Apple Music)