SM girl group f(x) has rewritten the expectations for female kpop performers more than once during their career. Always looking forward, the girls have given us some of the most experimental, ambitious pop music in all of Korea. Yet somehow, each song’s complicating trappings are always wrapped in catchy, accessible hooks that offer the perfect balance between avant garde and pop radio. They are one of my personal top girl groups. I only wish they’d release title tracks more frequently. As it stands, there were hardly enough to fill this list!
10. Chocolate Love (2009)
A commercial single, also recorded by Girls’ Generation. f(x)’s version is slightly more interesting, but it’s nowhere near as boundary-pushing as their own material.
9. La Cha Ta (2009)
For their debut, the group gave us a mixture of robotic electro-r&b and staccato pop to undeniably catchy effect.
8. Chu (2009)
Upping the ante on their heretofore herky-jerky electro sound, the chirpy Chu sounds bigger and bolder, though the best was still yet to come.
7. Red Light (2014)
A song as polarizing as it is inventive, Red Light bursts forth with a jarring, cacophonous structure. It’s not particularly melodic, but the sheer verve of its chaotic ambition forces you to take a closer listen.
6. Nu Abo (2010)
Quite possibly the girls’ most experimental title track, mixing chopped “applause” samples, a pop stomp and a totally out there, siren-like chorus.
5. 4 Walls (2015)
After being reduced to a four piece, the group tackled European house music with the appropriately titled 4 Walls and emerged with a supple, ruminative piece of forward-thinking pop.
4. Pinocchio (Danger) (2011)
Arguably, the first time the group’s boundary-pushing sound resulted in a truly outstanding pop song. It knows just when to push the limits and when to pull back with a big pop hook.
3. Hot Summer (2011)
When it comes to choruses, there’s no doubt that Hot Summer‘s is the group’s catchiest work. Those looking for a mainstream entry point to the girls’ discography should start here. But make no mistake, “mainstream” doesn’t mean lazy or unoriginal. Hot Summer has quickly become a modern classic.
2. Electric Shock (2012)
In many ways, the pinnacle of a certain f(x) sound. The beat is immense, the many melodic turns are unexpected, and the hook hits hard. It’s no surprise that it’s their most-viewed music video.
1. Rum Pum Pum Pum (2013)
With a bass-heavy (almost tribal) syncopated beat and more interesting, off-kilter production touches that you can count, Rum Pum Pum Pum is a perfect pop song laid on top of an instrumental that keeps challenging itself to get weirder. The group has rarely sounded stronger, or more balanced in their diverse pop sensibilities. Not only their best title track, but their best all-around album.