With their latest release of “Rum Pum Pum Pum”, f(x) aims straight for the middle and hits it with a bullseye. Huzzah?
f(x) has always been an SM Entertainment anomaly. It is a group and concept which is supposed to be a little off beat and pretty edgy but due to SM’s conservatism when it actually comes to trying anything new, it often feels like f(x) concepts and songs start off like independent films that have gone through fifty editors to be yet another summer action flick. There are always hints of an original idea and point of view, but they have to be found under layers of standard sets and mediocre stylings (if there is one thing that f(x) does well, it’s getting a mean hook down). “Rum Pum Pum Pum” is not even that. The song lacks a punch that usually accompanies an f(x) single and the video is one of the most disappointing things released this year. For a group that has built its image on being electrifying, “Rum Pum Pum Pum” fails to deliver any shock and awe.
“Rum Pum Pum Pum” sounds different from any single that f(x) has released so far. Instead of going for a hard electro-dance pop beat, the girls opt for a much bass heavier dance track. The result is a pleasant funky song that brings to mind hip-hop splashed with reggae and dance-pop. It isn’t an assault to the senses that most f(x) songs are and while that could work for another group, the arrangement fails to take advantage of it’s subtly addicting beat. The vocals end up being too flat for a rolling summer beat like this. A group like 2NE1 could have killed this one (the audio track to “Rum Pum Pum Pum” is a superior “Falling in Love”) but SM doesn’t really allow any of it’s vocalists to stand above the beat even when they have some personnel who could (Luna and… well Luna). Amber gets a rap verse to break up the repetitiveness but even that takes up all of what seems like five seconds. The hook isn’t bad but it barely registers with the morass around it. With no real differentiation in the beat or the vocal work behind it, “Rum Pum Pum Pum” ends up sounding like a three minute intro for another song.
If the song fails to capitalize on a solid beat and nice hook, the video fails to capitalize on anything at all. At this point, it would not be outside the realm of possibility to suggest that SM is making an argument that dance-in-a-box concepts is their signature concept. The sets, transitioning between sterile white and neon pink look so similar to “Electric Shock” that one could understandably come to the conclusion that someone accidentally overlaid f(x)’s new track over their old music video. Near identical sets, editing, close up shots, camera pans and even ridiculous color contacts all come into play again. Even the wardrobe outside of the Irish kilt inspired get-ups are impossible to distinguish from those in “Electric Shock” stylistically. For a group which is designed to be at least a little more kinetic, “Rum Pum Pum Pum” looks like f(x) sleep-walked through this one
It is hard to root against f(x) as they are a group which has a sound that, while not entirely original, approaches a signature identity. One could always count on f(x) for a killer dance beat and high energy vocals with a video that, while workmanlike, would match the tenor and sizzle of the production. What makes “Rum Pum Pum Pum” so mediocre is that while the song does try to do new things with f(x), the video fails to surprise at all. And when thinking of f(x), there is nothing more disappointing than seeing them fall prey to going through the motions. “Rum Pum Pum Pum” had the potential to demonstrate a different take on f(x)’s sound but the video would rather prove nothing at all rather than risk anything.
Rating: Meeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh it’s hard to work up anything at all for this one. Even this review is about as perfunctory as this release.