Reviewish: Amber – “Borders” Is A Fine Passion Project

amber borders

As a part of SM’ Station project, Amber has released her own very personal solo music video for “Borders,” a slower hip-pop song that, while miles ahead of “Shake That Brass,” still contains some slight missteps that keep it from being great.

On the positive side, the instrumental track in all of its sparse bleakness is pretty great. Consistent, dancing snares create an atmospheric spaciness that is counterbalanced by claustrophobic bass and just enough synths to provide “Borders” a little color. The resulting production manages to sound somber and even alienated, while still retaining enough characteristics of a rap ballad to credibly orchestrate the larger moments towards the song’s conclusion that give “Borders” a cathartic lift. The song’s climax is given a huge assist by Amber herself, who impresses as a vocalist in her own right. K-Pop’s resident BFF may be best known as f(x)’s rapper but she shines brightest during the singing parts of “Borders.” The last minute of the song is part bridge, part hook and part outro, almost entirely sung by Amber, and it’s the one section of the song that pays off flawlessly.

Surprisingly, it’s the rap verses where “Borders” manages to fall a little flat. This is partly due to the song’s structure, where Amber’s rapping is mostly front-loaded during the song’s quietest moments. However, part of the problem is that Amber doesn’t deviate her flow much and the lyrics end up coming off moderately mechanical and stilted as a result which also has the effect of making the verses seem like they’re pausing the momentum that the song wants to create for its climax. Thankfully, the production and Amber’s work as vocalist are able to overcome the admittedly only-slight stiffness of the verses. A strong ending largely makes up for a weak mid-section.

As for the music video itself, it’s fine. The Amber-in-a-box set piece is simple, yet thematically well done as it does more to visually convey a sense of intense separation than any of the non-Amber vignettes that make an appearance in “Borders.” Truthfully, the entire video could have been “Amber sings in her fluorescent light cube” and it would have probably been better off for it. The non-Amber scenes ably convey broad bittersweetness and downright depression but there’s not enough specificity within those scenes to make those moments matter. Simply put, while Amber clearly didn’t want to make this project solely about her (She states in the song’s description that the music video “shares, not only about my personal experiences but of people very close to me”), Sad Person is Sad is not as compelling to watch as Amber Bares Her Soul. Oddly enough, “Borders” ends up being one of the rare passion projects that probably could have used more of its star.

In all, “Borders” is a pretty good song wrapped in a pretty-looking SM video. The project has a few nagging flaws but it undeniably has Amber’s huge heart behind it and that counts for a hell of a lot.

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5 comments

  1. I wonder how Amber would do in a label environment that gave her more freedom and where maybe there were other strong rappers around rather than the mostly rapper-lite’s you see in most K-pop groups. I’d be interested to see her do a collaboration with Mad Clown sometime.

    1. It sounds like she was given freedom for this one but I do agree that it would be highly interesting to see what Amber could do with a harder hip-hop beat/collaboration.

  2. I’d have loved to see the other people in similar boxes and better lyrics. But for SM this was surprisingly human.

  3. I love this song so much. The video is very expressive and it’s a great direction for her!

    Diasehs.com

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