Amber has always been a brightly unique individual, in all the most wonderful ways.
This is particularly true when she is viewed as a successful superstar within the confines of the Kpop world. At this point however, the confines of that world might be changing to suit her, rather than the other way around. Shake That Brass is a great release on it's own, showing off Amber's special flair with a brush of comic hilarity. Humor of this scale is the sort that has the potential to easily normalize even the craziest of concepts and I believe that it can push this release to the next level. Kpop is evolving and becoming a world-wide phenomenon in a way that can't be ignored and Amber's unique depiction of what it can look like (and sound like) to be a successful woman in Kpop might help the rest of the world embrace the musical revolution with open arms.
The track itself is funky fun that's catchy as HELL. It has a bright energy behind the playfulness, one that's carried through the track by the subtle aggression that's laced within the playfulness. The simple brassy trill is part of what's responsible for that, being short and staccato with pronounced pauses in between that refuse to give an inch and come to cadence one second before it wants too. The brassy pulse is reinforced by a smooth and complicated rhythm over top of which Amber's delightfully deep voice raps with a powerful force of perfectly pronounced syllables in rapid fire spurts. The track evolves quickly and moves neatly over the bright beat. Taeyeon's first contribution is fantastic for how it changes the tone without changing the pacing, adding a melodic flair that sits right inside the dynamics of the rap. Taeyeon's sweet voice reaches up to higher tones in the bridge, stretching the vocal range of the song out to match that of the instrumental aspects.
As for the MV, it's just as fabulous as the track. It's quirky and colorful in all the ways that it should be for any release from a band like f(x), or a person like Amber. The styling is gorgeous, bright and nonsensical, but grounded in the reality of Kpop's usual craziness. I have one favorite aspect in particular, the dance-glasses. They seem to reveal the internal craziness that goes on inside someone's head while listening to headphones: everyone wants to dance but society has rules against that. Amber's decision to not care that she looks ridiculous, to leave the glasses on and jam with the inner-selves of everyone around her.
THIS release is a breath of fresh air in the Korean Hiphop genre.
I adore this release and it must be mentioned that I find it rather astounding for reasons other than simple amusement: Shake That Brass is an extraordinary release for Kpop, depicting a unique version of femininity, one that is extraordinarily rare in Kpop. In most other MVs, the snarky tomboy image is contrived, more of a plot device than genuine personality. And the fake sportsiness is almost always fleshed out by sexiness or aegyo. This is an entirely different sort of thing and I can't think of another successfully promoted woman in Kpop with Amber's sort of style.
At the very least, Amber's current success is a unique feat in Kpop, and the potential she has with this release is wonderful. If Amber's version of femininity becomes half as common in Korea as it is here in the US, we might just end up seeing a lot more tomboys hit the scene. That's a good thing for Kpop for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it opens up a new vein of concept possibilities, which will add even more opportunities for awesomeness in the ongoing expansion of the industry.
In this way, Kpop has managed to do a lot with itself, continually evolving and moving forward while somehow staying exactly in place. New things come from novel recombinations of old ones and Shake That Brass opens an awful lot of awesome new doors for that to happen. (Assuming it's successful, which isn't really much of an assumption to make, it's an SM production and it's Amber).
Even if Shake That Brass doesn't become a globally recognized release, it's done good things for Kpop. It's even plausible to imagine a future release featuring a trans superstar, or genuine romantic pairings that aren't MxF and also aren't used just for shock-value or sexual-tension enhancement. Two years ago, such a statement would be laughed at. It's still one that might earn incredulous giggles, but you won't get laughed out of the room.
And yet, this release must be explored for how it has the potential to blow up on a global scale. Comedy is a powerful force, one that bridges cultural barriers without so much as acknowledging their existence to begin with. I don't want to compare Amber to Psy in the most literal sense, but their releases do have some commonalities that the global community could find rather exciting. For starters, it's a comedic and colorful MV with a quirky solo star and fun choreography. While Amber's moves aren't quite as ridiculous or iconic as Psy's, they're still fun. And the more important matter for the release to gain global recognition is the solo-star aspect of it.
The other interesting commonality between Psy's 2012 release and Amber's 2015 one is that both comment on an aspect of culture that is extraordinarily frustrating. Psy's comment on the uneven spread of wealth and capital was less understandable to many people than Amber's comment on the importance of individual freedom expression, unbound by society's judgement, but they are both rather forcefully made comments expressed through a bright satire of entertaining comedy and catchy music.
Point in summary, Amber is awesome, and that's all that really matters. This release is fantastic in every possible way and I have no shortage of hope for how profoundly it might affect the Kpop world (and the wider one) as subtle ripples of change begin to move through the music. SM might still be dying off, but it's releases like this that have the potential to resurrect the company's prospects to revolutionize the music industry yet again.
So What Do You Think?