Nothing is going to keep Amber from expressing herself musically and we are here for her freedom.

The issues between Amber Liu and SM Entertainment when it comes to the music she wants to release have become one of the public secrets that everyone knows but rarely acknowledges.  She does get the chance to put out music from time to time, but not at the rate it seems that she’s producing it.  There are several questions as to why and all parties are somewhat tightlipped about the core of the issue.  We thought that Beautiful would be the last solo project that we would get from the Queen of Androgyny.

And then she dropped this.

The best part of all this is that nothing feels like an f(x) leftover or something that was handed to her and was initially meant for another artist.  This short EP is Amber through and through; pop and R&B elements mixed with some rock and synth making for a sound that is surprisingly grounded in its undertones why still bright and expressive in its melodies.  She tends to aim a lot more mid-tempo and constant energy than most of what she has done with f(x) in the past, but it does remind us a lot of the best tracks off of Beautiful or even the more recent Lower.

Her vocals are good.  I’ve always felt that Amber had a voice that we didn’t get to hear the best of and she shows her range in this set.  While she has places where she falters just a little (higher notes that seem to be just out of her range), she has a strong tone that works for her.  Her natural tone seems to be in the first alto range, which means she can switch to a lower soprano fairly easily, but she sounds the best when she takes her octaves down and brings in that little extra something that makes her stand out.

The writing is solid.  Every song in the set clearly has a meaning and, for the most part, she doesn’t sugarcoat or hide anything behind metaphor.  The songs are also very personal and you get the feeling that this is her telling her story in a way that she could not before.  This kind of honesty works for her and she manages to keep things interesting without it sounding like “woah is me.”  That is a hard line to hough to and she does so very well.  She also manages to come at everything with a certain level of positivity, which makes it come across as optimistic in a way that we didn’t expect.

I think that it’s interesting that the entire freEP is in English.  Amber is an American by birth and it makes sense that she might step back into her native language for some tracks, but I was surprised she didn’t half-and-half it.  I was also surprised that she didn’t drop bars and kept to the singing.  While this doesn’t bother me in the least (I’m lukewarm on the idea of Amber as a primarily a rapper), this is something that her fans have really come to expect from her in some part.  It really feels like this is new era for her and I wish her the best…while simultaneously asking for more music like this because this is solid.

Favorite tracks in the set are High Hopes and Right Now.

You can either download the tracks individually by clicking the arrow in the player as each one plays or you can download them all in one package by clicking the button below.

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