Breaking Walls: How f(x) Influenced K-Pop as We Know It

It was in 2009 when SM Entertainment announced they would be debuting a new girl group. This group came from the shadows of Girls’ Generations who, at that time, was one of the biggest K-Pop acts, releasing hits such as “Gee” and “Genie.”

Naturally, K-Pop fans approached this announcement with caution. Can the new girl group top Girls’ Generation? If so, how?

On September 1, 2009, then-five-member girl group f(x) released their debut single “LA chA TA,” officially debuting on September 5. And the rest, they say, was history.

f(x) never became “the next Girls’ Generation,” but they sure did become a name of their own in K-Pop’s history books. Here’s why:

Experimental music that works

f(x) proved that they are their own persona from their seniors by steering away from saccharine pop. The group has consistently released top-tier music, exploring with different genres that may not be initially the cup of tea of many mainstream K-Pop followers: from samba-dance pop “Rum Pum Pum Pum” and the electro-pop “Electric Shock” to the electro house “Red Light.”

Still, the diversity of the music they released earned them new fans and made current MeUs stay loyal to the group. f(x) also achieved commercial success, garnering multiple music show wins, earning a spot in the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100, winning “Best Dance Performance” at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, and more.

A unique sense of style

f(x)

Girl groups at that time went for color-coordinated or group outfits that complement each other. On the other hand, f(x) are styled distinctly from one another, adding an element of individuality for each member while keeping the overall look cohesive.

Teaser releases

Traditionally, K-Pop groups release teaser images and videos to promote their comeback album. For the promotions of their second full-length album, Pink Tape, f(x) released an “art film” that incorporates snippets of their music with voice overs and abstract videos.

International reach

f(x) had their share of international exposure before it became common for K-Pop groups to perform in music festivals abroad and collaborate with Western artists. Before the existence of KCON, the group, along with other Korean artists, performed in a full-house venue at SXSW in Austin, Texas. It was a small crowd—550 people—but it gave f(x) plenty of opportunities to be recognized by potential fans outside South Korea. And who could forget that collaboration with Anna Kendrick?

 

What now, though?

Since their group hiatus, f(x) members are focused on their individual activities. Victoria is active in China, starring in dramas and mentoring in variety shows. Amber also made her solo debut and has since been active in the US. Luna has released music as a solo artist and has participated in musical theatre. Krystal is already an established actress and model in South Korea. And let’s not forget Sulli, who has already established an acting career and has made her debut as a solo singer.

With Amber’s departure from SM Entertainment and a lack of any updates regarding the direction of f(x), the future is bleak for this group. But no matter what happens, f(x) certainly made themselves stand out from the crop during their careers, being part of the influences that shaped K-Pop to what it is today.

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