f(x) “Red Light” Analysis

f(x) Red Light

For a music video so spooky that even Sulli got a cold from it, f(x)’s music video for red light speeds like one hell of a bullet train. There’s so many things to see, and so many themes and controversies put out in just a few seconds of imagery. Even the girls themselves keep changing their outfits so quickly it’s hard to keep track of who was wearing what at where with what make-up. Sometimes there’s light, then it gets dark. We see them, then they fall in silhouette. As an abandoned warehouse turns into the stage for a cool music video, this song’s lyrics use traffic light analogy to make you to listen to advice.

But if you wanna catch it, you gotta open your eyes wide.

Red Light #1: War, Politics, Jungle

f(x) Red Light
f(x) dances to the Red Light tune in military outfit.

They just push me forward, yeah push me forward. Just as we were about to figure out the cat, phone and the burning book, the song pushes us forward. Rapid snares and clockwork buzzing fill our ears as the girls practically march into formation. In military outfits the girls dance to the melody. In their black suits they’re just there, looking like they’re plotting things. In color outfits they look like they were going to start a fight. Everything was just so quick. Krystal and Sulli didn’t even bother with explanation, but just hammered on with “rules of the jungle” and messages of survival. It’s like nobody cared.

Hence a red light shows itself:
This reflects on us when we are all too self-absorbed to care about others, too busy with our own agenda to pause and lend a helping hand. By using disjunction in the music, plus one-eye makeups, the girls let us experience the kind of confusion that happens when life moves without pause or reason. We’ll realize that young girls shouldn’t look so cruel as f(x) look in the video. Others however, are so desensitized to such imagery that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Hence, like Luna said, we don’t even know what’s wrong. The red lights are right there erupting, but nobody’s evacuating.

We’re too busy to care about that cat, phone or someone’s book burning. So stop the speeding.

f(x) Red Light
f(x) just hangs around looking all conspiratorial in black suits. Now as for that pouting…

Breathe for a moment. This isn’t a war. In the pre-chorus, we get this breather just enough for Krystal to deliver her line and we just get a glimpse of Amber, and others, just sitting somewhere quiet. This happens just before every chorus actually, a calm before the storm. A short one, maybe too short.

But you know how relentless this song is. As soon as it’s time for the chorus, the beat drops and the volume explodes, both sound and visually. One person sings, another echoes the lyrics, someone hums, the EDM turns up, their dance steps up. Even dedicated fans can’t pin down the voice singing it is when it’s all jumbled together like that. f(x) flings the music into complete utter chaos yet something horrifyingly beautiful to listen to. Hey, they’re just being pushed forward.

This, is the “madness” they’re talking about.

Red Light #2: Media, Religion, Caterpillar

f(x) Red Light
The evils of mass media programming the masses. Classic.

Think about it, what was it that made us stop? Krystal and Victoria take the mic when it comes to pointing mass media as a culprit in fostering this fast-paced culture. Ironically, watching this f(x) music video is a form of mass media consumption by itself, made even more obvious by deliberately doing screen sizzle at 1:29 just like when switching old TV channels. But this time, f(x) have used it to deliver their own message. They urge you to look for the special emergency exit, your own quiet place to think and make your own decisions. They used mass media to tell you to run away from harmful mass media.

Open your eyes wide,
You’re about to crash, stop the speeding
Be the witness of change
When everyone is being quiet
In front of the rough caterpillar that is being pushed

The clear red light, turns on by itself. The caterpillar here represents someone who’s slow and stubborn to conform to society’s high standard of speed, no doubt fostered by media. With the insane pace of this music, the slow caterpillar keeps getting pushed to go faster, just like the girls. In the lyrics, the mention of this caterpillar will always be followed by the explosive chorus. So you can’t be fast all the time, because you’ll crash and burn. But if you slow down, you’ll be a caterpillar. So, f(x) really wants you to be both. When the red light, or signs of danger, shows up just switch to the other.

f(x) is criticizing the blind butterfly that just flies into the fire like a moth.

f(x) Red Light
That’s a phone book by the way. Or it’s what they say at least.

In front of the hot sun and you is the red light. This seemingly occult image is in the same video where Krystal and Luna adorn themselves with gold crucifix chains, smirking at viewers. Each one seem to want to tell you something, to follow them. No doubt you can’t be truly free of influence, or “madness” as f(x) puts it. You’ll always be prone to thoughts, ideas and faiths that want you to follow them. The girls have already told you how to identify if the harmful ones. Will you be able to see the red light?

Red Light #3: Love

Boy your excuses of trying your best
are just filled with doubts to me
True love might just be, a very slow wave

Stop speeding. Of course f(x) has a message for the boys still trying to win their hearts, like they did in previous songs. As Amber and Luna take turns to deliver these lines with the same, cruel persona they took to the rest of the video. A clear message that they don’t want you to push so fast, because love is something that takes time to blossom. If you rush it, it’s gonna collapse.

f(x) Red Light
Luna looking at the clear sky with her friends. Cherish what’s really precious.

Look for the precious things. Each time the song gets into Luna’s bridge, the music slows down. Then we’re treated to some rare images of the girls, at their most natural. Unlike earlier, there’s no arrogant smirking or enigmatic poker face. No blinding red lights and deafening buzzing ringing our ears, just a peaceful scene where f(x) sings softly and beautifully. They look clean, pure and we see the video’s most beautiful moment, when two hands clasp together and the girls just sitting together admiring the view.

Conclusion/The green light:
So f(x) Red Light music video is really about how our beliefs are shaped, influenced and nurtured. How we react to certain things without really thinking about it, because we were programmed so. Also, it heavily criticizes how we live so dangerously in our attempts to please higher standards of life, that we get so numb to the signs that it’s just going to harm us that we fail to see them. So, in short.

  1. Live fast if you want
  2. But be aware of signs of danger, or red light
  3. Stop when the red light appears, or you’ll just hurt yourself
  4. If they tell you otherwise, but you know better, run away
  5. Don’t forget to cherish what’s truly precious

The video ends the way it started. Peacefully and mysteriously.

f(x) Red Light
Adapted from f(x) Red Light Album Tracklist

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Musing note on the f(x) Red Light Album:
The songs that follow after the title track are actually sweeter, loving and more upbeat. In fact, the vibe they give is surprisingly different from what’s projected by the album art and photos. Of course, there’s still some spicy pop flavor in “Rainbow” and “Spit It Out”, and “Boom Bang Boom” is probably their cutest song ever. In fact, “Dracula” is really the one song that comes close to the darkness of “Red Light”. So don’t be fooled by the scary package. It’s really a sweet album, maybe even more than Pink Tape!

Turn up for f(x)’s Red Light!

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