“Free Somebody,” the first solo mini album by pitch-perfect f(x) vocalist Luna (Park Sun-young), proves that individual elements can be just as enticing as the entire group. Its lean six tracks are pure sonic gold; each is completely cohesive instrumentally while also providing enough airspace where Luna’s beautifully-rounded voice can soar. Another impressive factor, she also helped pen and produce two of the songs, which K-POP is not really known for (perhaps especially not goliath entertainment company SM, to which Luna is signed), although it is becoming more common in South Korea’s vibrant music scene.
It all begins with the rollicking title track of the same name, the standout of the massively impressive album. “Free Somebody,” is somehow both raucous and dreamily smooth, combining to form an eclectic dance-R&B track. The waviness of the verses is outmatched, however, by the urgent-sounding chorus, an exploding bravado of flawless vocals and dance-worthy electronica. It would’ve been a perfect addition to 2015’s superb f(x) album “Four Walls,” and it’s surely a perfect addition here. “Free Somebody” ranks high on the list of the best K-pop songs of 2016.
“Breathe” seems at first a sharp contrast from “Free Somebody,” and in many ways it is. It would make sense for a soft ballad to precede the excitement of an explosive single before it. But “Breathe” is so much more than stereotype and conventionality. It’s a powerhouse that gets more and more emotional and impressive vocally as it goes on. Even without looking up the lyrics, you can tell Luna is singing to someone, about someone, for someone. This is more than some song to her; you can sense the dedication in her effortless vibrato. Luna sings with pure and real emotion in her voice and uses that feeling for all the highs and lows, the powerful chorus and the light opening verses. She turns an otherwise conventional song into something of beauty and uniquity, proving that her talent is not to be questioned or ignored.
By this point in the record expectations are high, and “Keep On Doin’” – a song about being yourself and instructing you to “color yourself in this black and white world” – keeps the bar set high. From its garbled electronic opening, “Keep on Doin’” flourishes, propelled by Luna’s strong-as-ever vocals and it’s catchy chorus. Even just now, it seems that every song on this album was meticulously constructed, and it’s paid off for the listener.
Perhaps there are too little words to describe “I Wish,” and all its dreamy synth glory. It, like the other tracks before it, does not adhere to modern pop’s guidelines. At first listen it may seem sweet, almost bubblegum; but upon further listening, a subtle trap beat is discovered under the beautifully stuttering chorus. Of course, the vocals are stellar, and it was unexpected to hear such light lilts after all of Luna’s powerhouse belting. “I Wish,” is a glittering percussive treat for the mind.
“Galaxy” returns the record to the EDM greatness achieved by “Free Somebody” before it. Like the title track, its biggest strength is the cinematic chorus where Luna’s powerful voice soars over a fast-moving EDM bass. It doesn’t lose any momentum in the verses, either, instead basically using them as high-powered bridges to keep the song an energetic three-minute blitz. “Galaxy” would be a stellar title track for any artist, and it easily could’ve been the single if it weren’t for the perhaps superior, earth-shattering “Free Somebody.”
As the sixth and final track, “My Medicine,” makes for a routinely light and personal send-off. The repeated hook of “no matter what,” asserts that while this may be the end of the album, it’s not the last that we’ll hear of Luna and her spectacular voice.
“Free Somebody” may be Luna’s first mini album on her own, but it sounds like the work of a seasoned soloist. Flaws are very hard to find, and when audible they are out-shined by the album’s brilliance. It’s a treasure chest filled with timeless gems that complement one another perfectly; a near-masterwork of a flourishing artist who affirms herself as a mainstay in the industry.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.