SM might be famous for incredibly misleading title tracks but I did not expect to see a title track be quite as misleading as “Shake that Brass” for Amber‘s first solo outing, the mini album Beautiful. All of the album’s branding was geared towards a bold and somewhat crude interpretation of pop-art which only made the album seem worse via visual association. I was pleasantly surprised however, when the contents made “Shake that Brass” a huge anomaly. Beautiful as a whole mostly eschews the brassy for acoustics and listener friendly pop.
The acoustic end of the album includes the original English version of Pink Tape‘s “Goodbye Summer,” which is probably better off in Korean, and fan favorite “Beautiful” (it eventually got its own, non-SM made music video). The latter track is well known for expressing a lot of Amber’s personal feelings about her celebrity, but musically it attempts to showcase Amber’s songwriting and vocal skills. Amber is not “stand out” talented in either of those arenas, but at least it’s better than her feigning to be a proper rapper.
I though, was more intrigued by her more f(x) oriented tracks, “Heights” and “Love Run,” which have a more electronic-pop edge that sounds great with the always crisp SM production and generally de-emphasizes the limitations of Amber’s technical singing skills. Unfortunately, despite the genre and production’s buffering, it’s hard to look past the fact that “Heights” sits in the near-strain range of Amber’s vocal range. Since she has no real vibrato to round off the sharpness, “Heights” comes off tinny and rough.
“Love Run” though, pulls on Amber’s timbre’s natural warmth and the latter half of the song has a relaxing, yet dense atmospheric sound that I really love. The song is also noteworthy for being able to rely heavily on its chorus without sounding tired by the end, and as a person who grew up with Carnatic music, that quality is near and dear to my heart.