Review: Far East Movement – Free Wired
What better way to kick off this blog than to talk about these guys? 2010 has been the year of FM. Earlier this year, they joined the elite list of Asian American artists who have been signed by a major music label. They performed alongside Lady Gaga in Japan. When FM performed on Lopez Tonight they became the first AA artist to do so on an American talk show. Of course, they also made history two days ago when their single “Like a G6” hit the number 1 spot on Billboard.
On October 12 they dropped their latest album, the first with Cherrytree records. The title Free Wired represents their lifestyle and a key to their success today. They are not afraid to be geeky and be themselves, which makes for honest and energetic on-stage performances. They are wired because they are always connected to their fans via the internet. This has been true since the start; I remember the days when they would go to my Xanga and comment on my blogs. Even today, with such an expanded fan base, they still take the time to respond to Facebook and Twitter messages.
Their fan base has been building steadily over the past eight years. They went from being an unknown trio of rappers from Koreatown to becoming a pioneer Asian American hip hop group of four. Between the four of them, they represent some of the largest Asian ethnic groups in California. Prohgress and J-Splif are Korean Americans. Kev Nish is Chinese-Japanese American. DJ Virman is a Filipino American. For people like me, their hard work and talent, plus the fact that they are proud to be Asian were the perfect ingredients for them to break down barriers like no one else has. And that is what they are doing right now.
On Free Wired they have shifted their focus entirely to dance music. The electro pop/hip hop style has given them national attention, and it is in full force here. The album has been designed to be a party soundtrack. The album starts off with “Girls on the Dance Floor”. While not as popular as “Like a G6”, the song has had exposure on television and film. Stereotypes did a great job on the production here; the bass is infectious and the beat is memorable. When the song first came out, the lyrics were much simpler than a lot of FM’s tracks, but it works very well here. The lines are simple and easy to sing to.
“Like a G6” follows as the second track, and there isn’t much that I can write about it that hasn’t already been said. It has been successful because it is so different from the other songs at the club. The lyrics are as simple as can get, and the beat is repetitive, but the result is hypnotic. Dev’s chorus has become a sort of party anthem lately, and for good reason.
Those were the only two tracks that fans got to hear far in advance. All the other tracks on the album are new. They are all fun tracks and I can find something to like about most of them. “Rocketeer” is FM’s next single and features Ryan Tedder from One Republic on the chorus. This is a slow song targeted toward the ladies, and I can imagine it melting their hearts. I do feel like Kev Nish isn’t up to his normal standards here with his verse, but maybe that’s just me.
“If I was You (OMG)” features the West coast king, Snoop Dogg himself. Unlike a lot of tracks featuring him, however, this one required him to sing, with pretty good results. It’s hard not to laugh at a line like “I bet you hop under the covers and play with yourself/’Cause I would if I was you”. I am not sure it would have the same effect if anyone but Snoop Dogg delivered that! The beat is very different and took a couple of listens for me to like, but it has since then been stuck in my head for days at a time.
My favorite track on the album is “Don’t Look Now” featuring Keri Hilson. It has a much more R&B feeling to it than anything I have heard FM do, but it works well. Keri Hilson contributes a memorable chorus and her voice complements FM well.
“So What?” features some tighter rhymes by FM and is a little harder than the other songs on the album. “She Owns the Night” is a more typical dance track but FM’s verses help the song stand out. They understand that a lot of their fans are female and the track is a dedication to them.
Overall, the album is never boring to listen to, though I agree with another album review when they say that it feels a little empty. They needed to sacrifice some heart to make the album so easy to dance to. Now that they are recognized by the public, I hope that they can bring a little bit of the old FM back.
In an interview, Kev Nish mentioned that they purposefully simplified the songs. In normal circumstances this would have “sellout” written all over it. But these aren’t normal circumstances. I am personally more of a fan of lyrics-driven, underground hip hop but I support Far East Movement. Their life is in their live performances, and they have created an album that would make their shows the biggest party. They know what they are doing. They are careful to do what they love, and at the same time pave way for future Asian American acts. If this album becomes a huge success, we all win. With such a fun album, they don’t make it hard for us to all support them.