Amber Liu makes her American debut with ‘X’.

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Amber Liu makes her American debut with ‘X’.

The cover of Amber Liu's debut solo, English-language EP, 'X'.

The cover of Amber Liu's debut solo, English-language EP, 'X'.

Steel Wool Entertainment, EMPIRE

The cover of Amber Liu's debut solo, English-language EP, 'X'.

Steel Wool Entertainment, EMPIRE

Steel Wool Entertainment, EMPIRE

The cover of Amber Liu's debut solo, English-language EP, 'X'.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

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American singer-songwriter and rapper Amber Liu made her initial debut in September 2009 as a member of South Korean girl group f(x), who released four albums and two EPs between May 2010 and October 2015 under South Korean entertainment company SM Entertainment before disbanding in late 2016, after which each member embarked on solo careers in music, acting, and / or modeling.

Prior to the group’s disbandment, Liu had previously released her debut solo EP, Beautiful, in February 2015 as “AMBER”, and following several non-album singles in 2016 and her self-released debut mixtape, Rogue Rouge in April 2018, she signed a joint-deal with SM and Steel Wool Entertainment in July 2018, releasing two maxi-singles, White Noise + Lost at Sea and Countdown + Beautiful, in September and November 2018, respectively.

The maxi-singles were intended to act as her U.S. debut, however, they failed to impact the American market, and Liu left SM Entertainment in September 2019, signing solely with Steel Wool and determined to make a successful American debut.

Amber Liu dropped her new single, “Hands Tied Behind My Back”, that same month as the lead single from her debut English-language, solo EP, X, which was released in mid-January after a slight delay. 

While she had been releasing plenty of music prior to the EP, X marks an official new start for Liu’s career, with a sound that ditches bright, synth-heavy K-Pop and opts for a more contemporary approach inspired by dance pop, disco, and R&B. 

X is mainly comprised of upbeat, dance-oriented tracks about love and relationships, such as “Other People” and “Curiosity”, and emotional pop ballads, like “Numb” and “Ready for the Ride”. The production directly compliments Liu’s deep and vivid voice, which flows along the catchy melodies like a cool river washing over the listener. 

It’s also a visual EP, and every song has an accompanying music video in which Liu tells a unique story through perfectly executed simple concepts that show off her abilities as a professional dancer and actress.

The closing track, “Stay Calm”, stands out among the others, as the lyrical content moves away from themes of love and instead discusses self-empowerment, emphasizing the importance of individuality. The track not only hints at SM’s attempts to stifle her creative freedom, which is rumored to be the reason why she left the company in the first place, but was likely inspired by the way the public views her appearance.

Liu’s style preferences tend to make her look rather masculine, generating polarized reaction from the public, with some praising her for breaking gender stereotypes with an appearance that doesn’t conform to the traditional “look” of a pop star, while others believe it makes her unattractive and have even gone as far to question her sexuality because of the way she looks. Clearly no one ever told them that the only thing that makes a person gay is actually being gay, not hair and clothes.

“Stay Calm” sees Liu taking back her power from the negative, and sometimes straight-up sexist and homophobic, comments she receives on her appearance, asserting that she will rise above it all in the end, encouraging the listener to do the same because everyone should feel comfortable being themselves.

X is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream X on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6SJ98aq2C2pk3PHknbuqOY?si=dcnFZzyLTDqTUyLplbXmpA

Watch the music video for “Stay Calm”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBWh4IAHgWQ

Steel Wool Entertainment, EMPIRE
Liu in the music video for “Stay Calm”.