Identity presents a matured Far East Movement that still stays loyal to their original genre
Far East Movement return with their fifth studio album, Identity, bridging Eastern and Western artists.
It’s been 10 years since Far East Movement’s debut album, Folk Album, and it’s remarkable to see the extent to which the band has developed and matured. Their debut earned the group international recognition with the help The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift which featured their incredibly catchy dance track ‘Round Round’. Whilst the track was garnished with a few Eastern inspired instrumentals, it sounded a bit gimicky and was hardly a solid reflection of their Asian roots. Since then, the group’s biggest hits steered away from embracing their Asian influences – ‘Like A G6’, ‘Rocketeer’ and ‘Get Up’ all became massive club anthems and floor fillers but did little to reflect their roots.
The Far East Movement boys cited the music industry for this departure from their heritage, claiming that the industry leaders even told them to change their name from Far East Movement because it was “too Asian”.
10 years on, Far East Movement have become an international household name in the EDM scene. Having established a legion of fans around the world, the group are now in a position to break away from the shackles of the industry.
As a result, Identity is an album dedicated to their ethnicity and heritage. Speaking about their new album, the band said, “when we were first starting in the music industry people were telling us to wear glasses and change our name from Far East movement because it’s ‘too Asian.’ It was a different time, but that type of stuff stays with you and affects your perspective.”
To achieve this, the band spent a significant amount of time in Asia. “We decided to disconnect, work on building our production and writing skills, spend time traveling around Asia learning the music scene, the business culture and proper customs. The trips gave us some real clarity on our own identity and what we want to do next in our own lives, which gave us the inspiration to make a new album.”
So have the Far East Movement boys succeeded in their search for identity and were they able to adequately present their findings? The answer is a resounding yes.
Identity presents a matured Far East Movement that still stays loyal to their original genre. The album shows a depth to band that was lost on their previous shallow (albeit incredibly catchy) club floor fillers.
It’s clear by just looking at the collaborations that Identity is a unique blend of eastern and western artists. From Yoon Mirae to Elijah Blake to Macy Gray to Big KRIT, there’s a diverse range of artists that ultimately reflects the diverse nature of identity in society.
The album kicks off with ‘Fighter’, featuring vocals from Yoon Marie from South Korea’s MFBTY. Her vocals are haunting with the offbeat bass booms keeping the listener on edge throughout. Next up is the album’s lead single, ‘Freal’, which was released ahead of the album. The track is unmistakably Far East Movement, blending EDM with hiphop. Ethereal vocals from Tinashe and a rap from Chanyeol that gives the Far East Movement boys a run for their money certainly deservedly earns this track the lead.
‘F-VR’ has the album’s best drop and its sinking bass will undoubtedly put your speakers to the test. ‘Church’ verges on falling into the R&B genre due to Elijah Blake’s dynamic vocals. ‘Dont’ Speak’, which features Girls Generation’s TIFFANY is the album’s best club anthem that will instinctively draw crowds to the dance floor. Girls Generation is one of Korea’s biggest K-pop girl bands and it’s fantastic to see a more serious side of TIFFANY.
‘Umbrella’, which features Hyolyn on lead vocals, is sung entirely in Korean, but yet feels like a western EDM track. Musically, the track would not seem out of place on a Kygo record, but yet the Korean vocals suggest otherwise. The track even has a guitar interlude which sounds somewhat eastern. Somehow the Far East Movement boys have managed to effortlessly blend western EDM with eastern influences and it works perfectly.
As with most Soulja Boy tracks, ‘Double Dip’ is contagious and unapologetically silly. The track is my least favourite on the album, but it serves as a reminder that the Far East Movement boys still know how to play the joker.
‘FBG$’ features the best rap performance on the album. The boys and Big KRIT both deliver silky raps and catchy rhymes that will keep your head bobbing throughout.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Macy Gray and through ‘Forever Survivor’, the boys remind how unique her voice is. The track is a bit bland compared to the rest of the album, but is still a joy to listen to.
‘Fortress’ is the album’s finale which features South Korean R&B singer Urban Zakapa, who chops and changes between English and Korean. With its slower tempo and contagious chorus, ‘Fortress’ sounds like a matured version of ‘Rocketeer’ and even if western listeners might not understand Zakapa’s lyrics, they will undoubtedly be captivated by his moving vocals.
All-in-all Identity works as a fantastic return for Far East Movement. It’s refreshing to hear the band get in touch with their Asian roots. Mixing cultures can often come across as gimmicky, as proven by tracks such as ‘Round Round’, but Identity delivers a tasteful blend of east and west that somehow feels natural and effortless.
Sadly, the album only lasts 37 minutes. Far East Movement, if you’re reading this, we want more!