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Fearless Verónica A. Bastardo , June 8th, 2022 08:12

A daring manifesto bringing together two singers from K-pop group IZ*ONE, Sakura and Chaewon with a surprising new sound

Debuting as a musician is exciting. It’s the start of a potentially long journey for your dreams and all that. But in kpop it’s a decisive moment. Ironic, because you're just beginning, but the right song, concept and message is what defines the type of artist you’re going to be and how much fan support you’re going to get. Enter: the debut release from LE SSERAFIM.

We need a bit of context to understand how important this new girl group is. It collects three major things: the failed attempts from former Big Hit – now HYBE – entertainment to launch a successful girl group; SOURCE entertainment with just one successful music act in their history; and the popularity of two idols who come from Korea’s fourth generation it-GG group IZ*ONE: Sakura and Chaewon. So, yeah, all eyes are on this quintet and its proposal. Which, without spoiling too much, is rock solid.

Echoed synths and basses start to get louder until they paint a runway-like music composition. The whispered narration of short phrases in three different languages create an intriguing mood. That’s how the intro, ‘The world is my oyster’, develops. It follows the popular narrative, I-can-reach-whatever-I want-in-this messy-world. But it’s wrapped up in the form of a musical statement perfect for a bold catwalk.

You see – or hear, in this case – the album is a minimalist proposal. There’s not much happening from the music genre mixing aspect, and there is also a production decision to avoid any loud or explosive sounds. Far from the usual mainstream of Korean Pop, in fact, the promotional song for FEARLESS is an R&B-pop song not longer than three minutes long in which the members’ voices shine brightest in their lower register – even more surprising for a girl group sound.

‘Fearless’ is a song with an explicit message: it’s about moving forward. The big thing comes with the sound direction and hook development. The entirety of the track is almost all constructed with catchy short phrases in low register whispered voices, and a pair of onomatopoeias which comes from a three-voice harmonisation. It takes the best traits of funk with a dark twist to develop an alt-pop minimalist sound, but it’s far from simplistic.

The music construction of the album is a huge nod to modern femininity, that duality between delicate and daring. A perfect example of it is ‘Blue flame’, since it opts for a disco bass beat to bring some flirty fun to the tracklist, following a rock-punk vocal direction in which the singers now go for a higher-key shiny timber contrasted with those dark distorted basses. The choice makes a seamless transition to the next track, ‘The Great Mermaid’, an electronic cyberpunk-sounding commentary on Disney’s Little Mermaid.

FEARLESS is a five-track mini album which really lives up to its name, mixing the boldness and elegance of hard bass and beat-focused songs from electronic dance music, and the fragile sensation that comes from glimmering sound effects like echoed metals or intricate violins strings that even create a renaissance vibe – yes, I’m talking about ‘Sour Grapes’. This last track feels like you’re in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, but in a modern setting in which classical mythology is narrated with a trap beat. Pure music production creativity, perhaps the only downside of this debut album is the high bar it sets and the huge expectations for their first comeback.