The moniker adopted by LE SSERAFIM seems like a signpost of what to expect from the rookie girl group. An anagram of “I’m fearless”, it hints at strength and unflinching courage, while the pseudo-French feel of its rearranged letters adds an element of classiness to it too. But on their debut mini-album – also called ‘Fearless’, just to hammer that point home – the HYBE girl group only live up to their name some of the time.
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There’s a certain confidence in their performances throughout the record’s five songs. For some of the group, that’s unsurprising – Miyawaki Sakura and Kim Chae-won were both members of the now-disbanded IZ*ONE, while Huh Yun-jin was a contestant on the reality TV series Produce 48. The other half of the line-up, meanwhile, make an impressive first impression vocally, bringing the songs to life with poise.
They begin the mini-album with ‘The World Is My Oyster’, a trance-y, understated intro track that positions the group against everyone else. “The world judges me,” Kim Ga-ram says, icy cool and unperturbed, before Hong Eun-chae declares the band’s mission statement: “I am fearless.” It’s a stance they repeat on title track ‘Fearless’, with Yun-jin, Eun-chae, Chae-won and Sakura delivering the lines: “If my scars are a part of me / I got no fear, no fear.” Yun-jin reinforces this attitude later, asserting: “Telling me to hide my desire, that’s weird / Acting like I’m humble, that’s done.”
The synthwave-esque vibe of ‘The Great Mermaid’ puts a new spin on bravery as it reinterprets The Little Mermaid; LE SSERAFIM refuse to sacrifice their voices for love, as Ariel did, and chose independence and freedom instead. “I don’t give a shit,” Chae-won and Yun-jin sing gleefully. “No love, no golden prince / That kind of twisted love, I don’t need it.” “Asking me to throw away my voice, crazy,” singer and rapper Kazuha chimes in scornfully later on. “Saying I could disappear, what is this.”
On the staccato plucks of ‘Sour Grapes’, though, things come undone conceptually. Instead of standing tall, as they do on the rest of the mini-album, the group scurry away from love, scared of facing heartbreak. “Oh it would just be me getting hurt trying,” Eun-chae sighs, cracks in their bold armour starting to show. You could spin the women choosing not to enter the minefield of dating as a fearless stand against society’s expectations that we all find a partner and settle down, but their admissions of “I just feel afraid” undermine that theory.
The strength of some of the songs themselves also contradict the meaning behind their name. The title track, in particular, is weak, although it does get points for not taking the en vogue route of in-your-face girl crush bangers. It takes the concept of the “anti-drop” a step too far, though, until the song just feels dull, while its chorus is gratingly repetitive. Largely, the B-sides fare much better – especially the funk bass strut of the bright and breezy ‘Blue Flame’ – but they still lack that spark that makes them feel truly special.
Still, with the girl group’s journey only just starting, there’s plenty of time for them to solidify their concept and grow into an unstoppable force. The potential is there – now they just need the songs to let them unleash it on the world.
- Release date: May 2
- Record label: Source Music / HYBE