Since their debut EP Fearless dropped in May, K-pop newcomers Le Sserafim have quickly carved a space for themselves in the Korean music industry, making their mark as Hybe Corporation’s first girl group under its acquired subsidiary label Source Music. It’s been a record-setting six months: They had the highest first-week sales for a debut album in K-pop girl group history; became the first girl group to record more than 300,000 album copies with their debut album; and won their first music show award just eight days after their debut. And as of this week, the group has been nominated for five 2022 MAMA Awards, including Best New Female Artist and Artist of the Year.
However, the road to K-pop stability and success does not come without its fair share of bumpy roads. Before their debut, three of the six members had participated in the K-pop idol reality show competition Produce 48 in 2018, with two of those three named to the final lineup of girl group Iz*One, only to disband in 2021. The third member had been eliminated from the show altogether. We then learned from their documentary on the group’s pre-debut period that they had trained hard for a whole year as a sextet and even had a potential seventh member, Haruka—only for her to be cut from the debut team halfway through, leading the group to question their uncertain future. Perhaps the biggest hurdle the group has experienced was with debuting member Kim Ga-ram, who became a subject of controversial bullying allegations, leading to her contract being terminated and ousted from the group after their EP had already been released.
Now moving forward with five members—Sakura, Kim Chae-won, Huh Yun-jin, Kazuha, and Hong Eun-chae—Le Sserafim returns with their second EP in less than a year, titled Antifragile. It’s an aptly named mini-album—to be “antifragile” means to weather through any storm and come out on the other side stronger than before. It’s also a thematic continuation of the ethos woven into their band’s name, an anagram of “I’m fearless.” Crafted to inspire confidence and instill boldness in the listener, it’s safe to say we’re witnessing the official christening of the new endurance stars of fourth generation K-pop.
Like Fearless, their second EP includes five tracks. Here’s the breakdown:
If you’re working out in the gym or find yourself walking down some pavement wearing shoes that can be heard with every step you take, this intro track will make you feel invincible and dangerous. The bass-heavy EDM beat accompanies the members’ low voices in parts of spoken verse, successfully conjuring up the imagery of the Greek mythological creature the track is named after. The chorus is the most addicting part of the song, with each member declaring in their native Korean, English, and Japanese: “I will, I will, I will rise over and over again. I am antifragile.” The lyrics keep the song firmly rooted to their promises to endure and triumph over all obstacles thrown their way, as well as hammer home what it is that hydras are best known for: you cut off one head and another grows back in its place.
Wherein “Fearless,” the group presented a hardened exterior and an assertive, nearly cold front—a byproduct of their journey to debut—here with Afro-Latin pop number “Antifragile,” they allow themselves to get more vulnerable with their audience: “Don't forget my pointe shoes I left behind,” “Don't underestimate the path I've walked.” In their accompanying music video, they even dance to the lyrics with coy smiles and flirty winks, indicating they’re not only fearlessly confident, but they can also find humor and energy from the hate and pressure that’s surrounded them since the beginning—a tongue-in-cheek perspective we should all adopt from time to time.
At first, this classic-sounding R&B song read as slightly underwhelming for me, but only because it’s much more subdued and sandwiched between two really killer, fast-paced tracks. I had to listen a few more times for me to really see its potential. True to its lyrics, with “Impurities”, the group asks us to see beyond their steely Fearless personas and instead gaze at their Antifragile battle scars, worn with prideful resolve beneath the surface.
The best of the five tracks on this EP, and my personal favorite. When I listen to this song, I think of the best female pop-punk acts known for their guitar-heavy instrumentals: Avril Lavigne, Aly and AJ, Paramore, 2NE1 and CL. This track screams peak-young-woman-angry-at-the-world-but-doesn’t-understand-why vibes, but without the angst. It’s just pure, unfiltered ferocity, executed to perfection. When they shout “I’m no fuckin’ angel, I’m no fuckin’ goddess,” you can’t help but share Le Sserafim’s infectious rage.
“Good Parts (when the quality is bad but I am)”
I adore this song for its relatable message of embracing softness and vulnerability when the world attempts to harden you. It’s more stripped down than the other four tracks, but it’s likely the most earnest and personal. It’s a great coda to an EP all about confidence and resilience, but with a more realistic, honest approach to what it truly means to feel good in your own skin and love yourself.
Whether you discovered Le Sserafim because they’re company siblings with BTS, or their concept photos caught your eye, or when Kim Ga-ram left, or simply from reading this article, I hope you fall in love with this group for their fortitude and openness to growth as much as their catchy music. Within a short period of time, Le Sserafim has proven that their place in the K-pop community is worth emotionally investing in: They vlog, document, and TikTok their journey. They’re stans just like us (Yun-jin literally has had a BTS stan Twitter account before she debuted and her bias is V). They’re young women with relatable fears and big dreams and a tenacity and ambition to keep forging ahead. I hope to continue seeing Le Sserafim subvert the status quo and shake the K-pop industry from the ground up. If Antifragile is any indication, we’ll see them do this sooner rather than later.
Published on October 26, 2022
Words by Teresa Tran
Teresa Tran (she/her) is an American-born Vietnamese writer and filmmaker based in Atlanta, Georgia, with a background in theater and community organizing. She has a B.A. in English and Women’s Studies and a B.S.Ed in English Education from the University of Georgia and studied British Literature at the University of Oxford. She is currently writing and directing her own short films and working on her debut novel. You can find her on Twitter at @teresatran__.