2022 has seen a mixed bag of debuts, with plenty of new acts emerging but few leaving an identifiable mark. No group has received as much pre-debut hype as HYBE/Source Music’s LE SSERAFIM. In a way only K-pop can manage, they were a huge success even before any music had been released! With name recognition from IZ*ONE, fueled by the legacy of watershed acts like BTS and GFriend, LE SSERAFIM’s Fearless arrives with maximum anticipation.
Fearless is sleek, funky dance pop with most of its edges smoothed out. It comes courtesy of producers Score and Megatone, who were responsible for some of my favorite tracks of 2021. Their ambition is tempered here, as Fearless opts to bunt rather than swing for the rafters. For such a highly-anticipated debut, this subdued approach is a little surprising. Fearless finds its groove immediately and rarely strays, opting for a hook that’s more catchphrase than melody. It’s a testament to the production and performance that this works as well as it does.
I really like how low-key the vocals are on Fearless. The girls sing in a comfortable register, avoiding the type of shout-talk that often comprises K-pop tracks of this style. From the opening volley of ascending vocals to the catchy spoken-word hook, their hushed delivery feels cool and aloof. This approach makes the explosive pre-chorus stand out, as rock guitar provides a jolt of energy.
If anything, Fearless suffers from its simplicity. The song isn’t even three minutes long, yet still feels a little repetitive and one-note. Thankfully, that one note is quite satisfying. Rather than assume this is the best they have to offer, I’ll take Fearless as a statement of intent, instantly distinguishing LA SSERAFIM from their peers. I hope they can build on its charms with more daring material in the future.