There’s a popular idiom in English that says, “You can’t keep a good man or woman down.” But what about a fearless one?
“Fearless” is the keyword when describing the new K-pop girl group LE SSERAFIM. Not only is it the title of their debut single and album, but you can rearrange the letters of “I’m fearless” to LE SSERAFIM with the anagram signifying a refresh of the phrase as well as the seraphim, a mythical six-winged beast from ancient times. It’s a layered, multidimensional meaning for a pop group name—but people are connecting.
At the midyear point of 2022, the K-pop industry has delivered strong debuts from new acts in a year that will likely go down as one of the strongest for new girl groups. Six months in, the numbers are leaning towards LE SSERAFIM as the group to take the 2022 global rookie crown, thanks to ranking high with both a hit album and single.
Starting with albums, LE SSERAFIM’s Fearless EP has sold more than 412,000 copies worldwide and ranked high on the albums charts in both South Korea and Japan. Alongside the EP, debut single “Fearless” has climbed up the Korean charts to become a mainstay hit domestically (currently at No. 12 on the Goan singles chart two months after release) while also charting in territories across Asia, even No. 12 on Billboard’s World Digital Song Sales chart; shooting them inside the Top 75 on the worldwide-focused Billboard Global 200 singles chart.
Even with a built-in fanbase thanks in part to the past success of members Chaewon and Sakura, who were both members of beloved but temporary girl group IZ*ONE, as well as Yunjin, who competed on the singing competition show Produce 48 that created IZ*ONE, the group hasn’t been immune to gossip and rumors. Like any scrutinized star, negative news and claims have followed the group before they even officially hit the scene—namely, allegations of bullying from member Garam’s past that’s caught the attention of local and international press—but the group remains, as their name says, fearless. Case in point: Leader Chaewon has not backed down from addressing the controversy either.
Celebrate LE SSERAFIM’s mighty entrance into the industry by getting to know members Chaewon, Sakura, Yunjin, Kazuha, Garam and Eunchae better below. While the group is pushing ahead to spread its message globally, Garam is currently on hiatus and gave her answers to these questions before the announced break.
Jeff Benjamin: Hello, LE SSERAFIM! Congratulations on your debut! How have these first weeks since releasing your album been?
CHAEWON: We were so excited to finally show the world what we have worked on for so long. It felt exhilarating when our music video was first released. It’s only been a few weeks since our debut and I’m so grateful for all of the support we’ve received and how much we were able to achieve in such a short time.
SAKURA: We just won first place on multiple music shows in Korea and it’s been incredible to say the least. We are also honored to be on Billboard Global 200 with our debut album! We can’t wait to meet our fans in person more once the COVID-19 situation gets much better.
KAZUHA: For me, it’s my first time experiencing everything as an artist so everything feels new and exciting.
Jeff Benjamin: I’d like to start at the beginning. Some of you have backgrounds in other groups or companies; when did you all come together at Source Music for the first time?
CHAEWON: I wanted to take one more chance on a group. I was the first member to be recruited for LE SSERAFIM and saw the whole process of how the other members came together. As the leader of the group, I feel a certain level of responsibility and I want to do a good job of leading our team. I never imagined I’d meet YUNJIN and SAKURA in a group. You never know how life can unfold! It all feels like fate.
SAKURA: When I went back to Japan after IZ*ONE was done, I didn’t feel perfectly satisfied. I still had a desire to grow as an artist and perform on a bigger stage so I made a decision to come back to Korea.
YUNJIN: I was initially planning to study music in the States and all like fate, I was given an opportunity to join LE SSERAFIM. I took the chance without hesitation and this all made the team even more special to me.
KAZUHA: I loved ballet, but I wanted to take chances on different things for the rest of my life. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity and it just felt like fate that I came here to join the team.
EUNCHAE: The lineup was finalized around January of 2022 when I became the last member to join LE SSERAFIM. The fact that LE SSERAFIM became complete after I joined makes it that much more invaluable to me. It’s something I never imagined happening in my life and I’m very grateful for it.
Jeff Benjamin: I love the strong messages in your debut, especially in your title track “Fearless.” While groups embracing powerful concepts are trendy these days, I think this feels fresh. How do you differentiate LE SSERAFIM’s message of being fearless?
CHAEWON: We went into it thinking less about what kind of concept or performance people would like and more about showing our own signature colors, style and performance. What we want to do is what comes first.
SAKURA: “Fearless” is more of a message than a concept. It’s our story that comes from us. We wanted to show who we really are and I think that’s where the difference lies. “Fearless” is about accepting who I am and my imperfections as I move forward and grow.
Jeff Benjamin: I think the most striking lyric to me was KAZUHA’s “I’m fearless, a new bitch / New crazy, 올라가, next one.” I love it! How was the recording process?
KAZUHA: That part in the song was the very first recording I’ve ever done. It felt awkward to listen to my voice on a studio mic at first! So I practiced a lot to deliver the emotion of the song well.
Jeff Benjamin: HYBE chairman “Hitman” Bang Si-Hyuk worked closely on your debut. When you signed with the company, we saw a photo of CHAEWON and SAKURA with him. What other advice or words of encouragement did he share?
CHAEWON: The album is based on our story. Mr. Bang encouraged us to be more honest in the way we act and express ourselves. He gave us a lot of feedback and worked with us to discover a new side of us. This all helped the album show our authenticity.
SAKURA: Mr. Bang told us that “FEARLESS” is our story; without the members, “FEARLESS” wouldn’t have existed. Before our debut, we were feeling unsure about whether we were doing well and we were able to work even harder thinking that this is truly our story.
Jeff Benjamin: Your stage performance for “Fearless” is so impressive too. How long did it take to perfect the floor choreography?
YUNJIN: That’s the hardest part in “Fearless” choreography and it’s the important part because it’s the intro of the song. We practiced for months and worked together on checking each other’s choreo and spacing. We eventually found our own way to proceed and we’re doing a pretty good job [with it] now.
SAKURA: It was so hard. It took us about three months to get it right, but I can do it with my eyes closed now.
Jeff Benjamin: CHAEWON and SAKURA, as members of previous groups, is there anything you’d like to do differently with LE SSERAFIM? And have any IZ*ONE members sent a congratulations message?
CHAEWON: I want to show my growth and continue to take on a variety of styles in music. IZ*ONE members watched my performances and sent congratulations for my debut.
SAKURA: Rather than showing a new side of me, I’d like to show a more matured version of myself as an artist. I’ve gotten older since IZ*ONE and I’ve also grown a lot mentally. I want to be able to show the artist that I am in a manner that feels right to my age and where I am now.
YUNJIN, you were a beloved contestant on Produce 48. Did anyone send congratulations on your debut?
YUNJIN: I still keep in touch with some of the cast mates. I got a lot of congratulatory messages from Produce 48 members, which I appreciated so much.
Jeff Benjamin: KAZUHA, GARAM and EUNCHAE, for being relatively new to the K-pop scene compared to your band mates, did the others share any advice or are their aspects you’ve learned from working with them?
KAZUHA: I learned about all of the professional aspects of being on set. I also learned a lot from seeing how the members don’t lose their sense of gratitude off stage and still maintain a positive attitude.
GARAM: There are so many things that are all new to me like knowing how to look at the camera, having the right attitude as an artist. Since we have members who are very experienced in this, I was able to learn a lot from watching them.
EUNCHAE: I didn’t know how to even use an in-ear, a mic or look good on camera at first. The members helped me learn all of these necessary technicalities of being an artist and performer.
In one of the pre-debut teaser videos, YUNJIN said, “I want to change the idol industry.” Is that a belief felt by the team? Can you elaborate?
YUNJIN: There are a lot of standards and expectations—and this isn’t just exclusive to the entertainment industry—as a person experiencing and living this kind of world with this perception, I want to be someone who questions and challenges these ideas rather than change myself and give up my identity. We all have similar thoughts, similar fears, and we talk to each other so I think it was only natural that we melt this message into our music. We want to be a girl group that challenges the world and takes a road that hasn’t been taken yet.
Jeff Benjamin: Naturally, when any highly anticipated group debuts in K-pop, there are rumors and gossip. What do you say to those who might read negative news about LE SSERAFIM?
CHAEWON: The company is responding to these issues according to appropriate procedure. What we need to do is to work hard to offer music that uplift and inspires people.
Jeff Benjamin: Good answer. Since we are learning more about you for the first time, I wonder if each member can share her feelings or an unknown fact about another member.
YUNJIN: SAKURA has so much love for the members and always takes care of us. And KAZUHA has an unexpected charm. She is quirky and has a good sense of humor.
SAKURA: Our fans say YUNJIN seems like an “E” type in MBTI, but she is actually very much “I.” She’s very sentimental and likes to decorate her room beautifully.
EUNCHAE: CHAEWON is playful and always laughs a lot.
KAZUHA: GARAM is always bright on the outside and doesn’t really like to show what might burden her on the inside.
SAKURA: EUNCHAE is an adorable, lovely maknae [youngest member], but on camera, her eyes change and she is absolutely fierce. I’m looking forward to what she may become in the future.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with international fans?
GARAM: I want to thank all of the fans who’ve shown us support since our debut. I want to give that back with even better performances, so please stay tuned!
YUNJIN: Thank you for supporting us wherever, whoever you are in the world. We hope to become an artist who can bring strength to everyone who enjoys listening to our music. We want to be someone who’s always there.
EUNCHAE: As we worked tirelessly to prepare for our debut, we still have so much that we’d like to show. I’ll continue to do my best to return all of the love we’ve received.
SAKURA: I think we are going to have more opportunities to meet our international fans in person in the near future. I’ll work on my English more so that I can communicate with my fans overseas. I hope that you continue to show love for our music.
KAZUHA: I will continue to work hard and grow to deliver great performances for our fans.
CHAEWON: I’m grateful to have many opportunities to share our honest thoughts, and we will continue to share our stories as we go along. Please look forward to it!