FIFTY FIFTY, a South Korean girl group consisting of Saena, Aran, Keena, and Sio, debuted in November last year. They grabbed the attention of an overseas audience when they released Higher, a single from their first EP, The Fifty. The song’s mid-tempo not only displayed the girls’ charming vocals but also showcased the group’s harmonies.
FIFTY FIFTY’s music turns out to be less monotonous compared to other rookie girl groups, and this can be seen with their latest release. A few weeks ago, Saena, Aran, Keena, and Sio made their comeback with their first single album, The Beginning: Cupid. The title track has a catchy and upbeat melody that is easy to sing along with, and the driving rhythm of the song creates a sense of energy and excitement.
“I received a lot of positive energy while preparing for this album. Given that the song’s main message is about taking the initiative to be in charge of ourselves, I tried my best to keep a positive mindset despite the difficulties and challenges I faced throughout the preparation period. I hope everyone can become motivated by listening to this song as much as I did”, Aran confesses when asked about The Beginning: Cupid.
“When I first heard the track, I was hooked on the chorus melody, so I kept humming that part over and over. I just wanted to listen to it constantly. It is very addictive and easy to listen to, just like Higher, so I remember listening to this track while feeling very happy”, Saena adds.
And although there was a lot of pressure attached to the new release, Sio says that she was “excited and nervous at the same time before hearing our comeback track because so many people loved our debut track Higher. But as soon as I heard Cupid, my nervousness just went away. Rather than feeling anxious and worried, we just focused on how we can perfect our performance with this track while preparing our comeback”.
The song serves as a prequel to their debut release and exhibits the girls’ “inner selves as they are about to embark on a new journey”.
Despite the fact that FIFTY FIFTY have been officially on the market for less than six months, they have been occupied with a lot of work.
“Right after our debut, we stayed busy as we prepared for a new album within a short period of time. We practiced hard and did our best, hoping to put on a flawless performance. I hope people can look forward to our brand-new look”, Saena tells us, then continues, “Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to our team for allowing us to come back with great music”.
The Beginning: Cupid contains two versions of Cupid: a Korean version and an English one, as well as an instrumental track. Two of FIFTY FIFTY’s members were involved in the production process of this single album, with Keena writing some of the lyrics and Saena “participating in the creation of the highlight choreography of the song”.
“When I was working on the lyrics of Cupid, I made a lot of edits in terms of concept and topic. For the best result, our company staff helped me a lot and provided feedback on every little detail that even I had missed. That whole process was very meaningful and exciting”, Keena admits candidly, letting Saena explain her work with Minny Park of 1MILLION Dance Studio, “I’ve been following Minny Park and her work for a while, and it was a great honour to work with someone I look up to. She was very open about our ideas, and we all worked together to create a perfect performance. It was so much fun [working together]”.
Singing in Korean was easy for the girls, but Sio admits that when they were recording the English version, it was “definitely challenging for me. While recording the English version, I had to focus on both the English accent and the meaning of the song. Finding the right balance between the two was a bit difficult for me”.
Adam von Mentzer, responsible for producing Lovin’ Me from FIFTY FIFTY’s debut album, got involved in the production of their newest release alongside other producers, and they maintained the group’s “distinct colour while expanding their spectrum of music”.
Cupid debuted on the World Digital Song Sales chart at No. 8, marking the group’s first appearance on a Billboard chart – a feat that is undoubtedly about to change the face of K-pop music for rookie groups.
“We just couldn’t believe it! We were very surprised and had to keep asking, ‘Our song is on the Billboard chart?’. It also gave us more responsibility to work harder and perform better. It’s a great motivation”, Saena exclaims with excitement.
When the group debuted, they had a limited period of promotion, however, after revealing their new music, FIFTY FIFTY finally met with their fans and made time to promote their latest release to the wider public.
“This comeback was special for FIFTY FIFTY because we didn’t have many opportunities to meet our fans in person for our debut album activities”, Keena says, then makes a further comment, “For this comeback, we were able to meet them, communicate with them, and perform in front of them, which was very special”.
Cupid is the god of love in Roman mythology, but how do the girls view love? Do they think love (both romantic and platonic) can always solve our difficulties in life? According to Aran, “love doesn’t have a direct impact on solving a difficult situation”, however, “without love, nothing can be solved. I believe we always find a way and an answer to something because love exists everywhere, even in small ways”.
While K-pop as a whole has gained global popularity, girl groups still face challenges in terms of representation and visibility. But FIFTY FIFTY demonstrate a willingness to experiment as a K-pop group. “Personally, I think it’d be possible for us to try to perform as a band if we all learned how to play an instrument”, Sio says.
And while the girls have different musical inspirations, Keena and Sio are keen to reflect on theirs. “I would say Girls’ Generation is my musical inspiration. We all grew up listening to their music, and they’re such a respectable and iconic girl group”, Keena tells us, with Sio adding that when she was young, she was a Disney fan, “I listened to the OST from Lion King and The Little Mermaid. One day, my mom played the music video of I Love You by 2NE1, and I remember it was my first exposure to K-Pop. I think that’s why I listened to 2NE1’s music a lot growing up and was inspired by them [to become an idol]”.
K-pop girl groups are often expected to be “perfect” in all aspects, including vocals, dance, fashion, and personality. This puts a lot of pressure on the members to constantly improve and maintain a flawless image, however, with FIFTY FIFTY’s potential and hard work, one can hope that Saena, Aran, Keena, and Sio will achieve their dreams without being dehumanised by the industry.
Interviewed by Marianna Baroli
Written by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, and art, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop / K-music, and Asian music in general, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.