“Once upon a time…” is an opening phrase that we hear almost in every fairy tale. It marks the beginning of whimsical adventures into magical worlds. We read about princes slaying dragons, princesses amongst talking flowers, and fairies with their mythical powers. Rookie girl group Pixy derives its concept from the Celtic mythical creature and continues their story with their first mini-album, Fairy Forest: Bravery.

Pixies and fairies are said to be different from one another: the former being “particularly fond of misleading travellers”. For Pixy, they use the terms interchangeably. The group debuted in February with their first digital single, With My Wings, with the bombastic “Wings”. The dark fantasy concept is rare among K-pop girl groups—Dreamcatcher being top of mind—and Pixy seeks to differentiate from the usual light and ethereal concept.  

Fairy Forest: Bravery is Pixy’s second chapter of their evolving fairytale wherein Ella, Lola, Satbyeol, Dia, Sua, and Dajeong are on their way to return the broken wings to the evil witch. They must return them before the red moon rises or else they will be cursed for the rest of their lives. While they were resting, a voice lures Dajeong to sacrifice one of their friends in exchange for a shiny pair of wings.

The album opens like any fairy tale:

Once upon a time
There were six fairies living in a dark mystical forest
The six fairies were different from the others
They were born without wings

The end of the introduction puts listeners into a dream state, setting up for the title track, “Let Me Know”. The song begins with a promising instrumental guitar riff that gets engulfed with increasing layers of percussion until the chorus. It mixes EDM with strong hip-hop bass that is reminiscent of CLC’s “Me” and somehow of Black Pink’s “Kill This Love”.

The mini-album is composed of eight tracks (two instrumentals and a remix available in the CD version). Following “Let Me Know” is another EDM track, “The Moon”, being the most polished track in the album. Its repetitive electronic bassline and an addicting whistle sound hold the song together. “Greedy” and “Insomnia” showcase the group’s mature vocals and rap in dreamy RnB arrangements.

Both are the soft tracks in the album, which are meant to hypnotize listeners. The sudden musical shift could be a play on the group’s concept of good and evil as they usually introduce themselves. There are good fairies and there are bad ones. By giving a taste of both worlds, Pixy does not want to fall under either. Rather, they want to be known as idols capable of pulling any concept.

The songs’ lyrics compare Pixy’s surrender to temptation and greed in their pursuit to get wings to falling in love. “Let Me Know” begins with wanting to know more about the person. The selfish desire peaks at “The Moon” and “Greedy”, then ends bitterly with the struggle of forgetting that person. The lyrical direction was quite a disappointment as “Wings” was an anthem of their identity as a group. Being together as each other’s wings, they are bound to fly higher above the cutthroat K-pop industry. While self-confidence and self-identity have become anthems of girl groups nowadays, there could be greater potential if Pixy would have explored further with its dark fantasy concept.  

Album series can be tricky. It requires balance in maintaining the artist’s musical identity, exploring variety for the listeners, and aligning with the concept. Moreover, the alignment with the narrative should evoke certain emotions and messages. Dreamcatcher’s Dystopia trilogy is a strong example of this, in which the group antes their rock niche while experimenting with different sounds for each album. NU’EST also released a series of albums adapting the story of “The Queen’s Knight”.

Conceptually, Pixy was off with a strong start. The creation of an animated film also raised anticipation of the group’s intriguing music. Their debut single, “Wings”, had potential despite the noise. However, while Pixy’s fairy tale is taking a dark yet interesting turn, the group’s music restrains itself by limiting the sound. The album is bound to be forgetful despite the impressive talent in the group. As the title of the album suggests, Pixy’s management should gather up the courage to create a distinct musical identity for the group, sprinkling more pixie dust in the group’s music to stand out.

(YouTube: [1][2][3]. The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries: The Classic Study of Leprechauns, Pixies, and Other Fairy Spirits by W.Y. Evans Wentz (1911). An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures by Katharine Mary Briggs (1976). Images via: ALLART Entertainment, Lyrics via: Genius.)