Le Sserafim’s rise has certainly been an interesting and meteoric one. Their popularity skyrockets with each release, with the group already hitting their third million-seller with just their third and latest mini album, Easy. This spring, and nearly two years after debuting, the quintet will also become the fourth Korean girl group to play major American music festival Coachella. Still, despite the trials and tribulations the members and group faced to get where they are today, it’s safe to say Le Sserafim make their rise to fame look, well, easy. 

But, as the group wants listeners to know — being an idol isn’t always as such. Since their debut, the five-member group have consistently championed messages of confidence and empowerment (Le Sserafim’s name itself is an anagram for the phrase “I’m Fearless”), through their lyrics and especially by way of their signature feisty, uptempo sound featured on title tracks like “Antifragile” and “Unforgiven.” While Easy is no different on the lyrical front, it’s also a noticeable departure from the group’s quintessential fierce and upbeat sound that make said messages of self-assurance truly stand out and stick.

This isn’t necessarily a negative trait, however, as the group surely exemplify their knack for adapting their voices and personalities to new genres throughout the album’s sub-three minute tracks. Still, the album’s overarching laid-back air and midtempo pace take some getting used to for listeners familiar with the rest of the group’s discography. 

Opener “Good Bones,” however, is the only track on Easy that doesn’t completely divert from Le Sserafim’s typical album formula, which consistently features an upbeat, spoken word intro track that sets the scene for and incorporates several of the thematic motifs present in the rest of the album. As the only “familiar” track on Easy, “Good Bones” gets the job done, hyping listeners up with anticipation as the members recite lines in their native languages (Korean, Japanese, and English) that allude to their determination to overcome the most grueling of obstacles and be their strongest selves in the face of adversity and negativity. Set atop revving synths, a live drum set, and energetic electric guitar, the members’ interludes explode into a satisfying spin of chaos, as they messily and loudly chant the refrain “Easy, crazy, hot, I can make it” until their voices echo and the track cuts out. 

That takes us right into title “Easy,” which flows more seamlessly out of “Good Bones” than expected thanks to its callout of the word “easy” throughout both its verses (“When things aren’t easy, I will make them easy”) and the aforementioned catchy refrain. Lyrically, “Easy” dives into misconceptions around the group’s success. They acknowledge that yes, their careers and successes have appeared “easy” to outsiders (“Damn, I really make it look easy”), but there’s more to it (“Sometimes, my legs give out but I keep it”). Even as they strive to paint a more well-rounded picture of their journeys to date, they do so with an air of nonchalance, which is especially padded by the track’s hip hop-inspired beat, trap elements, and purposefully autotuned vocals. 

Still, “Easy” has a murkiness to it that’s hard to shake. While the members’ cool, detached charisma is alluring, particularly when Yunjin and Kazuha drag out their delivery of “easy” at the end of each chorus, the monotonous vocal renditions don’t take the track anywhere striking. At times, the production bites off more than it can chew, while still managing to leave more desired, especially as the track flows from final chorus back to the same off-kilter flute sounds from the intro without a bridge to let any other enticing elements of the track’s production to take flight. 

Standout b-side “Smart,” however, is an example of how the ease the group strives to emulate on “Easy” can take flight and manifest into its most relaxed and lighthearted form. Taking clear inspiration from amapiano and afrobeats, “Smart” at first appears to be an unexpected choice for Le Sserafim, although ultimately makes sense given Western audiences’ newfound affinity for these genres (as with West African artist Tyla’s viral track “Water”) and the group’s clear quest to grow their fanbase in this arena. Still, Le Sserafim’s application of their vocals and musical personality to these new genres is anything but forced, instead blending smoothly into the track’s afrobeat drum patterns, sharp horns, and shout-like echos like instruments themselves. Their delivery is satisfying and catchy, and the track’s lyrics add a heightened air of casual, unfazed confidence, as the chorus goes:

Wanna be a winner

Wanna be a winner

It goes according to plan

I’ll be a fledgling butterfly

I’m a smarter baby

Meanwhile, both remaining songs on the album, “Swan Song” and “We got so much,” are both the slowest tempo-wise, but also a more welcome return to Le Sserafim’s familiar girlish charms, still with elements of newness to them. While “We got so much love” features modern, bouncy synths and sweet, blooming melodies about love, “Swan Song” is nostalgic through and through, opening with a vinyl crackle and jazzy guitar melody. While the lyrics are simple and symbolic, with the members comparing themselves to tenacious but delicate black swans, they only emphasize the themes introduced in “Good Bones” and “Easy” further.

As Yunjin sings in the chorus “It’s not easy, but I keep on swimming/ Even so, I gotta kill these waves now,” she adds even more color to the broader, simultaneously more complex narrative around anxieties, obstacles, and success introduced in Easy’s first two tracks, acknowledging that even as darkness and challenges come their way, they will come out of them stronger and more tenacious than before. 

All in all, Easy is a mostly successful quest in Le Sserafim’s venture to share more intricate, evolved narratives and messages stemming from the bold confidence at their core through new sounds, forms, and styles. Although most forays into previously unexplored genres are triumphant, as with “Smart” especially, others don’t hit the mark quite as comfortably, (ironically) as with “Easy.” As a mini album featuring only five songs all under three minutes, however, Easy could use more time — and perhaps a few more songs — to feel as well-rounded as it needs to be to truly get its more versatile sentiments around their rise to success and exploration of new musical identities across effectively.  

(Korea JoongAng Daily. YouTube. Lyrics via Genius [1][2][3]. Images via HYBE/Source Music.)