LE SSERAFIM rejects the need for absolution in “Unforgiven”
It's no secret that the so-called “year of the girl group” is slowly transforming into a new music era. But among the lineup of rising stars is LE SSERAFIM, a five-member act made up of Chaewon, Sakura, Yunjin, Kazuha and Eunchae who are steadily forging their paths with every new release. They have a no-skip discography, beautifully produced live performances and a group identity you can spot a mile away: a balance between ferocity and elegance, femininity and edginess—they continuously establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with. Coming from Fearless's confidently indifferent goodness to Antifragile's indestructible shield, LE SSERAFIM has done it again with Unforgiven.
The Unforgiven album starts with re-recorded songs from previous releases, such as Fearless and singles from Antifragile. The new narrative formally begins with track seven, Burn The Bridge, the soundtrack to the riveting Unforgiven trailer. All five members tell their stories in Korean, Japanese and English, weaving a narrative of getting knocked down and—quite literally—rising from the ashes. Here, they march forward despite all odds, a theme that consistently resonates throughout the album.
Then comes Unforgiven, an upbeat anthem that samples Ennio Morricone’s theme for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966). Rock n’ roll legend Nile Rodgers comes on for a feature, lending guitar riffs to the rest of the song. Leaning heavily on the wild west's influences, the girls embrace their dynamism instead of teetering between dualities. They brush off expectations and reject absolution, bounds by society that often costs people their individuality.
Much like their previous hit singles, Unforgiven highlights their strengths as a group. You get a dance that's perfectly choreographed down to each movement, an addictive hook that will stay in your head for days and a feeling of triumph with each second. While we would’ve wanted to hear more riffs from Nile Rodgers, this song is still worthwhile.
LE SSERAFIM is no stranger to exploring different genres for their B-sides, such as the existence of the hypnotic disco happiness of Blue Flame, the sultry R&B melody of Impurities or the pop-rock Disney Soundtrack-ness of No Celestial. In this EP, they explore new genres that further diversify their discography. No-Return (Into the Unknown) and Flash Forward lean more towards the saccharine bubblegum pop goodness as they face uncertainty head-on. However, both are guaranteed hits showing LE SSERAFIM stands as a balanced act, a breath of fresh air from girl crush-coded choruses.
But when one asks what the best song out of the album is, apart from Unforgiven, it would be a difficult tossup between Eve, Psyche, and the Bluebeard’s wife and Fire in the belly. The first song utilizes an obsessive Jersey club beat. At its heart is a singular statement, “I’m a mess,” as they yearn for what’s previously forbidden the way Eve, Psyche and Bluebeard’s Wife met their so-called demises. Meanwhile, Fire in the belly, fully employs Latin influences to create a high-octane track driven by ambition.
As the release of Unforgiven falls a day shy of the group’s anniversary, they also took time to address their adoring fans in FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost). This ballad sounds like it belongs in Taylor Swift’s Speak Now era, offering a comfort only certain people know. It’s like an unspoken secret between LE SSERAFIM and FEARNOTS: how we run to TSwift for comfort.
In history and literature, women who defy are seen as villains. Classic literature uses people like Eve and Psyche as cases of hopelessness and why asking for forgiveness is integral to human nature. But with Unforgiven, LE SSERAFIM crushes all the expectations that weigh heavily on their shoulders. The five members break free from the shackles of expectations and rewrite the age-old guilt trip into an empowering tale.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver