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Monday, April 15, 2024

K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty shoots to fame with TikTok hit snip

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New K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty poses for the camera during a press conference held in Seoul on April 13, 2023. (Yonhap)
New K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty poses for the camera during a press conference held in Seoul on April 13, 2023. [YONHAP]

Girl group Fifty Fifty shot to stardom late last month by becoming the fastest K-pop group to land on the Billboard Hot 100. Its synth pop tune “Cupid” from February became a global hit after a snippet of it went viral on TikTok, entering the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 100 on March 27 and rising to No. 85 Tuesday.

“Cupid” made Fifty Fifty the fifth K-pop girl group to ever enter the chart, after big names like Wonder Girls, Twice, Blackpink and NewJeans. But one difference from its four predecessors is that Fifty Fifty was a virtually unknown act in Korea, from a very small agency — that is, until last month. In stark contrast, the group’s debut EP last November sold a humble 1,500 copies. “Cupid” was not even on the top 100 of Korean music streaming charts until Wednesday evening, after the hit had already spent three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.

How did the rookies achieve global success first, less than five months into their debut? Fifty Fifty members Saena, Aran, Keena, and Sio are surprised, too, but said they always had confidence in their music, during a press conference in southern Seoul’s Gangnam District on Thursday.



“I had just woken up and opened the curtains when Sio told me ‘Hey, we got on the Billboard chart,’” Aran said. “I knew people would one day recognize that it is a good song, but I didn’t expect it to come so quickly and so intensely. In a way, we were prepared. We even had an English version [of ‘Cupid’] from the start.”

“We didn’t expect this chart performance at all,” Sio said. “I gasped when I first heard the news from our producer.”

“My dream as a trainee was to hear my song play when I’m walking down the street,” Keena said. “That dream has come true, and then I realize that all of this is really happening. This conference right now feels surreal, too.”

A snippet of a sped-up English version of "Cupid" became a beloved audio source for TikTok challenges. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
A snippet of a sped-up English version of “Cupid” became a beloved audio source for TikTok challenges. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

The members began the conference by performing the lead track “Higher” (2022) from their debut EP “The Fifty” and the song of the hour, “Cupid,” from their latest single “The Beginning: Cupid.”

“Cupid” is a slow but bubbly disco-pop number that sings about a failed crush and the fickle nature of love. Blaming “stupid cupid,” the song stands out from many K-pop numbers today as it is melodious and flows without strong beats or shouts. A snippet of its sped-up English version called the “Twin Ver.” became a beloved audio source for TikTok challenges, even earning the moniker “the best pre-chorus of 2023.”

“We are thankful to everyone who listens to our music,” said Keena. “TikTok has been just one addition to the many ways people can find out about our music, and we are grateful for that outlet.”

Concept photo for Fifty Fifty's "Cupid" [ATTRAKT]
Concept photo for Fifty Fifty’s “Cupid” [ATTRAKT]

The reaction has been slower domestically, however, as TikTok has relatively fewer users in Korea, with listeners here saying Fifty Fifty has been “reverse imported.”

“I think listeners overseas sent us positive reactions first because our musical genre is easy-listening synth pop,” said Saena. “I don’t feel as strong of a reaction in Korea yet, but we have been receiving love, and we will continue to grow. We will work hard so that more domestic listeners get to know us.”

Members added that, more than their hard work and unique vocal harmony, the secret behind their success always goes back to prioritizing music.

“Since our trainee days, we’ve always been serious about the basics, which is music,” said Sio. “We’ve been having deep conversations with producers about the direction we should go.”

“More than anything, we’ve been receiving compliments that our music is comfortable to listen to,” Aran said. “That gave us more confidence in our music.”

“Good music is how we can convey our good energy and synergy together,” Saena said. “I think that has really paid off and touched the hearts of many people. I still can’t believe the results we’re seeing. We’re so grateful, and the pressure is sure on for our next work! We will prepare so that we can give you even higher-quality music next time.”

BY HALEY YANG [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]