SARAH LOHMANN WRITES — K-pop has always been rife with experimentation—throughout music, styling, and choreography. With their debut mini album Assemble, the South Korean girl group TripleS brings a fresh, trendy, Y2K-inspired sound. Making their mark in a saturated and ever-evolving market, they implore listeners to be their authentic selves in spaces obsessed with popularity and strict beauty standards.
Experimentation is apparent not only in the music and performances prepared but in other places, too. While many popular groups like Twice and Blackpink maintain consistent line-ups, a few utilize fluid or changing line-ups.
In February 2022, TripleS was formed by South Korean record label and entertainment agency Modhaus as the world’s first “decentralized” girl group, meaning that the members will rotate between activities—including participation in solo, sub-unit, and group work—as chosen by fans. Assemble features the first ten members and was released digitally on February 13, 2023. The lead single “Rising” music video has impressively accrued over 17 million views since its release.
The song details the group’s intentions to be themselves and succeed with lyrics that can be translated as “as the storm gets stronger, I hope I become stronger, too.” The track pushes against harsh public perceptions. Korean society is widely cited as setting strict guidelines for how people look and behave. According to an Oakland University paper on attitudes towards mental health in South Korea and the U.S., people may be “blamed” for traits that fall outside the acceptable norm in South Korea.
This theme is furthered in the music video, which depicts the members hiding their interests from bullies. Bullying is a serious issue in South Korea, often bolstered by the aforementioned standards. In Hyojin Koo’s doctoral thesis, The Nature of Bullying in South Korean Schools, bullies cited “not keeping up with the current style” as a reason for victimizing others. Additionally, “bullies had higher social acceptance or self-confidence” than other students, having high support from their classmates despite low support from teachers and other authority figures.
Returning to the music, combining electronic instrumentals, dreamy vocals, and bouncy synth makes the mini-album cohesive. In “Rising,” a strong bassline carries an electronic beat, creating an expressive backdrop for the powerful vocals. Other songs on Assemble follow similar themes. For example, the track “Beam” says, “I don’t want to be you / go find someone / who can feed you,” advising adversaries to find someone who fits the mold they are hoping for.
TripleS offers an exciting listening experience with an empowering message. Assemble is a sampler of what listeners can expect from future TripleS projects. The mini album is perfect for seasoned K-pop fans seeking something new and anyone who may not be familiar with the genre. Combining the trendy and palatable sound with meaningful lyrics creates an atmosphere where listeners can be moved to be themselves.
Sarah Lohmann graduated from Knox College with a BA in Creative Writing and Asian Studies. She focused her research on film, translation, and literature.
Edited by book review editor-in-chief Ella Kelleher.