FIFTY FIFTY Are Just Getting Started
It’s not often I can confidently say to people “you’ve definitely heard this K-Pop song”, but I feel pretty safe saying that about FIFTY FIFTY’s “Cupid”.
Even if you haven’t been following the girl group since they debuted in November 2022 — hell, even if you don’t listen to K-Pop (in which case — er, thanks for reading anyway?) — I’m like 92% sure you would’ve heard “Cupid”. If you’re on TikTok, that probability rises to 99.7%.
FIFTY FIFTY celebrated six months since their debut last week, and the success they’ve achieved in that time is, without exaggeration, phenomenal. It’s rare for even the biggest K-Pop acts — who are, in fact, the most popular groups in the world — to experience much cut through beyond their own fandoms and into the ever-elusive general public. Western mainstream media, and radio in particular, is frustratingly stubborn in not giving much airtime to K-Pop. So when a song or group does break through, it feels all the more remarkable. And when a rookie group does that? One from a minor independent label (FIFTY FIFTY are the only idol group under their agency, Attrakt)? It’s pretty damn extraordinary.
Of course, there’s no such thing as an overnight success, even when it can seem that way from the outside. Like many K-Pop artists, FIFTY FIFTY’s rise has been years in the making. Their company first enlisted producer SIANH to help them put together a girl group. In interviews, SIANH has repeatedly emphasised his aim with the group was to focus on music first and foremost (as opposed to, say, visuals or choreography — not that the group is lacking in those areas!). He says he also identified “fatigue points” in K-Pop — sounds and structures that had saturated the market and become tired — and deliberately created a group and a sound that would feel fresh in contrast.
The group and their music were then moulded to form around the distinct strengths of the four members, Saena, Sio, Aran, and Keena, rather than trying to squish them into a preconceived concept. Like others in the K-Pop industry, the girls trained and honed their skills for years before debut, and the result of their work and that of their label is clear. FIFTY FIFTY aimed for a fresh sound, and that’s exactly what they achieved, thanks in no small part to their rich and distinct vocals, and an early discography that feels both varied and wholly theirs.
I don’t want to get too deep into the nitty gritty of marketing and business strategy, but it would be impossible to talk about FIFTY FIFTY’s rise without mentioning it at all. With comparatively limited resources (members of their management say they had to sell their cars and watches in order to fund the album release), Attrakt have been incredibly smart in how they’ve promoted FIFTY FIFTY.
It started long before “Cupid” (well, not that long, but I’m speaking relatively here). For their debut in November 2022, the group released three songs and accompanying videos in rapid succession — addictive pre-release single “Lovin Me” (my personal fave), intense and attitude-heavy performance song “Log In”, and dreamy lead single “Higher”. Their EP The Fifty also included retro-inspired bop “Tell Me”.
I spoke to an Aussie fan named Aimee about what drew her to FIFTY FIFTY, and she says it was this strategy of releasing “multiple songs with various concepts at once” that intrigued her. “I loved them after that,” she explains.
In February 2023, FIFTY FIFTY followed up The Fifty with the now-inescapable “Cupid” on single album The Beginning: Cupid, which included the Korean version of the song alongside an instrumental and a “Twin version” — with English lyrics and a slightly different arrangement. It was a fan-made sped-up remix of the latter that very quickly went viral on TikTok. The band harnessed that energy by adding their own remix on the app and leaning into a dance challenge.
Soon, the “Twin version” as well as the Korean were rising on global YouTube and Spotify charts, and in March the group hit the Billboard Hot 100 — just four months after their debut, the fastest a K-Pop group has made it on the coveted American chart. Since then, “Cupid” has steadily risen on the Hot 100, peaking at 19 at the time I’m writing this.
With “Cupid”, FIFTY FIFTY also became the first K-Pop girl group to crack the top 10 of the near-impenetrable UK Top 40, and closer to home the song has hit number two on the ARIA charts — not an easy or common feat. “Cupid” has even been played on Australian radio, something which understandably excites Aussie Hunnies (FIFTY FIFTY’s fandom name).
“I was so surprised, I even teared up a little bit,” says Aimee about hearing “Cupid” played at her work. “I was so proud of FIFTY FIFTY for getting played on radios in Australia of all places — especially when I’ve only ever heard two Blackpink songs on our radio. It made me stop and think for a second about how far they’ve come and how much the members’ and their team’s hard work has paid off.”
Mae is another Aussie fan who says following FIFTY FIFTY’s meteoric rise in the last six months has been incredible. “From watching their pre-debut music videos and their first social media posts to now watching them dominate the Western charts and rising on the domestic charts too — it’s been surreal to witness. They truly deserve the recognition they’ve been receiving, and to follow it all from day one is a privilege of mine.”
FIFTY FIFTY, of course, are only just getting started. With such a monster hit under their belts so early in their careers, they have a lot to live up to, and whatever they release next is under a hell of a lot of pressure. But the songs they released before “Cupid” already prove they’re no one-hit wonders, and the girls themselves, when asked about the future, turn their focus back to music and their own hopes to become more and more involved in its creation as they learn and grow.
Like many (many) others, I will be watching and listening with interest and a tuned-in FYP.
This article first appeared in Let’s Talk K-Pop, Junkee’s Substack for K-Pop news, reviews, and general enthusiastic fangirling. To get weekly newsletters straight to your inbox, head over to Substack and subscribe.