Le Sserafim members raise their hands during a performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, April 13. Courtesy of Source Music

K-pop girl band Le Sserafim’s performance at the Coachella prompted scrutiny over its members’ abilities. This criticism, coupled with broader concerns about talent management in the industry, has sparked a dialogue about the pressures K-pop idols face and the expectations placed on them.On April 13, Le Sserafim took to the stage on the second day of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at Indio, Calif., presenting a set of 10 songs including hits like “ANTIFRAGILE,” “FEARLESS,” and “Perfect Night” for a 40-minute set. Despite the excitement surrounding their performance at Coachella, one of the world’s largest music festivals, Le Sserafim faced controversy over its members’ perceived lack of professionalism. Notably, they became the group to perform at Coachella in the shortest span of time since their debut.Some online users voiced discontent over the members lacking vocal projection and pitch stability, with some even expressing embarrassment over Le Sserafim representing K-pop on the international stage. Their performance also drew unflattering comparisons to renowned acts like BLACKPINK and aespa, both of whom had previously performed at Coachella to great acclaim.As the controversy escalated, Le Sserafim member Sakura shared her thoughts in Japanese via fan communication platform Weverse.

“From preparing for Coachella to the day of the performance, we learned a lot. Despite debuting less than two years ago and having only toured once, we stood proudly on the Coachella stage, pouring all our strength into it. That alone, was satisfying, a day when I truly felt like Le Sserafim,” she wrote. “The performance may have looked immature to some. However, nobody is perfect, and it is an undisputed fact that it was the best set among those we have shown. It was a platform fueled by our aspiration to evolve as a team in the future and our unwavering commitment to strive harder.”However, her sentiments, differing from public opinion, prompted further criticism. To address these negative perceptions, some online users emphasized the need for the group to redeem themselves in their upcoming second performance at Coachella on April 20.Meanwhile, criticism of Le Sserafim extended to their agency, HYBE Labels, as similar controversies surrounded ILLIT, another recently debuted group under the label.Recently clinching the top spot on local music broadcasts with its debut single, “Magnetic,” ILLIT celebrated by presenting encore live performances. However, the majority of ILLIT’s members faced criticism for their lack of vocal skills. Many online users directed their criticism toward HYBE Labels, accusing the company of neglecting proper training for its trainees. Some remarked, “If they continue to churn out talentless girl groups like this, K-pop will soon see its demise,” or “It’s unfair that talentless idols gain popularity just because they’re backed by giant agencies.”

However, culture critic Jung Min-jae told The Korea Times that “excessively harsh criticism toward artists” may also have contributed to the amateurism among certain idols.”Both Le Sserafim and ILLIT struggled to deliver on stage… The responsibility to extensively rehearse before performances and ensure the audience enjoys the best experience lies entirely with the artists and their agencies,” Jung said.”However, for years, online users have been excessively harsh on singers. Around 10 years ago, they began criticizing idols who missed notes or had bad timing by creating vocal verification tools like removing the MR (“music recorded” or a pre-recorded track with no vocals). This led to a trend where singers, wary of being labeled as lacking in skill, gradually turned to AR (“all recorded” or a pre-recorded track including vocals that group members lip-sync to) to avoid criticisms of weak live vocal performances.”He explained that eventually a culture emerged where singers who couldn’t perform live became normal.”Online users are responsible for fostering a harsh environment in the first place, and then, artists opted for taking ‘the other route’ over practicing for live performance, escalating the situation,” Jung said.”When handling live performances, there may naturally be pitch deviations or other mistakes. What we must consider is whether we’ve fostered an overly 슬롯게이밍 critical atmosphere and pressure for singers.”

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