Survival shows are an intrinsic part of the K-pop world. Some of the most successful groups, such as TWICE, BIGBANG, iKON, and Stray Kids all had humble beginnings from survival shows that documented the fierce competition they had to face before debuting.

A key name in the scene was Mnet, the network behind the Produce series, which formed I.O.I, Wanna One, IZ*ONE, and X1. Last year, the network was home to Girls Planet 999, which featured 99 participants from Korea, Japan, and China. The top nine contestants then formed the final group, Kep1er, who debuted in January of this year.

On October 13, Kep1er released their third Korean mini-album, TROUBLESHOOTER. It sold over 160,000 copies on the first day alone, breaking their own record for first-day sales. For EnVi’s fourth installment of the GGreat Battle series, it’s time to explore the Keplanet.

Views From the Telescope

Kep1er are composed of the nine finalists of Girls Planet 999. The group’s name takes after notable astronomer Johannes Kepler and the Kepler telescope. Kep1ians, their fans, can consider the members as sights to be seen from a telescope of their own. The group itself consists of (arranged according to their ranks) Chaehyun, Huening Bahiyyih, Dayeon, Yujin, Youngeun, Yeseo, Hikaru, Mashiro, and Xiaoting. 

While Kep1er sing “We Fresh” for their latest release, some of these faces are actually more familiar than expected. Leader Yujin is a former member of Cube Entertainment’s CLC, while maknae Yeseo was a member of BUSTERS. Meanwhile, top finalist Chaehyun formerly trained with SM Entertainment, and Mashiro used to be a notable trainee at JYP Entertainment. Girls Planet 999 was also not the first survival show for some members. Dayeon participated in Mnet’s Produce 48 and Xiaoting competed in the Chinese survival show Produce Camp 2020.

An interesting detail about Kep1er’s composition is that the members do not have fixed positions, even with their vote-based rankings. This allows all nine girls to be more flexible in their releases depending on the needed concept.

Catch Your Eye, Catch Your Mind

Although Kep1er were expected to have a space-centric concept due to their name and survival show, the group has proven to be concept chameleons with a preference towards the brighter and more high-teen. Debut single “WA DA DA” was a bold electronic dance song showcasing the Kep1er members’ enthusiasm and energy. Their first comeback “Up!” is a classic summer song with the same, if not higher levels of energy.

Given that the group’s only been around for less than a year, it comes as no surprise that Kep1er are still experimenting with and dabbling into various concepts. One thing’s for sure, though: Kep1er aim to catch and protect their own dreams and those of their fans.

Keeping It Fresh

Nearly four months after their first comeback “Up!,” Kep1er released their third mini-album TROUBLESHOOTER. Its lead single “We Fresh” is a high-energy dance song with pop-rock elements, and it leans more towards the edginess brought by girl crush concepts. 

The music video shows the Kep1er members at their strongest—wielding various weapons. It goes without saying that Kep1er’s second comeback hopes to assert and spread their power.

Speaking of power, “Lion Tamer” is a dance pop track with a distinct bouncy bass sound. Despite its seemingly more toned-down production, the song brings about its own sense of power with the right mix of sass and playfulness. 

After “Lion Tamer” comes “Downtown,” which seems to be a new sound for Kep1er. “Downtown” feels jazzier and more retro than usual, but the showcase of the girls’ vocals is much appreciated by Kep1ians. 

Dreams” seems like an appropriate album closer with its lilting, wistful, and (pun intended) dreamy vibe, but the synth pop track is just the fourth song of the mini album. Regardless, “Dreams” is a fan favorite, especially considering that it’s been extensively teased at the group’s fanmeet prior to release.

The final track of TROUBLESHOOTER is “Girls (Can’t Turn Me Down),” an original song first performed during Mnet’s Queendom 2. The performance song is highly intense and energetic, making it serve as an appropriate album closer due to the release’s overall assertion of power.

Kep1 Goin’ to the Next

Like many survival show groups, Kep1er’s time is limited. They’ve committed to a 2.5-year initial contract, with potential for extension depending on the members and their companies, among other factors. Regardless of the short amount of time, the girl group ensures to carry out various promotions with high energy and ambition.

Outside of their Korean promotions, Kep1er have also been venturing into overseas markets, as seen in their Japanese debut, Fly Up, last September. Kep1ians can continue looking forward to the members’ appearances in festivals and showcases that serve to strengthen their global audience and appeal.

Want to hear more about the top female rookies today? Check out our latest The GGreat Battle article on NMIXX here.