NewJeans — the new girl group launched by ADOR, an independent label under the same company (HYBE) that created BTS — is set to change the K-pop scene. Its groundbreaking debut EP New Jeans blooms with refreshing experimental music and natural teenage charisma, standing out from an otherwise highly homogenized genre.
The group’s debut comes at a critical time when listeners have grown weary of lazy songwriting and ear-piercing EDM production. From Im Nayeon’s brainwasher “Pop!” to Aespa’s deafening single “Girls” to STAYC’s chaotic single “Beautiful Monster,” female K-pop solo and group projects have made many comebacks this summer, but their work can feel uninspired at times.
However, NewJeans’ first promotional single “Attention” strikes listeners differently at once. It starts with intensifying clapping and intermittent vocal pieces, capturing the heat and energy of summer within the first five seconds. Then it skillfully balances the summer heat with chilling wind chimes and a harmonizing digital piano. Such a delicate balance of contrasting instrumentation creates a magical experience for listeners, drawing them in from the very beginning.
Following the charming and experimental 27-second intro, the vocal performance by the five members of NewJeans is equally fascinating. Without uncomfortable high notes or awkward rapping, the members sing in a pleasant vocal range that maximizes the natural charisma of their breezy, soothing voices.
The song’s most successful innovation arrives during the chorus, when the five members sing in slow, beautiful harmony. “You got me looking for attention,” they sing, but NewJeans is not forcing audiences’ attention through a Blackpink catchphrase or a dramatic BTS high note. What shines is unpretentious, rich vocal harmony that gradually grows more mellow and irresistible upon every listen.
While “Attention” easily grasps listeners’ attention, “Hype Boy” further escalates the summer energy. With an ingenious approach to EDM production, the song feels surprisingly light as air despite its heavy synthesizers. The melody of “Hype Boy” is just so effortlessly charming and resonant that one can’t help but fall in love with it immediately.
Blooming with teenage energy and charisma, “Hype Boy” is a confident yet patient profession of love with a nostalgic tinge. Evoking a bittersweet experience of a summer romance that’s pure and true, yet also ephemeral, the song is delightful on the surface but melancholy at its core.
Though not as flawless as “Attention” or “Hype Boy,” “Cookie” is an adequate urban pop song that explores a much edgier side of NewJeans. Clearly inspired by hip-hop, the song has a catchy beat and a clean production style that keeps audiences engaged.
However, the girls’ rather sweet and soft voices do not fit as well with this song’s bolder style as they do with the other three tracks. It also gets bogged down by sex-implicating lyrics — “I wanna see you taste it/ come and take a lookie” — that feel awkward and unnatural.
Fortunately, the final track “Hurt” stops the EP from derailing. A deeply emotional song, it explores more nuanced and vulnerable feelings of love and frustration from the perspective of teenagers. Although the production is a bit monotonous and overly simplistic, it doesn’t fail to augment the five members’ moving vocal performance.
With just four songs, the EP New Jeans has propelled the girl group to overnight fame and unprecedented commercial success on the music charts. Thanks to “Attention” and “Hype Boy,” which highlight the five girls’ natural charisma and vibrating teenage energy, the members of NewJeans have gone viral by just being who they really are.
In a time when K-pop icons are fixed on delivering byzantine AI concepts, formulaic EDMs and music tailored for TikTok challenges, NewJeans presents music that is genuinely enjoyable and more aligned with the performers themselves. Despite minor flaws, New Jeans is a momentous work that revives K-pop with energetic, resonating music.