Awash in Y2K nostalgia and youthful vibrancy, NewJeans is rapidly becoming K-pop’s newest darling.
Arriving under the auspices of Hybe Corp. subsidiary ADOR, NewJeans — comprised of members Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin, and Hyein — dropped their first, self-titled EP in August with no warning. As the group has taken off, so has its stream counts. On Feb. 8, NewJeans celebrated its latest milestone: that “OMG” had surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify, just four days after “Hype Boy,” one of several singles from the “NewJeans” album, surpassed 200 million streams. Currently, NewJeans holds the top four spots on Apple Music’s Top 100: South Korea chart, buoyed by viral moments on TikTok and other platforms.
The girls’ sudden arrival is atypical in K-pop where groups usually employ a lengthy roll-out ahead of their first release, but it swiftly made them forerunners of the competitive K-pop scene in 2023, after wrapping 2022 by landing on many high-profile media outlets’ year-end lists. They, like other Hybe acts, are signed with Universal Music Group’s Geffen Records in the U.S.
Their surprise roll-out paired with pristinely produced, extremely danceable pop and R&B tunes, full of retro synths and a penchant for ’90s club music, immediately changed up the face of South Korea’s pop idol scene. Bold graphics and throwback styling, plus nods to ’90s and early 2000s technology, are recurring themes across NewJeans albums, performances and tie-in materials.
With a name that plays with the ideas of both bringing “new genes” to the music industry — all of the members were teenagers at the time of their first album’s release, with the youngest, Hyein, only 14-years-old — and aiming to be as timeless a musical act as jeans are to fashion, NewJeans followed up their first album’s five tracks with the lush “Ditto” at the end of the year, and then “OMG” at the start of January. On the U.S. chart, both songs entered the Billboard Hot 100, though they lag in relation to the charts in Korea, where NewJeans is tops — reminiscent of other massive girl groups to break out like Blackpink and Twice.
The proliferation of K-pop girl groups has been spread across the region’s big players with NewJeans seen as a leader of a new wave, alongside groups like IVE and Le Sserafim, the latter under fellow Hybe subsidiary, Source Music.
ADOR, headed by prominent K-pop creative Min Hee Jin, previously was known for her work with SM Entertainment, helping that company’s artistic direction reach creative heights. NewJeans is the first act produced by ADOR and by Min since she parted ways with SM Entertainment in 2018.
Hybe Corp., best known as the home of BTS, recently became the largest shareholder in SM Entertainment, after purchasing 14.8% of the company’s stock previously owned by founder Lee Soo-man, who stepped down from his namesake in 2021.