Friday, April 12, 2024

NewJeans Are Taking Over, One Viral Song at a Time

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It’s a little past midnight in Korea, but the members of NewJeans don’t look tired at all. In fact, the quintet of teen superstars—Hyein, Danielle, Minji, Haerin, and Hanni—are all smiles for a very after-hours virtual interview. Gathered in a conference room at the HYBE offices (the parent company of their label ADOR and K-pop groups like BTS), they’re seated side-by-side in coordinating, casual white outfits—hoodies, baggy tees, crop tops, tank tops, and cargo pants in typical Gen-Z fashion—without a stitch of blue denim in sight.

NewJeans, whose name was inspired by the timelessness and ubiquity of the classic pants, debuted a year ago and have been winning hearts over ever since. They launched without their label teasing their identities or band name (which is traditional for K-pop acts), and arrived with the head-bobbing hit “Attention,” followed by their debut EP. In the months following, their track “OMG” went viral, taking over TikTok For You Pages and inspiring fans all over to copy their music video choreography. It’s not just the stans (or the Bunnies, as their fandom is called); they’ve also won over music fans outside of K-pop listeners, likely due to their genre-bending approach.

Their songs are catchy, yes, but deviate from the high-octane pop and hip hop-inspired sounds of their K-pop contemporaries. Their vocals are more hushed but still sweetly melodic; their production carries an eclectic mix of influences from garage to R&B to dance. Pushing boundaries was the goal from the start. Min Hee Jin, the CEO of NewJeans’ label ADOR, told Billboard earlier this year, “I wanted to break the stereotype that only certain styles of music would be able to succeed in the so-called mainstream industry.” But even if the group’s sound is hard to pin down, the people are loving it. In just a year, they’ve amassed 1.8 billion views on YouTube and broke the record for the fastest K-pop artist to surpass 1 billion streams on Spotify (beating out Blackpink’s Lisa and BTS’s Jung Kook).

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Now, the girls are gearing up for another release with their Get Up EP this Friday, which they’ve preceded with their latest singles “NewJeans” and “Super Shy.” The latter came paired with colorful visuals and fun choreography filmed in Portugal, making it ripe for a dance challenge. And sure enough, the group has partnered with YouTube Shorts, YouTube’s short-form video platform, for the #ImSuperShy challenge, inviting fans to create videos with the song and flaunt their own take on the choreography. As the fan videos come pouring in, the “Super Shy” music video has already landed on YouTube’s top ten list in multiple countries, including Korea, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. It’s a massive testament to the song’s popularity and NewJeans’ surefire world takeover.

One year after arriving on the scene, NewJeans are already eager to show another side of themselves with the new EP. “This album overall really contains a lot of different concepts,” Hyein says. They hint that their next single “Cool With You,” which drops on July 20 at midnight KST, will show even more of their range. And that’s not all; they’re also set to perform at Lollapalooza next month, becoming the first K-pop girl group to do so.

As they await another milestone, the members of NewJeans, with their interpreter, spoke to ELLE.com about their new music and how they handle all their success.

You guys have had an amazing week with the release of “Super Shy.” Can you tell me a little bit about the story of the song and how it felt to finally get it out there in the world?

Danielle: Well, “Super Shy” is actually such a catchy song, so I feel like it really will get everyone off their feet. What really completes the whole song and the vibe is the choreography, I feel.

And it’s super simple so everyone can join in and dance along and there’s also a lot of creativity. There’s a lot of room for creativity and I can’t wait to see everyone’s version of “Super Shy.”

This content is imported from youTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

What was the experience of filming the video like?

Danielle: That was so…

Minji: Amazing. Portugal, right?

Danielle: Yeah, Portugal.

Hanni: The weather was beautiful.

Hyein: The whole filming was just filled with laughter. We just had a blast and enjoyed the time. And it was actually my first time visiting Portugal, so the five of us really, we got to see and explore a lot of different beautiful sceneries in different places in Portugal and we got to practice our choreography with the local dancers. It was a lot of fun and I think the most memorable part was the scene with the bus. So I think that really stands out to me. Whenever I think of the song “Super Shy,” I think I’m going to be reminded of that scene.

Does anyone else have a favorite memory from filming that sticks out to them?

Danielle: Actually, there was a park and then the buildings and the scenery of Portugal were so well put into that scene that whenever I see that I’m like, gosh, the colors and everything just make my heart tingle. So that’s one of the scenes that I really love and I remember that day as well. It was near the ocean actually, and I love the ocean. So that whole vibe with the dancers, us dancing together, synchronizing, it was definitely a moment that I will never forget.

With the release of the video, you’re also teaming up with YouTube Shorts for a really fun ”Super Shy” campaign, where you are encouraging your fans to dance along or film their own versions of the dance. Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose to do this partnership?

Haerin: So a lot of people watch YouTube and actually, the five of us also watch a lot of YouTube as well. And it is also kind of the media where people discovered NewJeans and people listen to our music. So we thought this would be a great platform and a great channel to have this collaboration between Bunnies [the fanbase] and NewJeans and I’m really looking forward to it.

This content is imported from youTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Have you started seeing any takes or any of the fan remixes yet? How have you reacted to those?

Danielle: So many.

Minji: I saw five girls who were dancing [to] “Super Shy” wearing exactly the same clothes [from the music video]. [Gasps]

Hanni: Oh, the one I sent on the group chat?

Minji: Yeah, it was super cool. This is how the internet works, how fast.

Hanni: Basically, in the “Super Shy” intro, Dani’s riding on the bike and she comes [to] join, we’re like sitting down chatting. I saw a video online and it was a K-pop dance cover team in Portugal, and they recreated that scene in the exact same spot in very similar clothes. And I was like, “oh my God!” and put it straight to the group chat. We’re all like, “what this is so cool!” They looked identical and everything.

Danielle: And seeing their reactions as well, it was so much fun and seeing how [the fans] interact with everything. We all really enjoy it. [The girls nod]

I love how you mentioned that you also are big on watching YouTube. Do you also try to learn other artists’ choreography and things like that?

Hanni: I think, yeah, we watch YouTube a lot. Especially when it comes to musical performances, like artists from overseas or some of our singers here who are also promoting their career, we just watch a lot of stages and live performances and set lists on YouTube and we do it together. It’s really fun to watch. It’s like, actually being there and having that type of platform available to us right now, it’s such a great thing.

Danielle: Even before we practice, we’d just turn on a stage like a performance and then we’d get inspired by that, and everyone is like, [flexing her muscles] “Yeah, let’s do this!”

It’s like a watch party. Are there any recent performances that you loved?

Danielle: Not long ago I watched a live performance of Bruno Mars and Beyoncé. Actually, I watched this a long time ago and then I was crazy about that performance, and then I watched it and then I watched it again not long ago before I went on stage. And the inspiration that gave me was huge.

Hanni: I have one that went to my mouth straight away—Becky G’s “Shower” performance at Coachella this year was…I saw the video and I got goosebumps. So when we were in the dance practice, we were together, I played it on the screen for all of them and we were all just sitting there in awe, watching people like goosebumps, nostalgia—and so much fun to watch.

Speaking of videos, visuals are such a big part of the NewJeans persona, from “OMG,” “Ditto,” all of your hits including “Super Shy” and I’m sure still to come. What would you say is the importance of visuals and videos in your work?

Haerin: Expressing ourselves through music is really important, but also I think that visuals and the videos play a significant role in presenting a cohesive story. So I think that the visuals and the videos really greatly enhance the connection and the immersion that the fans can have with our music.

This content is imported from youTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

We’re very much looking forward to your new EP Get Up, which is coming out soon. What can you tease about it? What can we expect and what was it like working on this new music?

Hyein: So this new EP, Get Up, that is coming up soon has six different tracks. So far, we have released “NewJeans” and “Super Shy,” two of the tracks. This album overall really contains a lot of different concepts. So each song will feel very different. And so you’re going to have a lot of fun just listening to the whole album. Personally, I think there’s a lot of songs that are going to feel a little bit different from what you have seen from our previous work that has come out so far. And personally, I think that is especially true with the fourth track, which is “Cool with You,” it has a performance of NewJeans that you haven’t seen from us yet. So I hope you’ll look forward to it with a lot of anticipation.

I’d love to dig into how it’s different from your other releases. Was there anything new that you guys wanted to try this time around, or any sounds or different creative ideas?

Minji: There’s a lot. So, for example, “Super Shy,” Me and Hyein, we kind of rapped, right? So I think it’s a big challenge. And in the music video, these two girls [pointing to Haerin and Hanni] had blonde hair.

Hanni: It was a weave, but it was still hair.

Minji: Yeah, it suited you.

Danielle: And it’s a slight spoiler for the other songs that are yet to come: The choreography is really different to what we’ve done before.

Minji: Really different.

Danielle: “Cool with You” especially, and the whole music video itself was filmed in a very different way.

Minji: It’s kind of like a movie, right?

Danielle: The vibe and everything. So, hope you look forward to it.

Minji: [With her hand over her mouth] It was kind of a big spoiler.

Danielle: What? No!

I’m sure you will still surprise us. You’ve all had such an incredible rise in the past year. How are you taking in all of these successes and achievements, and what has it meant to you?

Hanni: It’s so surreal. Yeah, it really is. I think especially it’s like, oh, it’s so crazy to see so many people listen to our songs, let alone dance to it and enjoy it and post about it. And it’s so cool to see that it’s been able to reach an international level, which we never expected. We are still so grateful and still shocked all the time and everything, but it’s been so much fun.

And during the process as well, I feel like a lot of people forget that there’s a lot of people working behind the scenes that are not acknowledged enough as they should be because we’re not the only ones doing everything. We would never be able to do all of this without all the help we get from all our staff members and all our label staff members and our CEO and our teachers and our managers. There’s a lot of endless hours and effort and work and we’re just the ones that are at the front showing everyone. So I think with all these achievements and these crazy experiences we’ve been able to experience in the past year, just leads us back to how grateful we are to everyone who’s helped us throughout this whole experience. It’s been amazing. So fun.

You guys performing and making music together seems so fun and collaborative. What have you learned from the process of working together and how has your friendship helped your music?

Minji: So, as I get to spend more time with my teammates, what I really noticed is that our teamwork is getting stronger and more solid. I really felt that, especially during the preparation and the process of making this EP. We had some filming overseas and we were in a new environment that we are not very familiar with, but we really took care of each other and I could really tell that our members were leaning on one another [leans her head on Haerin]. So it was a really valuable experience that really showed me how important our teamwork is and how we really value each other. [She reaches her arms out to her bandmates, and they grab her arms.]

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Erica Gonzales

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now. 

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