The retro, music-first approach of NewJeans is a breath of fresh air in the K-pop scene

The all-rookie girl group’s easygoing debut is a throwback that goes against the usual industry trends

Shanjida Nowshin Chowdhury
Published : 5 March 2023, 01:30 PM
Updated : 5 March 2023, 01:30 PM

Hybe Label and  girl groups aren't known to gel well - striking out first with GLAM and then continuing that trend with LE SSERAFIM. Some online even called it a curse. Would NewJeans, an all-rookie girl group, suffer the same fate?

Fortunately, the label once known as Bighit Entertainment had a fresh approach to marketing their new debutants. Going against industry trends, they surprise dropped their first single – ‘Attention’ – on Aug 1. Overnight, NewJeans became the talk of K-pop, breaking records and setting trends with their fresh outlook.

As fans of K-pop know, this was a shocking way to introduce a new group. Much of the magic of K-pop debuts lies in building suspense. Everything before launch – musical and non-musical alike – is preceded by trailers, teasers, countdowns, special announcements, and more.  

A month-long media blitz paves the way for each new band with a mountain of content to introduce each of the group’s members. Other Hybe groups like BTS, TXT, and LE SERRAFIM got that treatment, with special videos and vlogs that tried to cultivate a fanbase before they released any music.

As an industry, K-pop tends to focus more on the artists than the music. Often companies rely on the celebrity image of their artists, also known as idols, to sell their albums. In this scenario, the choice to release ‘Attention’ unannounced seems both brave and foolish. 

Every member of NewJeans was a fresh face. There were no cryptic teasers, countdowns, or unique TikTok challenges to build hype and momentum. There was only the music. And, in an industry constantly competing for market dominance, NewJeans became a reminder that what truly mattered was the music.

The style of their songs and the concepts of their music videos were also distinct.

In recent years, the K-pop scene has trended towards loud, powerful beats for the past year or more. From IVE’s ‘Love Dive’ to BLACKPINK’s ‘Pink Venom’, K-pop was overtaken by techno, disco, and rock influence, accompanied by big, bold ideas, concepts and choreography.

In contrast, the music of NewJeans is soft and accessible while also being fun and upbeat. Drawing influence from early 2000s pop, the group transforms that familiar sound in ways fresh and new. Their self-titled debut tackled the classic pop themes too – friendship, first love, happiness, and innocence – over four tracks.

‘Attention’, the opener and lead single, has a playful feel with addictive chants and a springy melody. The electro-pop influences of ‘Hype Boy’ make for a deceptively addictive follow-up. ‘Cookie’ has a simple, laid-back beat but is endlessly charming, carried along by the sweet and straightforward vocal delivery. The final track, ‘Hurt’, has its roots in R&B and adds a layer of complexity and mystery to the EP.

Aside from a few hardcore fans, most NewJeans members are still unknown to the general K-pop audience. And even in the music, their voices blend rather than stand out. For now, NewJeans is an ensemble rather than a collection of idols with personal followings.

This article is part of Stripe,'s special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.