If there’s one K-pop group destined to be mind-bogglingly massive this year, it feels like NewJeans. The five-piece might not have debuted until the end of July 2022, but only having a handful of months in the public eye didn’t stop them from becoming one of the year’s ruling girl groups. In just over four months, they broke a variety of sales and streaming records and, last month, became the fastest girl group to win a Daesang at the end-of-year awards shows.
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The pressure, then, was on the rapidly rising rookies to kick off 2023 with new material that matched up to – or maybe even bettered – their debut EP, ‘New Jeans’. Following the strategy of quality over quantity, ‘OMG’ only offers up two new songs this time, but it accomplishes its mission well – and seemingly effortlessly.
What made ‘New Jeans’ stand out was how boldly it took the group into a lane far removed from their peers. Refreshingly retro, its tracks delved into ’90s and early noughties sounds, with modern production twists woven between to prevent them from sounding dated. ‘OMG’ follows the same tack, continuing to carve out the NewJeans sound with inventive and unique combinations.
‘Ditto’, the pre-release single shared last month, is the NewJeans take on Baltimore dance music. That, it seems, is something that’s simultaneously misty and ethereal and energetically exciting. A crunchy, heart-skipping drum beat propels the song forward, while choir pads and dreamily delivered vocals add layers of mystery and keep things from flying away too quickly.
It’s a fusion that brilliantly matches the song’s subject matter: the moment before you confess your feelings for someone and find out if they feel the same. It plays to both the head-in-the-clouds dreaminess and limitless possibilities of a still-secret crush and the chest-thumping thrill of unveiling your passion, an infectious soundtrack to a moment in life that feels like a euphoric rush. “Can’t wait til the morning / So say it ditto,” NewJeans sing in the chorus, the urgency of affection spilling out of them.
‘OMG’, meanwhile, mixes elements of hip-hop, R&B, UK garage and trap to create something colourful and springy – the aural equivalent of bounding through a club on a bright, bouncy space hopper. The vocal fry the members add to the last syllable of each line in the chorus reinforces that feeling, as if those beats coincide with them taking off skywards once more.
A dedication to someone who’s always there for their love, the song’s lyrics are equally romantically upbeat. “You and me / My heart is glowing,” the group sings at one point. “It’s glowing up / With you, nothing can scare me.” At times, it feels like they’re channeling the flaming heart emoji (“No I can never let him go / I only think of you 24 / I’m a lucky girl I know, I know / Before I met you / Everything was pointless,” goes one line), but that sense of total adoration captures the all-or-nothing feeling of young love.
Although there’s nothing here that quite rivals the 2022 gem ‘Hype Boy’, ‘OMG’ is both a nonchalant shrugging off of the burden of swift success and a steady step forward for a group seemingly already on the path to being K-pop superstars. If NewJeans keep going like this, there’ll be no stopping them.