NewJeans are the most important girl band on the planet

Hanni, Danielle, Hyein, Minji and Haerin wear jackets, shirts and shoes WHISTLES, ties TIES PLANET and skirts and socks stylist’s own

They’ve broken records and taken over as the new supremes of K-pop. The best part? NewJeans are only just getting started.

Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Get your copy here.

Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, 1st August 2023. There’s an unusual concentration of giddy music fans at gate E2. Dozens of hip-hop heads, pop girlies, indie devotees and whoever it is that likes Thirty Seconds to Mars, all waiting to board a five-hour flight to Portland, where they’ll board another four-hour flight to Chicago for the Lollapalooza festival. Luckily, they’ve found some unexpected common ground to talk about on their pilgrimage; a shared must-see act on the line-up that transcends genre tribalism. NewJeans are about to perform in the US for the first time.

Granted, they’re not travelling more than 4,000 miles solely for the new South Korean girl group. At their final destination, headliners Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and Lana Del Ray make a convincing argument for spending a day wearing neck pillows and eating aeroplane food. But at the gate, on the plane, during the 10-hour layover and, two days later, in the queue for the festival, all anyone can talk about is NewJeans. Who’s your favourite member? What song do you think they’ll open with? How early should we arrive to get a good view?

The most hardcore fans pledge allegiance to their favourite members via photocards that are tucked into transparent phone cases. The bunnies”, as they’re known, are not immediately identifiable based on, say, race or gender. But the merch and official lightsticks are a dead giveaway. You might have to squint to notice the objects of their ardour on the festival poster – their name is minuscule next to the giant font size of Billie’s and Kendrick’s. But as far as these guys are concerned, NewJeans are the main attraction.

They were the selling point [for buying a festival ticket],” says Ivan, 25, a marketeer who was on that flight from Hawaii and arrived two hours early for the band’s 45-minute set. I talked to someone [in the crowd] who flew all the way from Taiwan. That just goes to show the global impact they’ve had.”

New Jeans wear jackets, shirts and shoes WHISTLES, ties TIES PLANET and skirts, gloves and socks stylist’s own

Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein. Five then-teenage girls who, a year on from releasing 2022 debut single Attention, had already conquered the global charts and amassed a faithful fluffle of bunnies willing to travel the world to see them perform. Their six-song second EP, Get Up, was released just two weeks before Lollapalooza; the 70,000 people who turned up to see them sang along to every word.

All this may, by now, seem like old news. But until that gig, NewJeans’ impact was largely being measured only” by a series of viral moments and record-breaking statistics, headline-grabbing achievements that quickly convinced the pop world that these fresh-faced idols were the Next Big Thing.

You’d hear stuff about NewJeans becoming the first K‑pop girl group to sell more than a million copies of their first release and think: interesting, should probably keep an eye on these guys. Then, within a year of debuting that self-titled, four-track EP on 1st August 2022, they’d become the fastest K‑pop act to reach a billion streams on Spotify and you’d reason: cool stat, but Imagine Dragons also have billions of streams. Next, they’d drop a single like Ditto, which spent more weeks at number one on South Korea’s Circle Digital Chart than any other song in history and you’d muse: impressive, but will Western audiences catch on? Then you’d notice that Hype Boy had already charted for 37 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Global 200 chart, the longest run by any female K‑pop act, and say: shit – they’re everywhere.


Haerin wears dress DIOR

18, striking feline eyes. Self-admittedly a little shy for a big-time pop star, but makes up for it as the group’s strongest dancer. When she dropped out of middle school to become a K‑pop trainee, her classmates thought she’d just moved house. She doesn’t like pickles or cold weather.

Which member of the group takes the longest to get ready?
It’s difficult to choose! Actually, I don’t think any one of us constantly needs more time to prepare on every occasion, so it seems like it all depends on the situation.

What’s the last photo on your camera roll?
A screenshot of an illustration I liked! Looking at it again, I still like it very much.

How did you celebrate your last birthday?
From what I remember, I think I was at a photoshoot overseas. It’s interesting because the situation was the same as the year before.

Favourite item of clothing?
It’s hard to pick just one, but these days, I find myself liking long skirts with intricate details. As time goes on, though, I’ll probably lay my eyes on another item.

Are you any good at keeping secrets?
I’m quite confident that I can. In truth, I tend not to share things even if they’re not secrets, so I can definitely keep them!

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned since joining NewJeans?
Enjoying the moment when you can! It can be tough to find that in certain situations, but I strive to become someone who knows how to make the most of it when it’s time to have fun.

What’s the last thing you do before going to bed?
Checking my schedule for the next day and setting my alarm. I guess I’m not the only one, but no matter how tired I am, I always make sure to set my alarm before going to sleep.

Over the past two years, NewJeans have won countless awards and stolen world records from Blackpink and BTS, quietly dethroning the universally recognised titans of K‑pop – in April, they even replaced Blackpink on Welcome to Korea!” adverts at Incheon Airport. And all that while wearing bows in their hair and claiming to be, in 2023 single, Super Shy. Come off it, girls.

Maybe they should quit while they’re ahead? Or – just spitballing here – slow down so they can properly enjoy being so brilliantly young and successful? No chance. After refreshing with a short break at the start of the year, NewJeans are now back in full swing, prepping for their second Bunnies Camp”, a two-day concert and fan meeting” in June, at the 55,000-capacity stadium Tokyo Dome. So far they’ve only released two EPs and a few two-track single albums”, but a full-length record is promised by the end of 2024.

It’s all extremely impressive, of course. The types of stats and promises and plans that make label bosses pop champagne and advertisers dig deep in their pockets. (Collectively and individually, the girls have partnered with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Apple, Chanel, Gucci, Celine, Dior, Louis Vuitton and YSL Beauty.) But none of that is quite as tangible as witnessing them effortlessly win over a crowd the size of three football pitches at one of America’s biggest music festivals. That’s when you think: bloody hell, NewJeans are about to become the biggest girl band in the world. Even the security stewards couldn’t help but bob their heads.

I was just in disbelief,” says Swedish songwriter Ylva Dimberg, who has worked with NewJeans from the beginning and went to watch the band’s Lollapalooza set with her brother. People to the left and right of me were singing along to the Korean words. I’m like: how do you know these songs?”

Haerin and Hyein wear jackets and shirts WHISTLES, ties TIES PLANET and gloves stylist’s own


20, the oldest of the group and therefore the natural (but unofficial) leader – you’ll find her fixing the other girls’ hair while they’re waiting in the wings. She studied in Canada for a bit when she was younger and, on her return to Seoul, was street-scouted by multiple entertainment companies desperate to make her a star. She was so popular in school that the other NewJeans members knew who she was before they were put together by label bosses. She seems to get embarrassed when that’s brought up.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I know it’s a clichéd response, but I check the messages I missed on my phone while I was sleeping. And these days, I’ve been trying to do some stretching, even if it’s just for a short while.

Favourite places in Seoul?
I seem to enjoy places that aren’t quite like Seoul even though they’re within the city. Places like Jongno, for instance, with all the architecture that takes you back in time. I also like places near university campuses, which are buzzing with lots of different things to see and do.

What would you do on your ideal day off?
My family and I talked about going on a trip to a holiday resort. We used to go together every winter but now we’re all busy and haven’t had a chance in a while.

Do you collect anything?
I collect bath bombs from Japan. Inside them, there are small figurines. They’re sometimes random and come in many varieties, which adds to the fun.

Holy grail skincare product?
I swear by Chanel’s Revitalising Cream with red camellia. I apply it to the dry areas of my skin and definitely notice a difference in my complexion the next day when I put makeup on.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve bought since becoming an idol?
The first thing I bought with the money I earned was a pair of sneakers for my mom. I remember feeling really happy. Recently, it’s been my recliner sofa.

What do you do when you get homesick?
I don’t think I would have always been home, even if I’d chosen a different career path. In that respect, I don’t feel overwhelmingly homesick or find it too difficult! Plus, I’m in touch with my family more frequently these days and it’s made our bond even stronger.

It’s not particularly abnormal for a group of singing and dancing girls to appear on our screens and become instant superstars. The Spice Girls did it by telling us what they really, really wanted; Destiny’s Child demanded we say their name. But if anyone’s cracked the code for overnight stardom, it’s the giant business brains behind the world’s biggest K‑pop acts – over the past decade, no Western pop group has come anywhere close to achieving the level of success of the £8 billion industry’s greatest exports. They dominate the charts, sell out arenas worldwide and cultivate feverish fandoms that are astonishingly dedicated to amplifying (and defending) their success.

What, then, makes NewJeans so special, so captivating, so, you know, new? Cynics will say clever marketing. Unlike most K‑pop groups, whose debuts are usually teased with images of the members before any music is released, the band put out the video for Attention, the lead single from the New Jeans EP, without any promotion or information about the members. Everyone was like: Oh my gosh, who are they?’” remembers 21-year-old London-based student Laila, who discovered the band while scrolling through Twitter. They dropped a song out of nowhere!” In the hyper-meticulous world of K‑pop, that counted as revolutionary.

But a song has to be good to stick. And it is NewJeans’ sound, above all else, that has made both fans and critics champion them as The Future of K‑pop. Like their peers, they glide between international genres, their songs created by teams of writers, like Dimberg, pulled in from all over the world. Yet the result feels more sophisticated than other bands of their era and, well, cooler. On Attention, they channelled the breezy flirtiness of early Noughties R&B, leaning into our endless nostalgia for the era with gentle grooves, shimmering synths and breathy harmonies. As time has gone on, they’ve delved more into club sounds, traversing the underground to reimagine garage, Jersey club, breakbeat and liquid drum n’ bass for the bedroom pop generation – more PinkPantheress than Blackpink.

Last year’s Super Shy, for instance, straddled almost every single one of the aforementioned genres, a Franken-pop song that wormed its way into earbuds to the tune of 500 million streams. Where other K‑pop tracks might smash genres together with a rap break, then a lyrical bridge, then an EDM drop so heavy it gives you whiplash, NewJeans have worked with songwriters and producers such as Dimberg, Korean DJ 250, Portugal-born Danish R&B singer Erika de Casier and Norwegian electronic music duo Smerz to interweave those disparate sounds more organically. The result is an air of authenticity, as though the music could have genuinely emerged from the very scenes that inspired them.

When I wrote Hype Boy, I thought: this is probably not gonna get [recorded], because I didn’t think it was K‑pop enough,” says Dimberg of NewJeans’ second single. She’s spent the last decade writing songs for K‑pop acts such as Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet and Twice, so she should know. The not K‑pop enough” element, though, was by design, largely shaped by the band’s creative director, Min Hee-jin. She’s also the CEO of their label ADOR, an independent subsidiary of mega-conglomerate entertainment company HYBE. I wanted to break the implicit formula of K‑pop and create an album with the music I wanted,” Min Hee-jin told Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo last year. Hee-jin also actively encouraged the band members to get more involved in the songwriting process – Minji, Hanni and Danielle have all contributed lyrics to NewJeans songs, a rarity for K‑pop artists so early in their careers.

It’s almost like they’re in school,” says Ivan, a fan with a typically nuanced knowledge of the strictures and structures of the scene. They’re not working, they’re collaborating together.”


Hanni wears jacket GUCCI and hair accessories and gloves stylist’s own

19, a fashion crowd favourite and what the fans call a foreign ace”, which is to say she’s Vietnamese-Australian. (Many K‑pop groups include foreign-born members, partly because the odds of them succeeding as East Asian artists in their home markets are slimmer, but also to broaden their global appeal.) She grew up reading teen magazine Total Girl, stanning One Direction and listening to her mum’s favourite band, Backstreet Boys. In the global auditions to find the NewJeans’ line-up she won her place by performing a ukulele cover of Would You Be So Kind? by Dodie.

Break down a typical day of work…
Each day differs depending on the agenda, but on days when we have a shoot, we get our hair and makeup done, then go through our day. If there are no specific shoots or schedules, then we practise for any upcoming performances.

What’s it like living together as a band?
It’s helped us learn a lot about each other and grow very close. To me, it feels like being on a school trip, but a very extended one, with a bunch of friends. It’s a lot of fun when we gather at our place to chat, maybe watch something together or just bump into each other in the kitchen or lounge room.

Which member is the best at giving advice?
I think all the members give really good advice. Knowing that I always have their support and can share my thoughts, concerns and worries with them helps me personally to find my ground, organise my thoughts and not get caught up in everything. Being on the same team as them truly does make everything we do more enjoyable and easy.

Any pets?
I have two cavoodles at home called Milly and Mia.

Who’s the most famous person you’ve met so far?
We met Billie Eilish and Finneas after her performance at Lollapalooza. We were just left in awe.

What do people get wrong about being an idol?

Something I find very special about being an idol is having the opportunity to meet the other band members. If it weren’t for this journey, I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet them, let alone become very close friends with them, which certainly plays a big role when it comes to working together. Not only do I feel more comfortable, but I also have someone to share these experiences with.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Write in my journal. I’ve been keeping up with writing it daily for a couple of months and I’m feeling proud of myself for sticking to it, so I want to keep the habit going. It’s good to unwind and write my thoughts down somewhere I can revisit later.

Hyein wears top and shorts EDUARDO MOREIRA, bag SARAH GARFIELD, socks stylist’s own and shoes WHISTLES. Haerin wears jacket and skirt DAVID KOMA, tights stylist’s own and shoes WHISTLES. Minji wears dress SCHIAPARELLI and hair accessories SARAH GARFIELD. Danielle wears top and skirt SACAI.Hanni wears top and skirt SELF PORTRAIT

Maybe the best thing about NewJeans is that being NewJeans looks so goddamn fun – even if, of course, they were assembled with the rigorous star-making precision that attends the formation of all K‑pop acts. They’re still kids, really, with all the youthful enthusiasm of a hyperactive cheerleading squad. And who can blame them? They live together in luxury dorms” overlooking the Han River in Seoul and travel the world on a fast track to superstardom, styled in a dream wardrobe of it-brands such as Sandy Liang, Kiko Kostadinov and KNWLS. From where the rest of us are standing, being a teenage girl has never looked so good.

But they’re not unapproachable. No, never, because that relatability factor is what turns casual listeners into superfans. NewJeans carefully toe the line between the aspirational and the attainable, vlogging each new experience for YouTube and communicating with fans on their own custom-made social media app Phoning (“Will you be NewJeans’ best friend?” asks the App Store description). Young fans daydream about one day growing up to be like them. Those above 20, the maximum age for anyone hoping to participate in ADOR’s global auditions, pine for the days when those fantasies still felt feasible.

I think fans like myself who are really passionate about NewJeans live vicariously through them in a sense where we feel youthful again,” says Ivan, who in March had the band’s bunny logo tattooed on his ankle. Laila also recognises that, at 21, she’s an older fan – in bunny years, at least – but optimistically uses her age to make a case for the band’s cross-generational appeal. They’re so reachable,” she says. My niece is turning 10 this year. One day, she started singing Super Shy and said: The girls at school are singing it.’ I think that shows their range. You’ve got schoolchildren that like them and adults that are into them, you know?”


Danielle wears jacket, top, shorts and shoes CELINE BY HEDI SLIMANE

Also 19, also Aussie (with a South Korean mum), stands out as the bubbly one, always giggling in interviews and winking on stage. She’s a surfer girl and former child model who appeared on various South Korean TV shows and advertisements under the name Mo Jihye. Last year, she voiced Ariel for the Korean dub of Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid. Her favourite colour is baby blue.

If you could invite any other artist in the world to join NewJeans, who would it be?
Rosalía! She’s funny and sassy. We’d love to have her dancing skills in our group.

You’ve spoken about how being in the band feels like family. What role does everyone play?
Minji would be the warm mother, Haerin the cool grandfather, Hyein the funny daughter, Hanni the wise sister. And I would be the grandmother!

What’s your earliest memory?
Holding my dad’s hand, walking in a park just by the beach. It was sunny and warm, and I remember being so happy.

Do you believe in aliens?
I do! In this vast universe, there’s bound to be another form of life. It might not necessarily be like the ones we see in movies or on television, but I definitely believe in aliens.

Are you any good at keeping secrets?
I guess… But then again, I’m also quite forgetful, so I could’ve forgotten what the secret was altogether!

Who’s the slowest to reply in the NewJeans group chat?
Hehe, it would probably be either me or Hyein… But mostly me!

What’s the last text message you sent?
Thank uuuu” to our members in the group chat – with exactly four u’s.

It’s worth noting, too, that NewJeans have been catapulted into the limelight at a time when women, young and old-ish, have become curiously obsessed with mythologising girlhood. We’re categorised as hot girls, vanilla girls, lazy girls or tomato girls. We do girl math, eat girl dinner and listen to girly pop songs (“girly pop” is an adjective here, not a genre).

Hanni, Haerin, Minji, Danielle and Hyein don’t fit neatly into any of those categories. But next to the great girl bands of yesteryear – all sex, confidence, lipgloss n’ kohl – they do look and act altogether more, for lack of a better word… girly. Even compared to Baby Spice. Their (very) recent shift to a more tomboy look to coincide with new music is a clever rebrand precisely because, up until now, their aesthetic currency has relied so heavily on hyper-feminine, hyper-cute whimsy. Take last year’s performance on US TV staple Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, where NewJeans skipped on stage wearing fancy dress angel wings, face gems and, in the case of Haerin and Hanni, Sailor Moon-style tiaras. You wouldn’t have caught Cheryl Cole in that.


Hyein wears jacket, skirts and tights LOUIS VUITTON

16, the baby of the band, but also the most experienced. She’s modelled, appeared on children’s shows and even had a taste of idol life via kids groups U.SSO Girl and Play With Me Club. That seemingly hasn’t left much room for hobbies, but she has found time to read Harry Potter. She was just 14 when NewJeans debuted.

When was the first time you sang together as NewJeans?
I think it was our debut track Attention. I have fond memories of practising it because the song was so good. But the choreography was too difficult, so I also remember how everyone was in a panic!

Funniest member of the group?
Me! Actually, I think all of our members are funny.

Who’s the slowest to reply in the NewJeans group chat?
Hmm… It varies depending on the situation, but if I had to choose, maybe Danielle unnie? [“Unnie” is a respectful way of addressing an elder sister in Korean]

Did you ever have a crush on a pop star growing up?
I can’t quite recall the idols I used to admire, but I do remember that the first K‑pop song I discovered was 2NE1’s Come Back Home. I still adore that song.

Favourite song of all time?
Meditação by [Brazilian singer] Nara Leão is a song I regularly listen to!

What would you do on your ideal day off?
I want to visit a vacation spot – someday I want to go on a family trip to Guam [about a 3.5‑hour flight from South Korea]. Alternatively, I’d love to go to my grandmother’s house with the rest of the band and have fun together.

What’s your earliest memory?
It’s not my earliest, but if I were to pick one, it would be gathering with my cousins, older sister and brother at my grandmother’s countryside home during a holiday and sharing joyful moments together. It’s a memory that I cherish and fondly remember.

But don’t let the sweet sugar rush of sisterhood fool you. NewJeans are primed, poised and determined to take over the world. They’re starting with that Tokyo meet-up-slash-concert in June, where they’ll mark their official debut in Japan by launching new tracks Supernatural and Right Now. The event is essentially a test run for their first world tour next year, about which there is currently little available information, other than the fact that the band will, indeed, go on tour. The bunnies are already saving up. I’m willing to spend $500 max on tickets and travel,” says one Reddit user. I wanna be in the front row so I’m willing to drop at least 1k if needed,” admits another. And they’re not even the highest bidders in the forum.

As for the music, NewJeans continue to push and reshape the boundaries for what K‑pop can be. One of their latest tracks, Bubble Gum, for instance, taps into the bubbling resurgence of Japanese city pop, fusing easy listening grooves with lyrics about crushes that make your heart race. It’s hard [for me] to say how their music differs from other K‑pop songs – I think it’s better for music critics to comment on that,” says Ylva Dimberg. But I have had people, both peers and others, tell me that we’ve changed the landscape of K‑pop.”

What’s perhaps more important, though, is the fact that NewJeans have been able to transcend the confines of their genre. They’re not a group who are only listened to by diehard stans and K‑pop hobbyists. Musically and culturally, their appeal seeps beyond the confines of fandom and into the broader zeitgeist. In many ways, they’re a distilled snapshot of what being young looks, feels and sounds like in 2024, from the bows and butterfly hair clips to the big-BPM pop songs.

Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein. They’re just like you. Well, kind of.



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