NewJeans arrived on the K-pop scene last year unannounced, a bold move in an industry obsessed with drawn-out lead-ups to artist launches. The day after releasing “Attention,” their breezy, ’90s R&B-indebted debut single, the K-pop quintet unveiled four music videos for their ebullient future-bass follow-up “Hype Boy”; the heartfelt ballad “Hurt” came 48 hours later. This was the first taste the world had of the Korean girl group, guided by industry veteran Min Hee-jin. Their music is noticeably laid-back, defined by gauzy sonics and diaristic talk-singing; their music videos and choreography eschew aggressive cuteness and imperial pomp—the K-pop standards—for down-home bonhomie.
On their second EP, Get Up, NewJeans channel the ecstasy of self-love and infatuation through lively dance music. “Look it’s a new me, switched it up who’s this,” they sing on the opener “New Jeans,” and later the skipping 2-step rhythm morphs into pounding kicks and fluttering harps. “Super Shy” is an iridescent liquid drum’n’bass song about faraway yearning that transitions into Jersey club stutters. The energetic, genre-blending production mirrors the nervousness and giddiness of longing—like Carly Rae Jepsen, the girls are eager to feel. When they repeat “You don’t even know my name, do ya?”, the line transforms from a dejected accusation to the reason they’re so compelled by their crush in the first place.
R&B singer-songwriter Erika de Casier has writing credits across Get Up, and her effortless melodies and unfussy interiority come through especially on the shimmering UK garage number “Cool With You.” NewJeans convey feelings towards a lover in direct, plainspoken language, affirming them with playful ad-libs: “You know me like no other, see me like no other.” They talk through a friend’s relationship problems on “ETA,” the EP’s brilliant highlight. It takes horns from the Baltimore club classic “Samir’s Theme,” throws in something akin to a Think break, and adds a bed of cozy synths. It feels like NewJeans’ interest in club music—the Jersey club kicks on “Cookie,” the Baltimore club balladry of “Ditto”—has been leading to this moment.
“ETA” is a song about telling someone you love to dump their boyfriend, delivered with the congeniality of a lifelong pal. It’s this cozy intimacy that makes NewJeans thrilling; their music lowers your guard. Such is the case on Get Up’s sweet closing track “ASAP.” The girls sing about crushing in all its woozy delight, hanging up the phone only to call again, as glistening synths usher the song into fantastical realms. “So much to do and lots to see,” the girl gently sing, as if reminding us to savor all of life’s small joys.