At the end of their newest music video, “OMG,” the five members of NewJeans sit around a table in a hospital — a reference to Park Chanwook’s 2006 film I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK — as member Danielle begs them to remember that they’re monster rookies NewJeans. They watch the video proof; snippets of music videos and performances from “Cookie,” “Hype Boy,” “Ditto,” and their debut song “Attention” appear in one blurred montage. It’s overwhelming evidence that not only are NewJeans a K-pop girl group, but one that has ushered in one of the most exciting career starts for a music group in years.
Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin, and Hyein launched as NewJeans in July 2022 as the first group under ADOR, a subsidiary label of HYBE (BTS, Tomorrow X Together); they dropped seven music videos in about a week, a rare surprise release in K-pop that caught everyone’s, well, attention. That first music video felt like watching the 2004 Disney Channel Original Movie Stuck in the Suburbs — soccer uniforms, playful choreo, 2000s fashion, and a fresh way of showing girlhood on screen. The members of NewJeans are all teenagers (Minji, the oldest, is 18, and youngest member Hyein is 14) and their concept has tended to match: first crushes, identity crises, and the vital friendships you’re building during those tumultuous years. But NewJeans music videos often put an interesting spin on growing up (and on ubiquitous '90s and 2000s nostalgia), capturing something at turns lighthearted, beautiful, wrenching, and even a little unnerving.
Related: In 2022, NewJeans Were Looking For Attention. Now, They Have Everyone's
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the music videos for their late December release “Ditto,” a spinning staccato drum track influenced by Baltimore club music. The dueling “side A” and “side B” videos — directed by Shin Wooseok, who also made the “OMG” MV — feature some of the same footage, told through the frame of a camcorder. Holding the camcorder is actress Park Jihu (All of Us Are Dead, Little Women) as a high school student named Ban Heesoo who appears to be in a friend group with the five members of NewJeans. The sextet runs through hallways, hangs out in the library, darts into the pouring rain. All the while, Heesoo films her friends dancing on rooftops and coming of age together.
It’s not all as it seems: Side A ends with disconcerting images of Heesoo filming nothing all along — the girls are gone. Could the whole thing have been a figment of her imagination? Side B ends with archival video of NewJeans, proof they were perhaps there at one point. Fans, meanwhile, have already brainstormed dozens of theories, from ideas that fictional NewJeans passed away in some sort of accident to more symbolic meanings that Heesoo could represent the relationship between fans and artists themselves. All the members have been reading what fans are coming up with, excited by each new interpretation; none is necessarily more right than another. “We’ve been reading them all day,” Danielle tells Teen Vogue over Zoom from Seoul the day after “Ditto” drops. “We were very curious to see how they interpreted the music video, and to see so many responses and theories is really fun for us as well.”