NMIXX Make Divisive Music, But Holiday Single “Funky Glitter Christmas” Shimmers

The refreshing K-pop rookies talk to Teen Vogue about their career beginnings and new holiday single.
The girls of NMIXX sparkle in a shiny room with party decor and balloons
Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

The thing about glitter is that it's extremely polarizing. The people who love it, love it. It gleams and sparkles, reflecting light and casting an iridescent glow. It draws attention. When we see something shiny, it's hard to look away, and there's empirical evidence to suggest we actually can't. There are also those who find glitter to be too much — too distracting, unnervingly messy, and a little gauche. It's not for the wallflowers; you wear it to stand out. Glitter is about as subtle as "O.O," the provocative debut song from emerging Korean girl group NMIXX. 

No release this year divided K-pop fans like "O.O," so much so that it's since become a litmus test within the community with both sides claiming superiority. Its critics write it off as being scattershot noise music, an abrasive roller-coaster ride through disjointed sounds and energies. Truthfully, it's an odd mix of baile funk, heavy guitar riffs, and big bass synths. And that's exactly why others love it. "O.O" didn't just eschew pop's formula; it blew it up, leaving everyone shell-shocked. There's a thrill to not knowing what comes next, to surrendering yourself to the song and going along for the ride. 

"When we first heard it, it was kind of confusing," Jinni tells Teen Vogue from JYP Entertainment's headquarters in the Gangdong district of Seoul. Behind her sits Lily, the group's eldest and de facto interpreter for this interview. The Australia-raised vocalist takes to the role naturally, and she's exceptionally meticulous about conveying each member's exact thoughts. "But the more we heard it," dancer Jinni continues, "the more we realized its charms and attractions. The longer you listen to it, the better it gets." 

They call it "MIXXPOP," the potent clash of genres in one track. For longtime K-pop fans, this might not seem all that ingenious. It is, in essence, what K-pop does best; Girls' Generation released their pioneering genre-switching single "I Got A Boy" in 2013, and just last year aespa's "Next Level" took the industry by storm. But NMIXX's steadfast commitment to aural asymmetry, as heard in "O.O" and their follow-up single "Dice," sprinkles some much-needed variability across a modern K-pop landscape that is experiencing growing pains. More often than not, songs are losing their luster to accommodate a global audience. "O.O" is a radiant cacophony of chaos. And to quote Lily's favorite artist, Taylor Swift, "People throw rocks at things that shine." 

Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

It was never Haewon, Lily, Bae, Jinni, Sullyoon, Jiwoo, and Kyujin's goal to be divisive. They just wanted to debut. Having trained together under JYPE for years prior, the company solidified NMIXX's lineup in 2020. Lily spent nearly seven years as a trainee, following her star-making appearance in the fourth season of K-pop Star. Known for her powerful voice, Lily always knew she wanted to sing, but she wasn't sold on being an idol until she experienced her very first K-pop concert and saw 2PM perform live. "That was what really taught me how cool K-pop can be," she says. Despite living in Seoul throughout her formative years, the 20-year-old's Aussie accent remains as thick as ever. Jinni joined the company a year after Lily, having been inspired by the idols she used to watch on TV. Following their first trainee showcase, an event in which the select trainees perform in front of an audience, they attended their first workshop together. Lily describes it as a "short holiday" for all trainees organized by the company. It's a chance for them to "chill and hang out" following the stress of preparing for their showcase. Amidst water games and down time, they also complete teamwork exercises to build their bond.  

"At my first workshop, I was very young, so I was quite nervous," Lily says. "I feel like Jinni and I stuck together a lot because we were the youngest and newest." She also admits, "I was scared of all of the oppas and unnies." 

Bae began her training after being street casted in 2018. An extrovert, the members call Bae the mood-maker of the group, and even she refers to herself as "the life of the party" wherever she goes. She took the company's customary voice lessons and attended dance classes. She learned how to rap and did all of the things that trainees have to do to succeed. However, it wasn't until she saw Lily and Haewon sing a holiday carol at a company Christmas party that she understood what kind of performer she wanted to be. "I got chills," the singer says. "That's when I knew I wanted to become an idol and perform like them." 

Youngest member Kyujin started manifesting her destiny back in kindergarten. "I always had an interest in dancing and singing," she says. When she turned 11, she got serious about pursuing her dream. Now, at 16, she holds herself with poise and speaks with a level of assuredness well beyond her years. It's the result of years of training and her own perfectionism. She knows that she sacrificed having normal teenage existence to become a professional artist, but she doesn't have any lingering regrets. "Sometimes I do get envious of my other friends that they can see each other often and play a lot," she says. "But at the same time, I'm doing what I wanted to do, and this was a decision I made. So I'm actually very happy with where I am right now." And she knows her mom is only one call away. 

It's a familiar sentiment that leader Haewon echoes. When she was 10, her English teacher showed the class a video of Imagine Dragons performing their song "Demons." She was struck by the emotions she felt, despite not having a total grasp of the language. "I was like, 'Wow, it's amazing that artists can touch so many people even when you don't exactly understand what they're saying," she recalls now. "After I made the decision to become an idol, I didn't really think about the other side of how life should go," the vocalist explains. Haewon has a sharp sense of humor, and she's often direct and to-the-point. She doesn't sugarcoat things. It's part of her life philosophy: "You gotta do what you gotta do." When faced with a choice, to endure something difficult in order to get the result you want or to give up, "just do it," she says. As a trainee, Haewon put all of her focus on debuting, to the point where everything else in her life "fell away naturally." 

Jiwoo joined a dance academy in fifth grade, and her desire to perform in front of large crowds only grew as she got older. Through the years, she developed her rapping and singing. Her voice is distinct and charismatic. She brings her strong, powerful presence to every NMIXX performance. In comparison, singer Sullyoon's image is soft and delicate. There's a saccharine sweetness to her tone that fans have identified as her superpower, in addition to her vocal prowess. A former band kid, Sullyoon channeled her musicality during her audition with JYPE, completing the debut team. 

"We all have very different personality traits," Lily says. "To me, that makes us even more special." Even their differences are compatible. You can see it in the way they spend their time outside of the practice room. Sullyoon and Kyujin like doing tactile hobbies. Sullyoon dedicates  several hours a day to knitting, and she also enjoys baking. ("It's good for the people around her," Lily smiles.) Kyujin prefers crocheting and watching videos of cute animals. Lily is a voracious reader who most recently finished Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Jiwoo is a shopper and avid playlist curator, whereas Haweon is a frequent people-watcher. Goal-oriented Bae is into exercising and trying new workouts. She likes the adrenaline rush it gives her, as someone who finds it hard to sit still. And Jinni values her aloneness, taking her time to casually wander around new places.

"I felt an immediate connection with NMIXX," Lily says. "I feel like our team was pretty good from the start. We never had any big fights, even when we were trainees." Lily is incapable of hiding her emotions. She's honest to a fault. "Sometimes, maybe I can go too far and say things when I probably should be more quiet," she says, adding, "I'm still working on that!" Still, their chemistry was instant. "Obviously, it's getting better over time as we spend more time getting to know each other." To make their teamwork even stronger, the members make sure to communicate, especially after every round of comeback promotions. If there are any conflicts, they talk it out. "The group chat is very active," Lily jokes. 

As NMIXX, they trained for a year-and-a-half before they dropped their first single album, Ad Mare, which sold 227,399 copies in its first week. Their second single album, ENTWURF, nearly doubled its sales — not bad for K-pop's newest provocateurs. While the group's musical direction has been contentious, no one can deny their talent. Videos of their live singing have gone viral, and their performance chops don't go unnoticed either. To categorize them into disciplines is a fool's errand; each member is multifaceted. Jinni is especially proud of their "stable vocals while dancing." 

Rappers who sing, singers who rap, dancers who dance, NMIXX have proven they can do it all, which is why they're changing things up for their next release by dropping a holiday single. 

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"Funky Glitter Christmas" is not your typical NMIXX project. It's what they're calling an Intermixxion single, or a chance for the group to highlight their various colors through releases that might not align with their MIXXPOP vision. Through a song like "Funky Glitter Christmas," Haewon hopes to show their fans, called NSWERS, the group's "more bright, fun, and light-hearted side." The track itself is typical holiday fare. It's jazzy and cheerful, and it features delightful vocal performances from all of the members, but it's perhaps a showcase for Lily to fully unleash. "I've wanted to try a new kind of vibe with our music since we've been doing a lot of strong, powerful songs," she says. "This time, I was really curious as to how we would handle a cutesy carol song. But I've always loved carols, so when I heard that we were doing one, I was super excited." She pauses, then adds with a laugh, "I think the song is really good!" 

Looking ahead, they hope to see more of their fans around the world. "I want to see NSWERs up close," Haewon says. Kyujin, ever the perfectionist, wants NMIXX to be "a team that keeps on improving as time goes by and keeps getting better and better." 

They're also looking forward to spending their first holiday as NMIXX. "Last Christmas," Lily sings, explaining the story behind Bae's favorite Christmastime memory: a Christmas Eve spent with her members. They all immediately burst into a fit of giggles. It's time like these when they show their age — just a group of young women who like to plan Christmas parties and dress as Santa Claus and play games and sing songs inside of their dorms until the morning hours. It's not complicated to understand their appeal. Together, they shine. We can only stand there, transfixed by their shimmer.