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Featured Artists: EXO & NewJeans—Double the Artists, Double the K-pop

This week’s Featured Artist Friday does not highlight one, but two artists: K-pop kings EXO and K-pop super rookies NewJeans.

Continuing the holiday revisit of Featured Artist Fridays, both K-pop groups were previous MD features this year. Now, EXO and NewJeans are closing out the year together on Music Daily as influential legends and rising rookies, respectively.

Paving the Way for the Next K-pop Generations

(Original article by Maia Robbins)

With K-pop being in its 4th generation, groups and their labels think much bigger than debuting to a Korean audience—they’re debuting to the world now. Groups like TXT, Stray Kids, ATEEZ and ITZY are only some of the big names of this generation. Their efforts to not only perform for a Korean audience, but also a global audience, are admirable and effective.

However, they might never have had this global exposure had it not been for the 3rd generation groups that truly gained and paved the way for such exposure. EXO is one of those influential 3rd generation groups.

exo twitter header
Retrieved from artist Twitter

The Beginning of EXO

Represented by SM Entertainment, the EXO members actually debuted in sub-units EXO-K and EXO-M in 2012. The groups would release the same music simultaneously in both South Korea and China. EXO-K would perform and promote in Korean, while EXO-M did the same in Mandarin. Both the Korean and Chinese versions of their debut EP, Mama, quickly hit the top two spots of their relative country’s charts. The Korean version of Mama even hit No. 8 on Billboard’s World Albums chart.

In June of 2013, EXO released their first group album, XOXO. Two months later, they repackaged the album and included three new tracks: “Growl,” “XOXO” and “Lucky.” The song “Growl” became an instant hit, and remains a classic K-pop song to this day. Combining both the original version and the repackaged version, as well as the Korean and Chinese versions of both of them, XOXO the album soon sold over one million copies. According to Lee Woo-young at The Korea HeraldXOXO’s success made EXO the first South Korean artists to reach that milestone in 12 years. It “solidified the members’ place as part of one of K-pop’s most successful acts ever.”

Within the first two years of their musical career, EXO won several big awards and broke huge records. For the next few years, they continued to impress fans, break records and draw people from all over the world into K-pop.

What’s Next for the K-pop Legends?

After 11 years, EXO are still as big as ever. Their latest album, EXIST, was released on July 10th. With songs like “Hear Me Out,” “Let Me In,” and “Cream Soda,” the album was a welcome guest in fans’ hearts and homes.

When they’re not participating in group activities, the members pursue solo endeavors such as acting, singing and fulfilling military service. Due to Kai currently serving in the military and Lay being involved in his solo promotions in China, EXIST was actually the first EXO album being promoted by a seven-member group.

Thanks to all the members’ successful solo careers, fans can be sure that, no matter the official state of the group, which can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors, the EXO boys will continue to shine.

EXO have a long history of being one of the top K-pop boy groups, and their reign as K-pop kings continues as the genre’s newest generation takes to the stage.

The NewJeans Formula

(Original article by Andres Fabris)

Enter NewJeans, the 4th gen K-pop group blending bedroom pop into the hip-hop-dominant Korean music industry. Barely over a year into their debut, NewJeans maxed out their Western influences in songs like “Attention” and “OMG” to become an international force.

This week's Featured Artist Friday is NewJeans, the 4th gen K-pop group blending bedroom pop into the hip-hop dominant Korean music industry. Less than a year into their debut, NewJeans maxed out their western influences in songs like "Attention" and "OMG" to become an international force.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / SBS Radio

Compared to other groups, NewJeans’ choreography focuses on lots of movement, with each member having a distinct hip-hop routine that melds into a group effort. Altogether, they create a youthful energy that makes it seem effortless and like a dance routine between friends. Where other groups focus on a still close-up when performing, NewJeans’ beauty is in their dance. But netizens have complimented their physical beauty, too, citing that Haerin looks like a “cat” and Danielle looks like a “doll.”

NewJeans also stands out sonically from their peers. While other girl groups like NMIXX, Kelp1er, and LE SSERAFIM focus along the hip-hop spectrum, dabbling in techno or EDM, NewJeans utilizes beloved western hip-hop and bedroom pop semantics with K-pop flares on the chorus. Their single, “Zero,” for their ambassadorship with Coca-Cola is the perfect introduction to their unique soundscape.

Brands Want What NewJeans Have

For their plethora of group ambassadorships, ranging from Nike to Levi’s and McDonald’s, the group is fairly young. Hyein is the group’s baby at 15 years old, while Minji is the oldest at 19.

Fun fact, netizens laughed over NewJeans covering Wonder Girls’ 2007 hit “Tell Me” because Hyein wasn’t even born yet.

Brands are taking advantage of Gen Z’s fixation on the group, with most members having at least one individual ambassadorship with a luxury fashion or beauty brand. Regardless of their young age, the group’s hold over the new generation shines in their 20M Spotify listeners and nearly 7M Instagram followers.

Since their 2022 debut, Hanni went to Paris Fashion Week on behalf of Gucci, and Minji covered Elle Korea as Chanel’s newest ambassador. Danielle is the face of YSL Beauty. In December, Hyein joined the A-list of Louis Vuitton ambassadors. And, in April, Dior named Haerin a brand ambassador for jewelry, fashion and beauty.

Final Thoughts

NewJeans are forever changing the K-pop landscape across their distinct visuals and one-of-a-kind sound. Less than two years into their career, they have gained recognition from K-pop titans BTS, SHINee, TXT and many others. Across all singles, the group borderlines 1B streams collectively.

Yes, their star power is unreal, but the group’s chemistry is humorous and lighthearted in other activities where members’ personalities shine the most. And while their witty banter doesn’t make it into mainstream media, it will over time. Now, there is only one way for NewJeans to go: up!

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