NewJeans takes us to a heart-fluttering and heart-breaking memory lane in ‘OMG’
By Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro
Just months after magically creating dance crazes with sparkly summer anthems Hype Boy and Attention, rookie girl group NewJeans returns with their two awaited wintry tunes in their first full single album OMG.
Minji, Haerin, Hanni, Danielle, and Hyein made their surprise debut in July 2022 under record label ADOR, an independent company under HYBE. They simply made a public appearance and dropped their first four glittery bops in July 2022: Attention, Hype Boy, Cookie, and Hurt out of nowhere. Despite having no teasers, fans worldwide were immediately lured into the quaint harmonies of their chill and refreshing songs that are reminiscent of the Y2K era meshed with pop and R&B.
Interestingly, ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin was told that the concept for NewJeans was plain, and was likely to be a miss rather than a hit because of its uncharacteristic K-pop formula. However, this urged her to confidently showcase what girls had in store even more. Fast forward to the present, the doubters were wrong. Thanks to Min’s conviction, Bunnies and casual listeners continue to be spoiled with life-changing bangers. The girl group sold over 300,000 albums in the first week, won a Daesang (performance award), and the Rookie Award at the year-end award ceremonies. In their first winter comeback, NewJeans continues to mysteriously enamor us with a string of odd yet emotional twists in Ditto and OMG.
‘Ditto’ is a heartbreaking ode to slipping teenagehood and parasocial relationships
Watching and listening to Ditto for the first time was a transcendental experience.
Ditto begins as an eerie and mysterious music video with retro-style cinematography. The atmospheric and shaky B-rolls shot from an old video recorder makes us feel that we’re in their story. We’re taken back to 1998, with the girls as five high schoolers who are the best of friends; a high school boy (Choi Hyun-wook) who momentarily observes them; and one of their friends Hee-soo (Park Ji-hu) who records their pastimes in school: buying snacks in the convenience stores, dancing on the rooftop, and chasing each other in the hallways.
This mellow B-side cohesively accompanies the inventive imagery of the music video. It opens with a lush coo sung by Hyein that ascends us to cloud nine. No words need to be said to feel her cherubic tone of pure bittersweetness. Hanni’s sweet voice forms memorable lines that feel like a love letter about wishful thinking for precious moments to last. We can only wish the person we like would stay with us forever, like in polaroids. By saying ditto, they echo our feelings back (“Stay in the middle, Like you a little, don’t want no riddle / Say it, say it back, oh, say it ditto”).
Like their previous songs, their voices cohesively mesh together, like a repetitive lull you can never get sick of (“I got no time to lose / I had a long day / I miss you”). The relaxing percussion blends with the hazy synths, perfectly encapsulating a thematic love song that has more nuance than what meets the eye. Its lyricism elicits tenderness just as it carries resistance in racing against time and slowly mourning their youth that’s slipping away. The cultural imprint of Danielle’s lower range has to be studied as I remember my lovesick self in junior high in her satisfying verse (“Do you want somebody / Like I want somebody”).
But what starts as a seemingly wholesome and picture-perfect story doesn’t end with a happily-ever-after climax. In this jaw-dropping still, we learn that Hee-soo has been alone the whole time. Her five dancing friends never existed and she was recording no one. Fans have speculated a variety of theories, but two stood out the most.
The first theory is harrowing, which suggests that the five girls died and Hee-soo, was the only one who survived. Her survivor’s guilt and isolation resulted in hallucinations, and the mystery boy caught in bits of her recordings was the only one left to understand her. The deer, who appears in both of the endings of side A and side B music videos, can reaffirm this hunch, as it symbolizes graceful passing and the loss of innocence. To add the sad cherry on top, listeners likened the storyline to movies involving different time periods like Ditto, 20th Century Girl, and Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name), with similar themes of miscommunication, loss, and right person but wrong time.
My personal favorite theory is more expository (an overstatement for others but this contains some Parasite-level symbolism). The music video alludes to parasocial relationships which are deeply common in the world of K-pop. This phenomenon refers to one-sided relationships where one party invests “surreal efforts, interests, and time to the other party which is unaware or disinterested in their existence” (“Not just anybody / I imagined you / With the feeling / That’s been always there I’ve been / Waiting all this time”). In this scenario, Hee-soo is a metaphor for K-pop fans who can only view their idols from afar and relive those moments using a recorder. Through escapism, we latch onto our concert videos, photo cards, albums, and other virtual memories just because — maybe one day — our idols might look at us too. And even if they’ll never gaze back at us, at least we have these tangible things to comfort our sanity. It feels uncharacteristic yet refreshing for idols to tackle the big elephant in the room, yet the girls managed to effectively paint a thousand important words.
Whether you’re desiring friendship, romance, or self-realization, this relatable song will pierce your soul in countless ways. Listen to it at different stages in your life, and you’d still cry a river. Even the girls cried to their own music video in their reaction video. To make everything feel more real, check out this YouTube channel named Ban Hee-soo, which uploaded raw footage that transports us back to the 90s.
Novelties of love and self-actualization in ‘OMG’
There’s a can of worms to unpack the OMG’s music video. If Ditto is a K-drama hitting us in the feels, OMG is a quirky dark comedy with some good punchlines.
The hip-hop title track enthralls us with upbeat and livelier trap rhythms, with bouncy flow and lyrics reminiscent of Hype Boy. It takes us back to crushes we couldn’t keep our mind off, overthinking about the times they’ve made our hearts pound loudly in our chests, and looking for signs if the universe is truly trying to bind us together (Oh my oh my God / I knew this would happen / I was really hoping / That he will come through). When we like someone, we recalibrate different parts of our personalities to match theirs. Minji, Danielle, and Hanni express this in their enjoyable rap part (“I hear his voice through all the noise / Don’t let go of my hand for one second no, no / Got no worries ’cause I got someone / It’s okay to be alone ’cause I love someone).
It took me a few listens to feel the tune because I found it slightly underwhelming for a title track. Unlike Ditto’s poetic verses that scratched certain parts of my brain, I personally thought this track was lacking some flair. Yes, it didn’t need a beat drop (as they’ve proven time after time that you don’t need constant high notes or blaring trumpets to make a snappy song), but this initially sounded generic. Perhaps I just expected more because NewJeans doesn’t fall short in the innovation or standards department.
Music-video-wise, it’s a melting pot set in a mental institution, parties, and an iPhone maze. There is a slight disjunct at first about the song, which is about puppy love, while the music video fits in different multilayered topics about delusion, self-identity, obsession, and fans; but they’re interconnected. Each member suffers from a problem. Hanni uncannily views herself as an iPhone, who operates to please, answer, sing, and dance, for people; Hyein thinks she’s a princess from different fairytale books; Haerin believes she’s a cat; and Minji pretends to be a doctor, who takes away an obsessive anti-fan toward the end of the video. Then, there’s Danielle who breaks the fourth wall and reminds them that they are NewJeans, the K-pop rookie monsters who broke records at such young ages, with fast clips of them in their previous music videos, real performance shows, and dance practices, implying their past versions or what they could have become; which reminded me of Evelyn’s thrilling scene in Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Truman Show.
Fans were divided on whether the mental institution theme was relevant and appropriate. But it was mostly a slay than a nay for fans. It turns out that OMG has not only referenced previous choreographies and characters in Ditto, but also hinted at elements from the film I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK. Looking at it as a whole, we see that the girls earnestly express their lovesickness while struggling to become introspective about self-perception (“When I’m down / Feel like I’m crying / When I can’t even / Pretend to be okay / It’s you, you worry about me / It’s you, you make me laugh / No need to say / Boy what do you say”).
We’ll always wear NewJeans
Ditto is a moving and powerful winter ballad evocative of the feminine affinity of GFriend, while OMG extends NewJeans’ campy yet remarkable concepts that are resonant with Red Velvet. What both masterpieces share is their openness to interpretation, leaving us truly engaged in their art. Girl groups deserve the world.
What listeners and I love about NewJeans’ discography is that it doesn’t dabble much in the uproar of the K-pop scene’s overused cacophonies in a manufactured way. In the midst of all the girl crush, noise, and experimental music, their music attests that perhaps less is more. And they artistically bank on this strong aspect; just five young teenagers who happen to share the same passion for singing and dancing to chill beats together. As Gen Z girls themselves, they can connect to Gen Z just as much as they can get adults to recall their school days, and unthaw the soft spots of pretty much everyone. Indeed, they’re not like other jeans that wear out so soon.
And by transforming the everyday simplicity of platonic love, sentimentality, and youthful innocence into melodies that are a breath of fresh air — our busy souls are cleansed even for a while. From NewJeans’ fun and light “Newtro” slice-of-life concepts, innovative marketing strategies, angelic voices, catchy choreography, and bright personalities, it’s safe to say they’re a whole package with tremendous potential. The tenacious praise they receive is well-deserved, as we can see how much they enjoy their job as much as we love seeing them make the world their stage.
If it wasn’t obvious enough, Ditto is now my main theme song, playing on repeat. Spend the new year NewJeans by streaming here to do some self-reflection and stress-free dancing.