NMIXX forever: K-pop girl group talk playing US KCON and their debut single

Rookie K-pop girl group NMIXX at the KCON Premiere in Chicago, on May 22, 2022.
PHOTO: Twitter/NMIXX_official

When K-pop group NMIXX launched their first single, O.O, in February, the chaotic song proved divisive, with brash tonal shifts and bold lyrics that are as addictive as they are baffling.

"'Wow, we're so cool. This is our song,'" Kyujin, a member of the group, recalls saying to herself the first time she heard it.

That O.O is a song that leaves people questioning its very existence didn't come as much of a surprise to the group's seven members, they admit, but that's just part of its charm.

"When people hear this song they will all be very surprised," says Lily. "At the beginning, you think it will be one sort of song but then all of a sudden in the middle it changes into something that you wouldn't even imagine. I feel like it would definitely pique a lot of people's interests."

And it definitely has: Since its release, the official music video for O.O has been viewed over 71 million times on YouTube, while dance performances by the group have tens of millions of views as well, with the septet's confidence and charisma shining as they perform complex choreography.

It is more or less intentional that people are drawn to watching the group perform O.O as much as listening to them sing it: NMIXX is a group you're supposed to keep an eye on, literally.

"When I think of NMIXX, I think of performance. Our powerful performances on stage, where we can show our dancing, singing and charms," says Lily.

Backstage at KCON Premiere in Chicago on May 20, Kyujin, Lily, Haewon, Sullyoon, Jinni, Bae and Jiwoo were radiating both anticipation and nervous energy before their first overseas performance.

They answer our questions in Korean and English, laughing and cheering one another on, and the tension is almost tangible. They are aware that many eyes are on them.

"It's our first time in the US, so I'm very excited and a little nervous too," admits Sullyoon. "You can see how I feel on the stage today." (She, and the rest of the members, are crowd favourites at KCON, opening the night with fierce dancing before later offering up performances of O.O and B-side Tank, along with covers of hits by Blackpink and Gayle.)

Rookie K-pop girl group NMIXX at the KCON Premiere in Chicago, on May 22, 2022.
PHOTO: Twitter/NMIXX_official

"Because we're receiving so much attention, we'll work hard, and I'll do my best to return [our fans'] love," says Jinni.

Having spent much of their formative days training, and debuted during the global pandemic, NMIXX have only in recent months begun performing in front of live audiences and finally got to meet their fans, collectively known as NSWER, in person.

"Ever since we were trainees, we've waited for this moment," says Lily. "I hope they'll be really happy [with our performances] since we really worked hard, showing them a lot of different concepts and new versions of ourselves."

They have trained hard, some upwards of five years, which is a sizeable portion of their life for these teens (Lily, the eldest, is 19, while the youngest, Kyujin, is 15 years old.)

NMIXX are the latest in a long line of K-pop girl groups launched by South Korean music heavyweight JYP Entertainment, following the likes of Wonder Girls, miss A, Twice, and Itzy. The company also manages popular J-pop group NiziU in Japan.

"O.O is the first step, because it's the first time we're showing NMIXX to the audience," says Jiwoo.

The intensity of O.O and Tank, both released on their first single album Ad Mare, sets the group apart in that they're a bit harder hitting than the more typical pop or R&B on JYP girl group debut songs. The music is edgier, with hip hop and rock infusions front and centre.

A still from NMIXX's O.O music video.
PHOTO: Screengrab/YouTube/JYP Entertainment

"As trainees, we looked up to our sunbaenim [senior artists], and now it's an honour to say that we can be part of that and call ourselves JYP artists," says Lily with a smile. "I will be very happy if a lot of people, a lot of diverse people from all over the world, can come to NMIXX for solace and can come together and be happy when they listen to our music."

Bae says: "I'm happy to debut in a JYP girl group, and I'll do my best to be like a JYP artist. I'd love to be with my NSWER forever."

While it's early days and premature to truly declare NMIXX as one sort or another of a girl group, they have high hopes and dreams.

"I want to fill up people's lives with our songs," says Haewon. "The more [people], the better. To me, NMIXX is like a birthday present in that it's meaningful, something to look forward to, and it gives me happiness. NMIXX forever!"

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.