Record-Breaking Rookie Girl Group NewJeans Are "Enjoying The Ride" On New Release
On their sophomore EP, 'Get Up,' NewJeans continue to prove that they are on the cutting edge of K-pop. The five-piece teen group spoke with GRAMMY.com about their rapid rise to fame and coming into their own.
Like their name, K-pop girl group NewJeans are an atemporal classic. Despite debuting just one year ago — no teasers, no big announcements, only a delightful summer hit by the name of "Attention" — their carefully-crafted ID is both utterly cool and longingly comfortable. It’s as if they could fit anywhere, from early-aughts MTV to the most underground basement parties, but still deliver a twist.
And while some might argue that being so fluid isn’t a compliment — no one is doing it like they do. Their recently released sophomore EP, Get Up, continues to prove that NewJeans are at the cutting edge of music, blending genres like U.K. garage and favela funk into something curiously progressive, but never unpleasant. The album sold almost 1.2 million copies within 24 hours, becoming the second-largest first-day figure for a Korean girl group in history.
Formed by ADOR, a new label under HYBE (home to K-pop giants like BTS and TXT), the quintet range from 19 to 15 years old, but have reached senior prestige in the blink of an eye. Their eponymous debut EP and single album OMG both also sold over one million copies. They scored branding deals with juggernauts like McDonald's and Coca-Cola. They were featured in Time's Next Generation Leaders. And each of the members landed a high fashion ambassadorship, including with Gucci, Louis Vuitton, YSL, Chanel Korea and Dior.
But behind all the glamour, Minji, Danielle, Hanni, Haerin, and Hyein are simply teens moved by their passion for music. Their lyrics and music videos depict real-life situations: boy troubles, the complexities of friendships, growing up surrounded by technology. Stripped back from K-pop’s usual overload, they look, sound, and move relatably for their age — an aspect that made their music stand out even more.
Get Up holds that trend. Its six tracks are short snippets of a dual world, depicting the highs and lows of growing up as a woman: sweet and bubbly in "Super Shy," or in "The Powerpuff Girls" collaboration "New Jeans," but haunting and restless in tracks like "Cool With You," or the frantic "ASAP."
The night before the release, NewJeans spoke with GRAMMY.com over Zoom from Seoul. Excitement is the core feeling as they eagerly answer each question. Sometimes, they fall into laughter, or into partial dancing — one arm slide here, one shoulder bump there. As Hanni says more than once, being NewJeans is "just so much fun."
Read on to know their thoughts on what makes their music so special, their rapid rise to fame, and still feeling like kids sometimes.
Congratulations on your new EP, Get Up. What were some of the challenges of preparing this record, compared to your debut EP?
Minji: As we prepared this EP, we tried to capture multiple genres, and that also applies to our performances. We tried out waacking and some contemporary moves, and vocally speaking, I think we tried to take on new challenges too.
In your first song, "New Jeans," you sing "Look it's a new me / Switched it up, who's this / All eyes on us NewJeans." What new sides of yourself were you able to discover in Get Up?
Hyein: Because we haven't even reached our first-year anniversary yet, I think we have much more to offer and show to our audience. I always thought about us as a group that is constantly striving to bring something fresh to the public, and I feel like this album really solidified my confidence and conviction about our identity.
Although you haven’t even celebrated your first anniversary yet, NewJeans have found incredible success from the get go, and reached milestones that other groups usually take years to get to. How do you manage the pressure of having "all eyes on you"?
Danielle: First of all, we're very, very flattered by all the accomplishments, but I feel like we're still beginners, and we try to have that mindset. I think it's important to stay calm and humble about it.
You recorded the music video for "Super Shy" in Lisbon, "Attention" and "Hype Boy" in Barcelona, and you also have upcoming performances at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, Tokyo’s Summer Sonic Festival, and Music Bank in Mexico. How does getting to know other parts of the world influence your work?
Hanni: It's definitely a wonderful opportunity that we're given a chance to film our music videos overseas, and now with Lollapalooza and Summer Sonic, they’re such big international festivals, we're really looking forward to it.
These types of schedules are very eye-opening experiences, and they give us the opportunity to learn different cultures, like, this is how this city looks like, and that city looks like. It just makes the work we’re doing more exciting. I've been so grateful.
The lyrics In "ETA" depict a very relatable conversation between friends. Do any of your songs feel particularly relatable to your life?
Haerin: I think there's something that we can relate to in every song we've had until now, but if I had to pick just one, it would be "Super Shy." I find myself relating to its lyrics a lot, and the duality between the lyrics and the choreography is quite fascinating, because the performance aspect of it is really dynamic and powerful. And yeah, again, I do relate to those lyrics. [Laughs]
A very important question: why is "Get Up" only 36 seconds?
Haerin: Because it's an interlude track, first and foremost. And if you were to look at the order of songs on this EP, "Get Up" is sitting right in the middle of two tracks, so I think that positioning has the job of bringing the entire EP together.
We need more, because that song is so good! Also, "Cool With You" shows a more mature side of NewJeans. When you think of the other members, in what other ways have you noticed their growth?
Hyein: I am the youngest one in the group, so it feels a bit weird to be commenting on the other members. [Laughs]
Minji: No, it’s not. [Pats Hyein’s shoulder]
Hyein: But if I were to speak for the entire group, I think that the type of feedback that we exchange amongst one another has gotten much more specific and detailed, and we are quicker to understand that feedback and apply it to what we do. We have three title tracks in this EP, and each song has a different genre of choreography, so when we were practicing, we had to really focus on putting ourselves in a different mood for each.
This EP talks a lot about time and the timing of certain things, as in "ASAP" and "ETA." You're teenagers now, but do you feel like grown ups? Or do you still feel like kids sometimes?
Danielle: When I was younger, I was always like, "I wanna be older, and I want to be more mature." [Laughs] But now I feel like growth comes naturally when you enjoy the present as much as you can.
Being with the members makes me feel like I'm still a kid sometimes. When I look at myself in music videos from a year ago, I look much different than how I look now, and so I think it's about your mindset, your environment, and who you're around with in the present. The boundaries between kids, teenagers, and adults, I don't feel they are that important.
Minji: I definitely agree. It’s not that important.
Hanni: And we have such wonderful staff members who help us enjoy everything even more. So whether we’re more mature or kids, I think just being able to enjoy it is the most important.
Danielle: Each of us have very different sides. It’s fun to get to know them.
Your songs are often minimalistic and delicate, which stands out in an industry where over-the-top tracks are quite popular. Is there strength in softness?
Haerin: We have a distinct style, but we also like to think that our style is very fluid, and that we are not putting ourselves in boxes. We’re always taking on new challenges and enjoying the ride; that’s what makes NewJeans.
Our music might sound minimalistic and delicate right now, but who knows what's coming in the future? I think that sort of uncertainty and mystery makes this journey more exciting.
As young women growing up in the entertainment industry, how do you balance your personal lives with your onstage personas? Is there a separation between the two?
Hanni: I don't think there is a very clear separation between the two, because music for us started out as a hobby, and soon it turned out into something we really enjoy, so it was very much molded in childhood.
I think we always try to focus on how we can be professional and how we can perform more enjoyable stages for everyone, and doing this is just a part of who we are. There is no line at all. We are silly as we are on and off camera anyways. [Laughs] It’s just lots of fun.
In Korea, you are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit — an animal that is sort of a motif to NewJeans and also the name of your fandom, Bunnies. 10 years from now, how do you think you will look back on this year?
Minji: Well, 10 years is many years down the line, but I do think that I will still be doing what I love. And if [future] me just looks back on me right now, I think she would just feel an immense amount of gratitude for our members, for all the hard work, and be proud of what we're doing.
Photo: Simone Joyner/Getty Images
New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From Travis Scott, Britney Spears, NewJeans & More
July 21 marks a big day of new music releases, including star-studded collaborations like Travis Scott, Bad Bunny and The Weeknd's "K-POP" and a new EP from NewJeans. Hear some of the biggest new songs on GRAMMY.com.
Like so many New Music Fridays before it, July 21 brought a cornucopia of fresh and unique sounds from all over the map.
Want to hear Travis Scott, Bad Bunny and the Weeknd get mellow and psychedelic? Raring to hear the latest dispatch from a One Direction member? Want a taste of A$AP Rocky's long-awaited next album? Is a Britney-shaped chunk missing from your musical life? Want to hear the future of K-pop?
To these and other questions, this slew of tunes will provide answers. In the below roundup, hurtle into the weekend with wildly divergent sounds from some of music's top acts — many with sizable GRAMMY legacies.
Travis Scott, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd — "K-POP"
A week before nine-time GRAMMY nominee Travis Scott's Utopia livestream event at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on July 28 — which will debut his new studio album of the same name — he dropped his sixth collaboration with four-time GRAMMY winner the Weeknd.
"K-POP," the album's lead single, is rounded out by three-time GRAMMY winner Bad Bunny, in his first collab with Scott. This triple-threat track has a stony, smoldering feel, with luxurious production from Boi-1da, among others — and it's elevated by its panoramic, transportive video.
ZAYN — "Love Like This"
The former One Direction member continues his solo legacy with "Love Like This," his first new single since 2021.
Therein, ZAYN extols the virtues of throwing caution to the wind when it comes to infatuation: "Everything is on the line, but I would rather be dead/If it's gonna mean a life that's lived without you, baby," he sings. "I think I gotta take that risk/ 'cause I cannot go back."
In the video, ZAYN putters around on a motorcycle on a gorgeous day. Previously signed to RCA, the singer recently moved to Mercury Records; could "Love Like This" be the ramp-up to a new album? If so, "Love Like This" offers a tantalizing taste of what's to come.
will.i.am, Britney Spears — "MIND YOUR BUSINESS"
After the termination of her conservatorship, GRAMMY winner Britney Spears dipped a toe back into her music career in 2022 with "Hold Me Closer," a duet with Elton John that includes elements of "Tiny Dancer," "The One" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."
Now, she's back in earnest with "MIND YOUR BUSINESS," a sassy, pulsing, electronic duet with seven-time GRAMMY winner will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas fame. The track marks the pair's fourth team-up, and first since 2014's "It Should Be Easy" from Spears' Brtiney Jean.
NewJeans — "ETA"
GRAMMY.com called NewJeans one of 10 K-Pop rookie girl groups to watch in 2023, and keeping ears on them has paid off. On July 21, they released their new EP, Get Up, to critical acclaim: NME declared that "no one can hold a candle to K-pop's rising wonder girls."
Concurrently with the release of Get Up, they released a joyous, iPhone-shot music video to its effervescent single, "ETA," in which a group of girls find a friend's boyfriend making moves on another lady.
Chris Stapleton — "White Horse"
Chris Stapleton's last album, 2020's Starting Over, helped the country crooner make a clean sweep at the 2022 GRAMMYs. At that ceremony, he won golden gramophones for Best Country Solo Performance ("You Should Probably Leave"), Best Country Song ("Cold") and Best Country Album ("Starting Over").
On Nov. 10, the eight-time GRAMMY winner will release his next LP, Higher. As he revealed the news on July 21, Stapleton also unveiled a majestic rocker of a single, "White Horse." "If you want a cowboy on a white horse/ Ridin' off into the sunset," he sings thunderously, "If that's the kinda love you wanna wait for/ Hold on tight, girl, I ain't there yet."
A$AP Rocky — "RIOT (Rowdy Pipe'n)"
For his latest track, A$AP Rocky dropped a stylish, charming short film for Beats depicting a harried diaper run (a fitting narrative for the new dad, soon to be dad of two, with partner Rihanna). That only contains a minute of the song, though; it's worth luxuriating in the whole thing.
To an uneasy, lumbering beat, Rocky extols a lifestyle to die for ("My wife is erotic/ I'm smokin' exotic/My whip is exotic") as well as his unparalleled connections ("I just call designers up, I free ninety-nine it").
Backed by 13-time GRAMMY winner Pharrell, "RIOT (Rowdy Pipe'n)" is said to be the first single from A$AP Rocky's long-awaited fourth album, Don't Be Dumb; if the quality of the track is any indication, it'll be worth the long haul.
All images by The Chosunilbo, JNSImazins via Getty
10 K-Pop Rookie Girl Groups To Watch In 2023: Le Sserafim, Mimiirose, Ive & More
Girl groups may take over the sound of K-pop in 2023. Read on to learn about 10 female-fronted groups whose 2022 success has made them artists to watch this year.
In 2022, K-pop was defined by women. From early spring hits like (G)I-dle’s "Tomboy" and IVE’s "Love Dive," to BLACKPINK topping the Billboard 200 albums chart and then embarking on the largest world tour for a K-pop girl group, there was no shortage of achievements or great music for K-pop's leading ladies.
Renowned names like TWICE, Mamamoo, ITZY and Red Velvet thrived with new releases, festival appearances, and international tours. Soloists made exciting comebacks — as with artists from BoA, Chung Ha, and Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon — or through long-awaited debuts, like former Iz*One members Chaeyeon and Yena, Red Velvet’s Seulgi, TWICE’s Nayeon, and many others.
2022 was also the year where legends such as Girls’ Generation, KARA and EXID returned after being inactive for years, instilling a breath of fresh hope in an industry where so few women thrive past their mid-20s. While these changes take time, hopefully their steps will open doors to a different future.
But among countless highlights and broken records, 2022’s crowning jewel has to be the solid collection of girl groups it debuted into the world. Each overflowing with potential and unique flair, GRAMMY.com rounded up 10 names — in order of debut — that are defining how K-pop will sound and look in 2023 and beyond.
Debuting at the tail end of 2021, this septet from Mystic Story Entertainment built a peculiar niche right from the start. As it’s written on the cover of their first EP, the Billage of perception : chapter one, "we sing of the mysterious, hidden, and even dangerous B-side." Their lore features multiple dimensions in both real and dream worlds, but centers on figuring out what happened with a fictional girl named Billlie Love.
Much like their narrative, Billlie’s songs are marked by unusual titles ("M◐◑N palace" or "Mcguffins ~ Who's the Joker?" come to mind), quirky soundscapes, and eloquent performances. Early this year, main dancer Tsuki went viral for her fancam performing "GingaMingaYo (the strange world)" — which shows a small glimpse of how mesmerizing they can be.
Just five days shy of their first anniversary, IVE made history, winning a Daesang (grand prize) for Best Song of the Year at the 2022 MelOn Music Awards for their single "Love Dive." The achievement placed them as the third fastest girl group to win their first grand prize.
"Love Dive," which dominated South Korean charts for months, is a prime example of the "chaebol crush" concept that IVE crafted for themselves: girl crush, but with a hint of royalty. Hailing from Starship Entertainment, the six-member group — which includes Wonyoung and Yujin of Iz*One fame — was one of the biggest sensations of 2022, and are certainly ready to multiply that success in the following years.
Formed last year through Mnet’s survival show Girls Planet 999, Kep1er inaugurated 2022 with debut single "WA DA DA" on Jan. 3, 2022. Its nine members come from different backgrounds and countries (South Korea, China and Japan), but together they form a K-pop Megazord of sorts. Although their style is often bold and loud, their b-sides prove they can work with softer and sultrier styles just as well.
Kep1er is set to disband sometime in July 2024, but don’t cry — in addition to the bops yet to come, temporary groups in K-pop are often fundamental in shaping the next generation of idols (just look at how many former Iz*One members are mentioned on this list). That said, even if Kep1er’s sound isn't much to your taste, you’re better off learning the names of some of K-pop’s future leaders.
The latest girl group off JYP Entertainment — home to titans like TWICE and ITZY — NMIXX debuted in February 2022 with the divisive "O.O." Bringing together multiple tempo changes, soaring chants, rock guitars and a handful of onomatopoeias, the attention-grabbing tune challenged perceptions about what makes a good song.
They confidently call their sound "MIXXPOP," and repeated its profuse nature in September’s theatrical "Dice," to much commercial success. But for those who still aren’t convinced, the sextet has also proven versatility to spare in the unstoppable beats of "Tank," the sweet joy of "Funky Glitter Christmas," and in a show-stopping cover of Seventeen’s "Aju Nice" at KCON 2022 L.A.
"What you lookin’ at?" LE SSERAFIM ask in their polished debut "Fearless," but the truth is that it was hard not to look at them in 2022. They were the first girl group to debut under HYBE, the entertainment label of groups like BTS, TXT, and ENHYPEN. Adding to the expectation, popular names such as Sakura and Chaewon from Iz*One and Mnet’s "Produce 48" contestant Yunjin also figured in the lineup.
While the anticipation was high, there was no better group to weather these challenges. With a name composed by an anagram of the phrase "I'm fearless," LE SSERAFIM proved that their core is made of steel and flawless releases. If "Fearless" showed what they came for, October’s neo-perreo-influenced "Antifragile" consolidated the quintet as a bold, blazing force to be reckoned with.
Another girl group formed through a survival show — MBC’s "My Teenage Girl" — CLASS:y debuted in May with the ambitious "Shut Down." The track steamrolls with classic Indian instruments and relentless tempo, proving that while CLASS:y might be lesser known than their peers, they are just as talented.
The full range of their skills is on display during live performances. Radiating confidence beyond their years, they tackle styles that range from Latin-inspired mid-tempos to bouncy bangers meant to stick in your mind for days.
For months, it was rumored that another girl group from HYBE would be debuting under the wings of their subsidiary label, ADOR. However, no one expected their debut to be as groundbreaking as it was. NewJeans dropped "Attention" out of the blue in late July — no teasers beforehand, no info about the members, nothing.
It worked. The release gained over 1.3 million YouTube views in less than 24 hours. Following suit came music videos for all three other tracks off their exquisite self-titled EP, including 2022’s darling summer hit, "Hype Boy." With impeccably chill vibes and an aesthetic filled with Y2K nostalgia, NewJeans were one of 2022’s biggest, most rewarding surprises.
Formed entirely by 17-year-olds, CSR debuted in the summer with a kind of sound that seemed to be forgotten in recent K-pop. Bringing back memories of groups like GFRIEND and Lovelyz, these rookies' sugary, synth-filled slice of pop effortlessly stood out.
CSR’s first single "Pop? Pop!" is layered with surprises and unfaltering hope — motifs that are repeated throughout their whimsical EP Sequence: 7272 — but it was November’s fizzy "♡TiCON" that got them their first music show win on KBS’s Music Bank, settling the group as ones to watch in 2023.
Although YES IM Entertainment is a newly established company, its CEO is none other than Im Chang-jung — a singer-songwriter and actor known in South Korea for being "the original multi-entertainer." That said, it makes sense why mimiirose left an impression right off the gate with September’s "Rose."
Boasting confident vocals over Middle Eastern-inspired chords, "Rose" offers a fair display of their charms, with special remarks to rapper and former Girls Planner 999 contestant Yoon Jia. The two other tracks off their single album Awesome don't disappoint either. With the tropical house of "Lululu" and the trickling synths of "Kill Me More," mimiirose are primed as self-assured performers with unyielding potential.
Under newcomer label ATTRAKT, Fifty Fifty debuted on Nov. 18 with a strong first EP, The Fifty.
Throughout its four dazzling tracks, the quartet displays various colors and a vocal maturity that is both hard to find and crucial to have. "Tell Me" starts the journey in what could be the perfect indie movie soundtrack, moving swiftly to the synthpop of pre-release "Lovin’ Me" and title track "Higher." By the time that edgy closer "Log In" arrives, you are already sold on Fifty Fifty’s magical appeal.
Photo by CHAI
New Music Friday: Listen To New Music From Soccer Mommy, Jenny Owen Youngs, Sublime With Rome & More
With albums and songs from some of the industry’s most influential artists, take a peek at four new tracks that dropped on Sept. 22.
As we fully enter autumn, a myriad of artists are releasing new music to add to your seasonal playlist.
There’s something for everyone this Friday, with a new album from pop queen Kylie Minogue and a highly anticipated new record from Doja Cat, Scarlet. In sounds from around the globe, J-pop group CHAI offer "neo-kawaii" '90s-inspired beats. If you’re not in the mood to dance today, albums like Jenny Owen Youngs' Avalanche are an excellent soundtrack to blissfully vibe alone.
Check out these tracks from four different artists, and add them to your mix.
Jenny Owen Youngs - Avalanche
After nearly a decade since her last album, An Unwavering Band of Light, Los Angeles singer/songwriter, Jenny Owen Youngs is back. Her Avalanche is an emotional, intimate album exploring the depths of loss, grief, self-discovery, and restoration.
"When I try to say the things I can’t/It comes out like an avalanche/How else do I prove that I adore you/Something about my savage heart/That wants to tear your world apart/And stitch it all right back together for you," Youngs sings on the title track.
The beautiful, folk-inspired tracks lean heavily on piano and guitar, pulling listeners through a field of heavy emotions. At the end of the record, "certain things will be different than they were before," she said in an interview with FLOOD.
Beyond her indie folk music, Youngs continues to master all trades. She’s a co-host for podcast "Buffering The Vampire Slayer" and "The eX-Files," in addition to her work as author and frequent collaborations.
CHAI - Chai
Dedicated with love to their Japanese culture, CHAI's fourth album features fun, female empowerment tracks that they hope redefine the meaning of "kawaii," which in Japanese describes something as cute or adorable. CHAI’s uptempo new-wave sounds and pop beats add to the band's unique aesthetic and world.
CHAI’s uptempo album features new wave sounds and pop beats, as well as '90s inspired R&B and dance tracks such as "From 1992" and "Like, I Need." CHAI doesn’t forget to acknowledge their hometown, paying tribute to the genre of Japanese city pop, shouting out family members, and reminiscing on tracks "Driving22" and "KARAOKE."
CHAI's North American tour kicks off this weekend, at Flipside Festival in Idaho.
Sublime with Rome - "All I Need"
Co-founded by former Sublime member Eric Wilson, California rock-reggae band Sublime with Rome manifest positive energy on their new single, "All I Need." The group will release a new EP, Tangerine Skies on Nov. 3.
Bassist Wilson and singer/ guitarist Rome Ramirez continue to commemorate the influence of Sublime through covers and original works. As with many of the OG group's songs, Sublime with Rome's "All I Need" makes you want to lie on the warm beach and keep the good vibes coming.
Soccer Mommy - Karaoke Night EP
If you’re looking for music that makes you feel like the main character in a 2010 coming-of-age film, this EP is for you. Soccer Mommy's Karaoke Night features five covers from artists like Taylor Swift, R.E.M., Crow, Pavement and Slowdive. She seemingly reinvented the tracks, adding her own influence and alternative twang.
Born Sophie Allison, Soccer Mommy announced Karaoke Night in August, through her own version of Taylor Swift’s song, "I’m Only Me When I’m With You." Her take is a slower, guitarted version of Taylor’s original country/indie track.
"This song is one of my favorites from Taylor’s first album," she wrote on Instagram. "I listened to that record so much when I was a kid and I think it had a lot of influence on me then."
Photo: Jacob Webster
5 Takeaways From Doja Cat's New Album 'Scarlet'
'Scarlet' is a creative reset for Doja Cat, who returns to her rap roots for the 17 track, self-written record. Read on for five takeaways from Doja's jarring journey of introspection.
Doja Cat has come such a long way since her viral hit, "Mooo!" Since her 2019 breakout album, Hot Pink, which birthed the GRAMMY-nominated Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper "Say So," the 27-year-old's musical versatility, out-of-the-box concepts, and unique aesthetic helped her become one of the buzziest stars in music today.
Following her blockbuster album, Planet Her, Doja Cat is returning to her rap roots while still challenging herself. Released on Sept. 22, Doja's fourth studio project, Scarlet, was entirely self-penned. The 17-track LP contains zero features and is named after GRAMMY winner's alter ego.
Scarlet is a creative reset, released after Doja Cat denounced her previous two albums as "cash-grabs." On "Demons," Doja addresses critics who labeled her "too pop" and doubted her rap skills: "I'm a puppet, I'm a sheep, I'm a cash cow / I'm the fastest-growing bitches on all your apps now," she raps.
Elsewhere, Scarlet sees a self-assured Doja Cat trading in her radio-friendly sound for an emotional release, which is best exemplified on tracks like "97," "Skull and Bones," "Balut, " and her latest single, "Agora Hills."
"It's kind of an intro to what's to come," she told Harper’s Bazaar in August. "This new album is more introspective, but I'm not leaning so hard into that to where it becomes boring. So I want to give stories and bops. It's a nice mixture of both.
"I think this project is a really fun canvas for me to play with my rap skills and talk about what's going on in my life," she continued. "But I'm not abandoning who I was and what I know about pop and singing and that aspect of music."
Throughout its jarring journey of introspection, here are five takeaways from Doja Cat’s new album, Scarlet.
She's Devilishly Creative In Her Scarlet Era
Doja Cat has been quirky and daring since day one, but Scarlet demonstrates her desire to reinvent herself and provoke anyone who'll listen — even if it means possibly alienating her fanbase. True to form, Scarlet had an impossible-to-miss rollout, which included her Scarlet character's nude, blood-covered wax figure popping up around the U.S.
But that stunt pales in comparison to her music videos for "Demons" and "Paint the Town Red," the latter of which is the first hip-hop song to top the Hot 100 this year.
Both visuals feature occult themes, as well as references to death and the devil, but no matter how "frightening" they may come off to some, they're further proof that Doja Cat isn't just an internet meme — she's a creative genius who knows how to demand our attention.
She's Enjoying Her Success And Fame
Multiple tracks off Scarlet, including "Paint the Town Red," "Attention," and "F— the Girls (FTG)," are a direct response to how Doja Cat's seemingly meteoric success in recent years has made her the target of jealousy and criticism from fans and peers. But "Love Life" stands out due to its lighter approach, as Doja Cat expresses her gratitude for those who helped her make it this far: "I love it when my team feel strong and them deals flowin' in" and "I understand you want me to win / I understand how hard that you bend."
Like many artists, Doja Cat's rise to fame was not without some struggle. Most notably, her "writer's block" stopped her from being able to join forces with Billie Eilish on her popular 2017 song, "Bellyache." But life now is good for the star, born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini, and she isn't apologizing for it.
But She's Aware That Celebrity Culture Has Its Dangers
A year ago, Doja Cat shocked fans when she shaved her head and eyebrows on Instagram Live, which drew some comparisons to Britney Spears’ infamous head shaving incident in 2007. Of her physical transformation, she told Dazed, "I have never felt more beautiful in my entire life."
But on lead single, "Attention," it's clear Doja isn't done setting the record straight.
"I read it, all the comments sayin', 'D, I'm really shooketh' / 'D, you need to see a therapist, is you lookin'?' / Yes, the one I got, they really are the best / Now I feel like I can see you bitches is depressed / I am not afraid to finally say s— with my chest," she raps in the first verse.
She's Not Ready To Completely Abandon Singing
The highly-anticipated release of Scarlet marks Doja Cat's official return to her rap roots, but the album isn't void of the catchy, pop-esque hooks and sugary sweet singing style she's known for on songs like "Say So," "Kiss Me More" with SZA, and "You Right" with the Weeknd.
On Scarlet's sensual "Often," she effortlessly emulates neo-soul icons like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and Maxwell as her breathy vocals take center stage. The track shows off Doja's softer side while doubling as perfect "baby-making music."
"'Cause when you run your tongue up my thigh / I can't help but wonder, hmm, why / You got so much more up yo' sleeve / You wanna make sure I don't leave," she croons on the song's chorus.
Her IDGAF Attitude Is On Full Display
In late July, Doja Cat lost half a million Instagram followers after slamming fans who call themselves "Kittenz" and use her real name as their screen names.
In addition, her relationship with boyfriend J.Cyrus — who was accused of grooming and sexual misconduct — and use of darker imagery (e.g., her "Demons" video and bat skeleton back tattoo) have sparked backlash. Yet Scarlet's "97" proves how Doja Cat is unfazed by the noise and thrives off controversy: "They gon' buy it, they gon' pirate, they gon' play it, they consume it / If you're scootin', let me know 'cause that's a comment, that's a view / And that's a ratin', that's some hatin', that's engagement I could use."
Similarly, she gets the last laugh on "Skull and Bones" and "Balut," the latter of which fires back at haters who accused her of stealing other artists' style. They speak to Doja Cat's defiant nature, which seems to be paying off for the superstar as she prepares to embark on her first headlining tour kicking off on Oct. 31.