The Origins of MIXX POP: Who Did It First?


On February 24, 2022, two days after NMIXX debuted with “O.O” on their single album AD MARE, E Daily reported on the release and introduced the term “MIXX POP” to the world via a statement from JYP.

“NMIXX is creating a fresh sensation in the music industry by pioneering a new genre called 'MIXX POP,” stated E Daily, one of Korea’s top newspapers. “NMIXX threw its hat into the music industry with its debut album title song "Ooh"(O.O) equipped with "MIXX POP," a new genre with unconventional attempts. According to JYP, MIXX POP refers to a genre that mixes two or more genres in one song and can feel multiple charms at the same time.”

With that definition, it’s hard to imagine how JYP could put a label on something that’s been around for such a long time. Isn’t mixing two or more genres in one song just genre fusion?

It’s when you listen to “O.O” that the MIXX POP genre becomes clear as day. The song starts with a darker, dystopian theme, but after the first chorus, the girls chant “NMIXX!” and switch to what sounds like a completely different song. This abrupt change is highlighted in the music video by the 7 members falling through a door into a different world, changing from a gritty concept to a pop punk, girl-powered fantasy concept complete with flying pastries and modern princess dresses.

The new style continues for two full verses and a bridge before member Lily’s high note transports listeners back to the “initial song” audibly and to a new girl-crush concept in the MV. In less than 3 minutes, NMIXX gives us 2 songs and 3 visual concepts.

In practice, MIXX POP seems maximalist and cheeky, almost delighting in the listeners not knowing what’s coming next. Unlike common genre-fusion, NMIXX puts two genres together the way you would stack different colored LEGOs– not blending, but interlocking.

Even with how unconventional the song is, many K-pop fans can’t help but argue that the unique MIXX POP genre doesn’t belong to NMIXX and isn’t unique at all. The endless discourse about MIXX POP can go deep, but at the core of every conversation are a few seemingly simple questions:

What is MIXX POP? Is JYP claiming something that already exists? And if it already exists, where did it come from, and who actually started it?

If you’re just as curious about these answers as we are, buckle in and join us for a ride. It starts with clearing up what MIXX POP is and isn’t. 

Is MIXX POP a glorified mashup?

If MIXX POP is brand new to a listener, they might think it’s one of the most bizarre mash-ups they’ve heard. If that’s the closest kind of song they can imagine to compare it to, it makes sense that so many consider “O.O” or “DICE” to be disjointed. 

However, MIXX POP songs are not mashups. 

A mashup is a music track created by blending elements of two different songs to create a new song. “Sherlock (Clue + Note)” by SHINee, for example, is quite literally two songs put together– ”Clue” and “Note” from the Sherlock album. The shared genre and style of the songs blend so seamlessly that most people don’t even know it’s a mashup. 

Ultimately, MIXX POP doesn’t blend, it shifts and interlocks. And, the defining rule of two or more genres is key.

Is MIXX POP a type of Rhapsody?

No matter what, NMIXX’s MIXX POP songs don’t sound like your typical song, K-Pop or otherwise. Not knowing what comes next, the complete immersion in each section, and not knowing if the wedged-together sounds are disjointed or inspired all lead some listeners to put “O.O” in the same category as British Boy Band Queen’s 1975 release “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Or rather, a messy attempt at it. 

But that’s not exactly right. 

According to Classic FM, a rhapsody is a “single-movement work that is episodic (i.e. has distinct groups of musical ideas), free-flowing in structure, and features a range of highly contrasting moods.” A rhapsody takes you on a journey and may give the feeling that it’s improvised. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the most popular song in this style within pop culture with six highly contrasting sections that switch between ballads, opera, classical, and hard rock.

Considering South Korea has proven its love for Queen and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s only natural that elements of rhapsody have spread into the K-Pop industry since the 1990s. The best example and maybe the only true example that gets anywhere near the virality of Queen’s work, is Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy.” 

Released on January 1, 2013, “I Got a Boy” gave a downright bizarre start to the New Year. Truly no description of “IGAB” can beat listening to the song yourself. It has multiple intros and choruses, verses where bridges would be, and dramatic, almost theatrical transitions. As for genre, there’s EDM, pop, hip-hop, and rap... at least

After twists and turns throughout the song, member Jessica says her iconic line, “Let’s bring it back to 140” and throws the song back to what you might consider one of the true choruses of the song then brings the song home with one of the most famous bridges and exhilarating outros in K-Pop.

Once we pick our jaws off the floor, we can ask a very common question: is “I Got a Boy” the real birth of MIXX POP? 

Is “I Got a Boy” by Girls’ Generation MIXX POP?

Well… not really. Please put down your pitchfork and understand why that is. There are two main reasons why “I Got a Boy” wouldn't be considered the first real MIXX POP song. 

First, think of songs like "I Got a Boy" and MIXX POP like squares and rectangles. All pop rhapsodies (squares) are MIXX POP by definition, but not all MIXX POP songs (rectangles) are rhapsodies. In fact, NMIXX has yet to make a rhapsody at all.

The high contrast of the sections in NMIXX’s “O.O” and “DICE” are excellent at hiding how cleanly organized the songs are. There are three sections: the initial composition, the second, highly contrasting composition, and a return to the initial composition. One abrupt transition is used to go into the second section, usually announced with the girls saying a variation of “NMIXX” or “Change up” and then there’s a slight build-up to a switch back to the initial composition. It’s more intentional than improvised and gives two contrasting sounds vs. a range of 4 to 6. All of NMIXX’s MIXX POP songs follow this structure.  

The second reason “I Got a Boy” isn’t the first real MIXX POP song is because something’s already competing for that title. Let’s take it back to 1999 for the release of H.O.T.’s “I yah!”. 

JYP specified two genres or more, but it didn’t say which two genres. “I yah!” is grungy and gritty, with more shouting than a K-pop song from the 2020s. The heavy rock/hip hop fusion fluidly switches to a ballad sung over Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” so suddenly it’s hard to process what happened. Member Kangta sings soulfully until the bridge is completed with a rap before returning to the chorus. Comparatively, this is much closer to MIXX POP than “Sherlock” or “I Got a Boy.” 

Fast forward a bit, to 2004 and you have “Tri-Angle” by TVXQ! Feat. BoA and TRAX.

What. A. Whirlwind.

TVXQ! fused nu-metal and K-pop for their initial composition. Following a somewhat standard structure, the song gets to BoA’s solo for a bridge. But just when you wonder when TRAX comes in, BoA finishes, a countdown begins and TRAX crashes in with a metal breakdown. Then the song rips you back into TVXQ!’s initial composition for another refrain and a final chorus. 

So, if you look at K-Pop over time, songs like “I yah” that wedge together two genres evolved into an even riskier song like “Tri-Angle” that wedges in genres AND plays with additional song elements. Those both evolved into “I Got A Boy” which wedges genres AND plays with song elements within sections AND centers bright pop. And you could say “O.O” is a sort of evolution of all three in that it’s a cleaned-up, modern pop version of all of these examples.

Though “I Got a Boy” isn’t the first real MIXX POP song, as far as influence, “I Got a Boy” undoubtedly helped pave the way for experimental pop songs that don’t play it safe. The most accurate statement would be that “I Got a Boy” is one of the songs that walked so MIXX POP songs could run.

Did NMIXX create MIXX POP?

So what’s the consensus? Did NMIXX do MIXX POP as we know it first? There's one final boss in this discussion.

In November 2020, the girl group aespa debuted and just six months later they released the song, “Next Level.” Unlike the other examples above that share commonalities with MIXX POP and are likely inspirations for it, “Next Level” is different.

“Next Level” by aespa is the MIXX POP we know.

There are three distinct genres in “Next Level,” the first luring you into the song with a standard structure of Verse 1 - Pre-Chorus - Chorus - Verse 2, then changes to a melodic, R&B breakdown. It’s a nice surprise and anyone would think the song would go into the big finale from there, but instead, member Karina says “Beat drop.” Suddenly a completely new composition enters the song, and you’re listening to an old-school hip-hop, rap, and R&B blend. Then with an “ooh-wee,” you’re brought back to the pre-chorus of the song’s initial composition and aespa finishes it with the chorus. 

Complete with common K-Pop themes and song styles, “Next Level” is the MIXX POP that JYP has claimed in definition and practice and it came out 9 months before the trademarked pioneers debuted.  

So was NMIXX the first to test drive MIXX POP? No. Even in the various uses of it from February 2022 to now, NMIXX’s title tracks are structures we’ve seen before. Considering the backlash from K-Pop listeners around the world, JYP received after this announcement in 2022, this news isn’t exactly shocking. 

It also has no bearing on NMIXX’s talent. No matter the kind of song they are presented with, the 6 girls have been excellent vocalists, dancers, and overall performers since their debut. 

Who created MIXX POP?

Let’s rewind. 

MIXX POP in any of its iterations isn’t widespread enough for two songs in this style to be released within a year of each other by two groups who have different concepts. So how did that happen? While the timing of the releases may be a coincidence, the existence of aespa’s “Next Level” is not as random as you’d think. 

H.O.T, TVXQ! (BoA and TRAX), SHINee, Girls’ Generation, and aespa all have two commonalities. The first is that they’re all artists under SM Entertainment. 

The second is that their songs, “I yah” (1999), “TRI-ANGLE” (2004), “I Got a Boy” (2013), and “Next Level” (2021) all share a main producer: Yoo Young-jin.

SM Entertainment Producer, Yoo Young-jin

It’s rare for one style to ever completely have one sole inventor, but most genres have undisputed “giants” and “grandmothers/fathers” of the music. In the case of this genre-splicing musical structure, Yoo Young-jin is notorious for being one of those giants. 

Imagine experimental and unusual genre mixing in the K-Pop industry. You may think of “Rising Sun” by TVXQ!, but also EXO’s “MAMA”, “Tempo”, and “Obsession.” Or maybe NCT U’s “Boss” and “Baby Don’t Stop,” NCT Dream’s “Go” and “Hot Sauce”, NCT 127’s “Kick It”, “Regular”, and “Simon Says”. Maybe even Irene and Seulgi’s Monster album with “Naughty” and “Monster.” 

If any of these came to mind, you’re looking at the strong presence of Yoo Young-jin’s work over the years. Sometimes a solo producer and songwriter, sometimes part of a producing team alongside the likes of Kenzie and Dem Jointz, and sometimes a consultant, Yoo Young-jin has a rich career history. The list above is barely scratching the surface. Don’t think it’s all been sunshine and rainbows, though. Yoo Young-jin’s production discography is littered with risks. 

Many Girls’ Generation fans still don’t like “I Got a Boy.” And when SM took on their remastering project in 2021, some fans asked why they would bother with “Tri-Angle”, a track they couldn’t get used to even after 15 years. For newer K-Pop fans, you may recognize one of the projects he worked on as the most controversial song of the 4th generation: “Sticker” by NCT 127. Yoo Young-jin likely has just as many fans as he does haters. But considering that an SM group will periodically put a jarringly produced and/or written Yoo Young-jin song like aespa with “Next Level”, some major successes must have overshadowed the polarizing reviews.

It’s also important to point out that Yoo Young-jin’s work has its own flavor to it. While Red Velvet’s 2019 release “Zimzalabim” or NCT 127’s “2 Baddies” are experimental and genre-bending with noticeable sections, they don’t sound like Yoo Young-jin productions or variations of it. On the flip side, that’s also why you can see where his influence inspired parts of “O.O” and “DICE.” But if Yoo Young-jin has a reputation for music like this, why didn’t he or SM claim it like JYP did? Or better yet, why wouldn’t any producer who takes from rhapsody in their own fresh way come out with a group like NMIXX before JYP?

We’ll never know for sure. A guess could be that there doesn’t seem to be a reason to. This modified rhapsody type of mixing is more of a style choice than a singular genre. It’s also vague to describe a genre as simply consisting of two or more unspecified existing genres. It’s kind of like saying the genre of “Sherlock” is mashup, even though “Clue” and “Note” already have genres. 

Not only that but as mentioned before, Yoo Young-jin hasn’t exactly seen smooth sailing. It’s hard to imagine how long the process from idea to release must be to get even one of these tracks to be as well received as they are. Up until this point, groups who’ve played with "MIXX POP" before it was claimed did so sparingly, with gaps between their use of it, if they ever even use it again. To not only claim the “genre” but assign it to one specific group as a concept (and name it after them) is announcing that you’re taking on a challenge that doesn’t have a clear payoff. 

Big risks lead to big rewards, though. NMIXX will have to patiently take the good with the bad and JYP will have to dig its heels in if they want to see the fruits of their labor. 

Unfortunately, some fans see that the strong MIXX POP foundation NMIXX had right out of the gate, may already be crumbling just over two years later. 


Not including instrumentals or collaborations with other artists, NMIXX has 23 songs in their discography. Of those songs, “O.O” and “DICE” are arguably the only true MIXX POP. The “Soñar” change-up is only 16 seconds long and doesn’t have a strong contrast with the rest of the song. Their most recent lead single, “DASH,” is the least MIXX POP of them all. Though they say “NMIXX change up,” the section is absolutely a (very delightful) bridge. 

While you could have hopes that MIXX POP will make a comeback within the girls’ discography, at the end of 2023, NMIXX performed two new versions of “O.O.” The first is a complete song with only the initial composition and the second is a complete version of the change-up’s composition. This was… an interesting choice for NMIXX and a statement that seems to say they’re backing down from MIXX POP altogether. 

If they recorded and released these two songs, they would retroactively reveal that “O.O” is a mashup. Is that what JYP means by this? Who’s to say? It would be disappointing if so. Many Day-1-NSWERs love the concept, and this could have been exciting to watch unfold. 

Truthfully, JYP not having a consistent producer for their MIXX POP songs since the beginning likely indicated that they didn’t know what direction they would take. The group also took a decently long break from even attempting MIXX POP between “DICE” and “Soñar,” potentially using that to distance themselves from the style. It’s looking like MIXX POP as we know it is on the back burner if it’s even still cooking. We may see JYP and NMIXX rebrand MIXX POP to simply mean "NMIXX's general sound" soon.

This isn’t to say that NMIXX sold out or turned generic, though. NSWER’s know it best: NMIXX actually has quite a defined sound outside of MIXX POP. If they are moving on from the style already, they’ll have fans old and new waiting for them. 

In the end, rather than pioneering an unheard-of genre, NMIXX took on the adventure of sustaining MIXX POP as a genre over time. Only time will tell if they’re still on that journey. In the meantime, they may see new challengers.

After leaving SM Entertainment in March 2023, Yoo Young-jin was spotted with SM founder and former CEO, Lee Soo Man. Rumors are circulating that they’re putting together a teen idol group. 

Benni Bradford

Benni Bradford is a writer, music enthusiast, and podcast host based in the US. Benni’s fascination and love for K-Pop can be traced back to 2010 when 2ne1 and f(x) rocked their world. You can find Benni ulting 2ne1, Loona, and Ateez, doing unnecessarily deep deep dives on K-Pop industry trends, and playing with their cat, Oliver.

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