The final results of the year’s closest race for No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart were announced on Wednesday (August 2) — with K-pop quintet NewJeans securing the top spot for their 2nd EP ‘Get Up’, with 126,500 units in its debut week (on the chart dated August 5).
That was just 500 more units than the soundtrack to the blockbuster film Barbie, which posted 126,000 units — the best single-week tally for a soundtrack since Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born set in 2019. Both top-two finishers this week also have a major Billboard Hot 100 presence: NewJeans claims three songs on the Hot 100 (led by advance single “Super Shy” at No. 48) while the Barbie soundtrack accounts for five entries (led by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s Aqua-featuring “Barbie World” at No. 7).
How did NewJeans land such a stellar first-week performance with a six-song EP? And why has the Barbie soundtrack proven such an instant success? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. NewJeans just squeaked out the victory this week over the blockbuster Barbie soundtrack with their 2nd EP, with 126,500 units in its debut week. What do you think the biggest reason is that NewJeans has achieved such success so quickly on the Billboard charts?
Rania Aniftos: They’re so cool. Simple as that. I’m (half) kidding, but I think with so many boy bands in the K-pop space breaking through into the global mainstream, we’ve been really craving some girl power. NewJeans do such a good job at reaching a global audience because their songs are not only catchy, but also appealing to fans of all ages. I’ve seen TikToks of kids dancing around to “Super Shy” and loving it just as much as their parents do, which is pretty unique when it comes to music.
Kyle Denis: I think NewJeans has arrived at precisely the right time. From the Stateside breakthroughs of BTS and BLACKPINK a few years back to the recent Billboard 200 triumphs of STRAY KIDS and TWICE, the U.S. market is very receptive to K-Pop across the board right now. Sonically, their new EP drips with the sounds that have been dominating America’s mainstream: U.K. garage and Jersey club. Couple that with their flourishes of Y2K aesthetics, sleek melodies and irresistible hooks, and you’re left with an EP that is very in tune with where American music and culture are at in 2023 while still feeling fresh.
Lyndsey Havens: I think the biggest reason is the pacing of its releases — while NewJeans didn’t overwhelm the market, the act released just enough at just consistent enough of a rate that they always stayed sort of top of mind, without ever becoming oversaturated. Its first two EPs arrived just about one year apart, and the time between was filled with one-offs like “Ditto” “OMG” and “Zero” — plus collaborations and remixes with Jon Batiste and J.I.D. And not only have they been consistent with timing, but with quality as well, which is arguably even more important.
Jason Lipshutz: NewJeans’ rapid ascent — first with songs like “OMG” and “Ditto,” and now with this chart-topping EP — is due to their combination of their K-pop fan appeal and their smart, natural deviation from traditional K-pop production. The group has been able to tap into a massive listenership while offering them something new, and reaching non-K-pop fans in the process: the video for “Super Shy,” for instance, contains the group choreography and individual personality showcases typically affiliated with a K-pop visual, but the song’s rhythmic base and shuffling hooks are just as likely to beguile R&B and hyperpop fans. NewJeans offer a new, broadly enjoyable flavor of popular music, and it’s connecting.
Andrew Unterberger: NewJeans are clearly on pop’s cutting edge for 2023 — their sound plays in any language, for any audience — and they have the songwriting, hooks and personality to back up the production. It’s a recipe for success — which, unlike with many of their peers, can already be seen in streaming hit singles as well as in robust album sales.
2. While several K-pop outfits have topped the Billboard 200 already this year, NewJeans has separated itself from the pack of rising stars by scoring a trio of Hot 100 entries already — led by Get Up’s “Super Shy,” at No. 48 this week in its third week on the listing. Do you think it will grow into an even bigger pop hit, or is this the best showing it will likely have?
Rania Aniftos: It’s probably just the beginning. Now that the album has topped the Billboard 200, even more potential fans will get introduced to the group and check out their music. “Super Shy” is such a fun song, so I can’t imagine that NewJeans fans won’t continue to boost its success.
Kyle Denis: I think “Super Shy” can definitely grow into a bigger pop hit. Obviously, with TikTok anything is possible, and we just saw FIFTY FIFTY make history on pop radio for South Korean all-female groups with “Cupid.” Given the heavy Jersey club influence of “Super Shy,” the song wouldn’t sound out of place next to PinkPantheress and Ice Spice’s “Boy’s A Liar, Pt. 2” or Bad Bunny’s “Where She Goes,” so the potential for growth is certainly there.
Lyndsey Havens: I think it will continue to grow, especially following the EPs impressive debut week. And while NewJeans has already explored the remix format, “Super Shy” seems like an ideal follow-up — and I would imagine the list of artists willing to hop on is quite long by now.
Jason Lipshutz: I’m not sure exactly how high it will climb, but “Super Shy” is one of the most immediately enchanting pop singles of the year — catchy, bubbly, carrying a sense of space and a feeling of intimacy. The recent success of FIFTY FIFTY’s “Cupid” makes me feel even more bullish that K-pop singles can cross over to U.S. top 40 radio — a platform that has generally shrugged off tracks by non-stadium headliners — and I think “Super Shy” will make some inroads at pop stations in order to enter the top 40 of the Hot 100.
Andrew Unterberger: They’ll get one soon enough. “Super Shy” seems like a good bet to be that official crossover breakthrough, but if it’s not this one it’ll probably be another within a year’s time.
3. Meanwhile, Barbie posts the best single-week number for a soundtrack since 2019. Is that mostly just a function of how big the accompanying movie has already become, or do you think the soundtrack establishes a character of its own as a full listen?
Rania Aniftos: Both! In my experience, I listened to the soundtrack because I was so excited about living the Barbie fantasy, but then realized that there are some really good songs on there that stand perfectly on their own without the movie’s context. I find myself listening to some of the soundtrack’s hits on repeat even though the Barbie hype is starting to subside, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Kyle Denis: As a complete package, I’m not crazy about the Barbie soundtrack. Nonetheless, there are enough songs on the album that double as memorable and pivotal moments in the film for the soundtrack to stick. Obviously, the record-breaking success of the film helped these first-week numbers, but with four tracks — “Barbie World,” “Dance the Night,” “Speed Drive” and “What Was I Made For?” — growing into legitimate streaming and radio hits, I anticipate some impressive stability for the soundtrack’s consumption numbers in the weeks to come.
Lyndsey Havens: I think it’s both — and that’s sort of the genius of it all. The soundtrack was so perfectly tailor-made for the film — and yet, it also stands strong on its own as original songs by Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish would sound just as at home on projects of their own. (The real test will be if Eilish live debuts “What Was I Made For” during her headlining set at Lollapalooza this weekend). Plus, having physical formats available on release date allowed people to buy in right then and there, and helped the soundtrack to exist as a separate, tangible entity.
Jason Lipshutz: My wife and I were driving around the other day, listening to the Today’s Top Hits playlist on Spotify, and “Barbie World” played back-to-back with “Dance the Night” — a pretty good sign for a big-budget soundtrack! The success of the Barbie film, which has practically become a cultural phenomenon, obviously boosted the debut sales week of its accompanying album, but the main reason why the soundtrack has done so well is because it has hits that can stand on their own. Some function within the context of the Barbie film more than others, but when you have big artists delivering their A-games and scoring real chart achievements, your soundtrack is going to do big numbers.
Andrew Unterberger: The soundtrack is a very fun and fairly coherent listen front to back — not every song is a gem, but every song keeps the momentum up, and a handful of tracks do feel like real hits. As someone who still hasn’t seen the Barbie movie (I know, I know, I’ll get to it soon enough), if I was at a party or in a car ride and someone threw on the soundtrack, I’d still be able to enjoy myself pretty thoroughly — a rarity for OSTs in 2023, to be sure.
4. Barbie also claims six songs on the Hot 100 this week: Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s Aqua-featuring “Barbie World” (No. 8), Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” (No. 12), Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” (No. 18), Charli XCX’s “Speed Drive” (No. 73) and Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” (No. 87). Which of the bunch, if any, do you think makes for the best listening when removed from the larger Barbie context?
Rania Aniftos: I’m torn between “Dance the Night” and “What Was I Made For.” As we’ve seen with “Levitating,” Dua knows how to keep a disco-pop track on the charts, on the radio, in the clubs and basically anywhere you can listen to music. “Dance the Night” is very similar to me, so I’m guessing it will have a similar impact. Meanwhile, I’ve already been seeing “What Was I Made For” striking a chord with listeners on TikTok, as this new generation of music listeners seem to be more existential. They’re connecting the songs with their own experiences of feeling used or unseen for who they truly are, and I think the song is going to stick around for a while.
Kyle Denis: “Barbie World” is such a fun flip of the Aqua sample that you can’t help but bop along, but, for me, the real star of the soundtrack is Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” It’s an absolutely devastating ballad that boasts the best placement in the film, but the lyrics and production of the song are just as effective when removed from the context of Barbie. Sure, it’s a bit of a heavy song for the summertime, but you can’t deny its greatness. Then again, if you’ve truly tapped into the Kenergy within you, Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” is always a great listen.
Lyndsey Havens: Personally, I have not been able to stop listening to “I’m Just Ken” — like really, it’s becoming an issue. But that song is arguably the most tied to the film… as is “Barbie World.” Which is why, I think, “Dance the Night” and “Made For” have been the most affecting for me; Both sound like they could have been left on the cutting room floor of Future Nostalgia and Happier Than Ever, respectively. But in the context of the film, they also sound like they were only made with Barbie in mind. That kind of duality — to resonate with something so specific and so universal all at once — is why I think those two songs will keep climbing.
Jason Lipshutz: “Dance the Night,” for sure. Maybe the Barbie single isn’t Dua Lipa’s strongest glittery disco-pop single to date, but I’ll be damned if we weren’t starving for a new glittery disco-pop Dua Lipa single, now nearly three and a half years removed from the release of Future Nostalgia. The song has grown on me, sounds great on pop radio, possesses one of the best bridges of any hit single this year, and will keep performing well whenever the Barbie hype starts to dissipate.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s almost comical to me how good “What Was I Made For?” is — Billie and Finneas could’ve very easily phoned in their Barbie ballad, but instead reached so deep inside with this one that it sounds like a particularly emotionally wrought therapy session. Given how relatively uncommercial the song is and how much listeners are still responding to it, you can tell that it’s resonating far beyond the Barbieverse.
5. It hasn’t always been the most exciting year for new pop blood on the charts, but the combo of NewJeans and the Barbie hits is one of the better infusions we’ve had in a bit. What other pop artist, currently scheduled (strictly or loosely) for an upcoming 2023 release, are you most excited to hear a new album from this year?
Rania Aniftos: Olivia Rodrigo, of course. She’s coming to save 2023 pop. Trust me.
Kyle Denis: I’m very excited for the upcoming records from Reneé Rapp (Snow Angel) and Holly Humberstone (Paint My Bedroom Black).
Lyndsey Havens: Well, we already got a new album from Posty, so even if we call it here and now I’m ending the year on a high. That said, I’ve been listening to a lot of Selena Gomez lately and would be excited about a new album from her… And then, of course, there’s Ariana. Perhaps with production paused for Wicked she’ll venture back into the studio… There’s certainly a lot of inspiration for another hit (or several) these days.
Jason Lipshutz: “Rush” has me buzzing with anticipation for the new Troye Sivan album, which is due out in October. Could he finally cross over as a hitmaker? How many songs will approach the sky-high quality of that lead single? I’m amped to see what Sivan has in store, and what he can accomplish commercially.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s been a long road to Chappell Roan’s debut album, and you just hope that it gets the attention it’s sure to deserve as one of the year’s most fun and funniest pop sets.