When NMixx debuted last year with “O.O,” the experimental, genre-bending track garnered polarizing opinions. The group’s follow-up single “Dice,” released six months ago, was just as daring. Now, JYP Entertainment’s newest girl group is back with their first mini album Expérgo, finally pushing NMixx’s discography to over 10 songs. The arrival of Expérgo also marks the first comeback of the now-six member group since Jinni departed in December due to personal reasons.
“Expérgo” is Latin for “to awaken,” an apt title for this tight, six-track collection. Something just felt different when NMixx released their highlight medley acapella. There are impressive moments, of course, in “Dice” and “O.O” where listeners truly understand NMixx’s vocal prowess, but this is often drowned out by the loud, fused-together production.
This disorienting production, dubbed “mixx pop,” helped catapult NMixx onto radars fast, but as Expérgo shows, it is now time to solidify their position in the K-pop scene. With so many new girl groups debuting—and going viral—such as NewJeans, XG, and Fifty Fifty, what exactly makes NMixx NMixx?
Expérgo aims to provide an answer. The short answer? NMixx’s vocal harmony, offbeat sense of humor, and the auditory surprises in their music do the trick. They do not need to rely on the jarring factor from their earlier singles; however, their signature change-ups do exist in their new songs, just a little more subtly. (But it is mostly their voices.)
NMixx’s pre-released track “Young, Dumb, Stupid” kicks off the mini album. In it, Haewon sings in the chorus, “Let’s take a step further.” This short sentence frames the rest of Expérgo, announcing to the world that NMixx will keep moving forward and doing what they want to do with confidence. The six relish being young through these six tracks and highlight the special, carefree, and joyful experiences that often come alongside youth. NMixx are carving a path for themselves by declaring, “Let’s show what we can do, for it is more than anyone could have expected.”
To set the tone of their new era, NMixx released “Young, Dumb, Stupid” on March 12. For a “mixx pop” track, it starts off smoother than the group’s other titles despite the upbeat snaps in its opening. (Remember the wonky change in the first few seconds of “O.O?”) To be honest, this unexpected “ordinary-ness” may catch listeners off guard, especially if they are familiar with NMixx’s proud dedication to “mixx pop.”
Then the twist comes, the “Let’s take a step further.” The chorus samples the French nursery rhyme, “Frère Jacques,” and layers another surprise into this section by having the girls of NMixx sing a round. The songwriters cleverly wrote “Not a moment predictable / From the first scene, it’s climax” as the last line of the pre-chorus. Of course, then “Young, Dumb, Stupid” launches into “Frère Jacques,” the clear and bright vocals weaving beautifully together.
Even with this hook, NMixx manage to squeeze in another change-up in the bridge. This gem of a section strips back the accompaniment, save a crescendoing drumbeat, and spotlights the six members’ voices. The bridge is for the glee/acapella lovers, and NMixx deliver, sealing the intensifying but buoyant energy with a high note from Lily.
“Just Did It” is also—unexpectedly—a song from Expérgo that takes another step forward. The EDM track co-written by Kenzie, a hitmaker for many SM Entertainment artists, pulses with bravado and certainty. If anything, “Just Did It” is proof NMixx and their team love cultivating contrast in the group’s discography. Imagine a romantic, fairytale-esque song but pair it with a force of frantic energy emerging from the weighty and discordant production.
Not only does this push of darker energy follow the bright, singsongy “Young, Dumb, Stupid” and “Love Me Like This,” the upbeat title track of Expérgo, but NMixx actually sing of a “magical” connection they have discovered. The six members claim the five senses as their own, funneling confidence into each word they sing:
You wanna feel it, I just did it
You wanna hear it, I just did it
You wanna see it, I just did
I just did it
The no-brainer confidence infused into “Just Did It” rushes through “Love Me Like This,” too. NMixx take this track of eyebrow-raising simplicity (again, remember “mixx pop”) and create something unexpectedly memorable. The “step further” strand appears through the subtle production and the repetition of the lyrical hook (“love me like this, love me like that”). NMixx add their flair to these basics by maintaining the energy of the song and attacking the beat with admirable crispness. It also helps that “Love Me Like This” gets catchier with each listen, especially when you see the choreography.
NMixx bring their sharp edges to their title track and demand to be seen and heard. They spit out the hook, “Love me like this, love me like that” while the bass growls underneath their hypnotizing chants. The title track of Expérgo center the vocals of JYP’s youngest girl group as well as the skill it takes to execute this track. “Love Me Like This” and its punchy rhythm needs to have every piece in place for it to make the impact it set out to accomplish.
“My Gosh” and “Home” put NMixx’s voices in the clearest focus. However, the closing song, “Home,” is arguably the weakest on Expérgo. The vocal cohesion the six demonstrated in the first five tracks does not exist as tightly. Production-wise, “Home” goes back to the group’s polarizing roots. A heavier, pulsing bass and rapid vocal phrases back the obvious drive in the first verse: “Put a starting point, not a period.” NMixx then settle into a swinging melody as they alternate singing, “I don’t wanna go home.” (This track arrived just in time for NMixx’s first showcase tour, which is set to begin in May.)
It is in the chorus and the belting of this sentimental line where “Home” falls flat. The six clearly have pipes and fine-tuned control over them, but the power behind “home” is jarring instead. This may be because the sound of “home” sticks out so much from the texture of the track. The chorus also often has a belted line preceding a more delicate one, creating a juxtaposition that hits the ear as rather off-balance.
However, “Home” does complete the story NMixx set out to tell in Expérgo. They “want to face you, big world,” determined to challenge whatever they encounter in life and whatever gets hurled their way. With this firm connection and message, it is disappointing that “Home” does not land as well as it could have.
NMixx have shown an impenetrable side in their music, but they reveal their vulnerabilities in “My Gosh.” They sing of “new feelings,” their now full heart—which “used to be empty”—and natural connections. As Lily steadily reaches for higher notes, the other members gently weave another vocal tapestry through the lower harmonies.
They continue to dream, just as they did in the mini’s two central tracks and its closing, “Home.” They also explore a little more of young love in “My Gosh.” A dreamy melody and an R&B touch transport listeners to a peaceful place, as the voices of the members float higher and higher. NMixx “found the answer called you”—possibly a nod to their fandom, Nswer—and allow themselves to show a softer side.
Besides the pre-release and the title track, “Paxxword” marks itself as the third strongest song on Expérgo. Placed in the third slot, “Paxxword” is a vocal playground that was created specifically for the choir people and the acapella lovers. With a touch of older Shinee, NMixx bring forth the playfulness they exhibited in past releases such as “Funky Glitter Christmas.”
The first 10 seconds of “Paxxword” is such an auditory delight. NMixx’s voices blend together seamlessly as they harmonize their “da, da-da-das.” Their vocals run after one another, dip when called to, and almost seem to laugh with excitement. Light and carefree singing reflects their exploration of a crush. There is a clear story in “Paxxword,” and it whirls with fun and creativity, similar to the tone of their Alice in Wonderland concept for “Dice.”
The six members try to understand this unnamed “you,” maybe a romantic interest, by attempting to find “the code to connect” themselves with this person. NMixx compare this enigma of a crush to getting the password for a locked phone, as they sing, “Gather all the data, mix it around.” In a bit of a concerning yet amusing twist, the girls even get desperate enough to go into their “hacker mode.” While NMixx’s vocal execution at the opening of “Paxxword” could be considered their “step further” of this track, the lyrics also reveal another surprising element that calls listeners back for one more play.
Expérgo gets the job done. NMixx wants to give fans and non-fans an answer of who they are, and the six members do just that. However, there is room to grow—even veteran artists experience this. Putting “Young, Dumb, Stupid,” “Love Me Like This,” and “Paxxword” at the beginning of the mini set expectations high.
Unfortunately, the latter half of Expérgo falls flat. While these three tracks did showcase a wider range for NMixx, touching on EDM and R&B genres for example, they could not compare with the vocal skill the group demonstrated earlier in the EP. Despite this, Expérgo remains a solid beginning to hammering out the artistic identity of NMixx.
YouTube. Lyrics via Genius, LyricsKpop Images via JYP Entertainment.