NewJeans, HYBE Labels’ freshest girl group, has met with a lot of attention since their surprise debut in July. The group got introduced to the public through the single “Attention,” followed by three other songs, “Hype Boy,” “Hurt,” and “Cookie.” While the freshness of their music gained a lot of praise, the quintet also got entangled in some controversies.
After the group debuted, there was already some buzz surrounding the members’ young age. But people’s ‘concern’ turned into full-blown controversies when NewJeans dropped their latest single, “Cookie.”
Some netizens found the lyrics to be full of sexual innuendo. For context, the word “cookie” seemed like an analogy for female genitalia to some English-speaking natives. From that perspective, these listeners interpreted lines like “I’m hiding it, but I want to see you more” and “Take it, don’t break it, I wanna see you taste it” to be highly inappropriate and sexually provocative for a group full of minors to sing.
But now, the group’s label ADOR has released a lengthy official statement addressing the controversy, as well as explaining their intent behind the song. In the statement, the label clarified in contrary to the rumors, the song is not written by a man but by two women in their 30s. The lyrical theme of “Cookie” was to show NewJeans’ music as a warm and comforting dessert to music lovers.
When you reach for dessert instead, you’re looking for something more exciting than an everyday meal that goes beyond merely filling you up and tastes great, too. “Cookie” has the confidence to do just that while remaining humble enough to call itself a dessert and express that in a cute way. The underlying message of the song is the value of NewJeans’ attempt to make new and original music. That’s why, even though we produce NewJeans’ music and all the related content for everyone to enjoy, it “ain’t for free” and can only be found at our place.
The song’s theme revolves around the similarity between the process of burning CDs and baking cookies, both of which share the similar conceptual verb “굽다” (Khubda) in the Korean language.
The music video opens with a cookie rolling in and ends with a CD rolling out. This unexpected change was meant to drive the message home further.
The label also revealed that the lyrics were reviewed by several experts, including English professors, professional interpreters, translators, and native speakers after the issue broke out. The consensus there was that people might interpret the meaning based on their personal experiences and what slang they are exposed to. But there was no reason to believe that a sexual interpretation would be the universal one among different subsets of the listeners.
Slang terms aren’t taught in school and not everyone is familiar with them. It’s impossible for people to be familiar with every idiom and offensive term out there and predicting their reception around the world is an even more challenging task.
Netizens have reacted pretty positively to this explanation. Many felt that the issue stemmed from the arrogant presumption that every part of the world is aware of English slang words that are restricted to specific cultures and communities. Many also felt that those who hypersexualized the lyrics in the first place should reflect on why they did so, despite being aware that these are a bunch of teenagers singing the song.
ngl there's levels to the arrogance that only exist within monolinguals who speak English. they somehow always expect everyone to know their slangs and always interpreted things with /their/ cultural context. it irked https://t.co/46MeLlaZTZ
— rhea🃏⁷ (slow) (@fated0613) August 27, 2022
ADOR, too, directly called out the motive of the people fuelling such controversies surrounding the group. Addressing the concern around the young age of NewJeans members, the statement said that the members are 19, 18, 17, and 15 years old (in Korean age) which is similar to the lineup of many other 4th gen groups active right now. Yet, it was only NewJeans that got portrayed as an unusually young group.
It’s necessary to ask who benefits from the growing accusation about our label having an underhanded motive. The members of NewJeans sing, “Attention is what I want,” but this is in no way the kind of attention that the group, nor ADOR, nor even their adoring fans, are after, and these unfounded rumors have really taken their toll on everyone involved with the project.
Fans feel that the explanation is justified and was necessary to shut down all the unexpected negativity around NewJeans’ debut.