NewJeans Controversy


Group photo of NewJeans members.

Tiffany Tran, Opinions Editor

The new song, Attention by NewJeans has recently taken a storm on Tiktok. The sound is used in 90.2k videos, the app deems it “popular.” The girl group’s popularity began to skyrocket but became infamous in the process.

NewJeans is a newly debuted K-Pop group created by HYBE Entertainment. HYBE is a South Korean-based entertainment company known for its different K-Pop groups. Some groups are BTS, ENYPHEN, LE SSERAFIM, and SEVENTEEN; groups with millions of followers and fans worldwide. The girls first debuted on July 22, 2022, with their EP of the same name: New Jeans. The day before, the members introduced themselves individually on Tiktok.

Minji, the oldest, is 18 years old, then Hanni, Haerin, Danielle, and the youngest, Hyein. Due to the age range of the members being 14-18 years old, controversy ignites over the songs released and the overarching theme of the group.

 The producer of NewJeans, Min Heejin, is a South Korean art director and graphic designer who is the chief brand officer of HYBE and CEO of the sublabel, ADOR, previously the Creative director of SM Entertainment according to Wikipedia. Heejin is known for branding groups like Girls’ Generation, Shinee, and Red Velvet. Unfortunately, this skilled producer is infamous for the sexualization of minors and accusations of supporting pedophilia. 

Although this has happened a multitude of times in the Korean music industry, members are put into clothes that “do not fit their age”. The article “Under 19 and full of innuendos: NewJeans controversy is latest in K-pop sexualization” from Korea JoongAng Daily goes into full detail about this theme happening for a long time in the industry. Fans attempt to write it off as the group’s concept or aesthetic, Y2K. This type of fashion has become very popular lately with its outfits being inspired by the 2000s. In some cases, this is not true. In one photo, Minji is shown to be wearing a shirt that says “PIMP IS Yours,” many fans and online users, criticize the member for being too inappropriate. In many of their promotional shots, NewJeans wears clothes that are a bit revealing but, one can argue that this is just the way teens are styling their clothes nowadays. 

One song that has been causing discomfort and debate is “Cookie”. At first, the song sounds innocent, upbeat, and catchy, presumably about making cookies. Upon closer inspection, however, the lyrics have some sort of sexual undertone. In the first verse, Hyein and Hanni sing, “Made a little cookie/ Baked it just for you/ But you know that it ain’t for free, yeah/[…]/Can’t stop thinking about it.” The chorus sings, ‘No dinner, dinner, you’re hungry though/ No water, water, you’re thirsty though/ Only sweet flavors, only desserts.” Although the lyrics are not explicitly sexual, fans feel that there is the intent to making it so as “thirsty” is a form of internet slang for being desperate for sex, according to Insider. The use of “hungry” is also used in the same connotation.

The most notably uncomfortable lyrics come from its outro. “Made a little cookie/ Come and take a lookie/ Only at my house, come over and play/ I’ll bake it for you daily/ but I wouldn’t know/” is repeated twice in this song. The words they used were highly suggestive of the age group, even if the members did not intend them to be. This problem and controversy may be a result of their producer.

Compared to their alleged theme of Y2K, their aesthetic fits more into school girls. Most of the members wear long, wide-leg jeans or khakis with a crop top or short shorts with a colorful top, which is a popular outfit worn by teens, usually, in America. In the music video for “Cookie”, the girls wear school uniforms whilst singing, making fans even more uncomfortable with the song. The concept of students is used in both male and female groups to make them seem more innocent and youthful. 

NewJeans has been the talk of the K-Pop community. Originally, the group became popular because of their hit song, “Attention”. The producer’s past works, overall concept, and the song, “Cookie”, begin to change fan and netizen perspectives though.