When K-pop newcomers NewJeans released their superb single Cookie last August – an effortless combination of Jersey club and Ariana Grande-cool R&B – fans immediately highlighted the innuendo in the girl band’s lyrics. “Looking at my cookie/ Do you ever smell it different/ What if a bite isn’t enough?” they sing in Korean. The five-piece’s agency, Ador, released an unintentionally comic statement saying it had consulted “numerous doctors in English literature, interpreters and native speakers” who confirmed that “cookie is not widely used sexual slang”. So that’s that!
The vehement denial comes in part because NewJeans are young, their ages ranging from 14 to 18 – which, if we’re talking about age inappropriateness, could be seen as a way to reap maximum value from a hard-drilled K-pop group before they become jaded twentysomethings (just watch the bleak Netflix documentary Blackpink: Light Up the Sky to see the latter in action). Although Hanni, Haerin, Minji, Danielle Marsh and Hyein were formed by an industry stalwart of K-pop girl groups, their launch was novel: they landed music-first, without the usual months of teasing. What’s more, they eschew having a leader so they can share equal prominence – and they co-write their songs.