‘King of pop’ Cho Yong-pil is receiving great response from fans of all generations with his new activities, proving himself worthy of his nickname. His Seoul concerts that started on May 31, attracted 30,000 audiences over three days, and he sold the most number of albums in the country during the months of April and May, according to Hanteo Information System.
But you would be making a misjudgment if you attributed his great popularity solely to his status as ‘the nation’s singer.’ “Bounce” and “Hello,” the two hit tunes from his 19th album “Hello” released on April 27, were written by foreign songwriter Marty Dodson and Scott Krippayne, respectively. Some argue the music is not Korean since it’s by a foreigner. But nonetheless, Cho succeeded at doing music for all inside Korea and taking up musical challenges outside Korea.
It is nothing new that K-pop singers who aim to thrive in overseas markets work with foreign songwriters. Even this New Year’s day, Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy” by Norwegian songwriting team Dsign Music, other European songwriters and SM’s chief songwriter Yoo Young-jin was released. “This Love,” the title tune to SHINHWA’s latest album, was by British songwriter Andrew Jackson’s team.
Girls’ Generation’s agency SM Entertainment turned their eyes early to cooperating with foreign songwriters. “The Boys,” the girl group’s title tune to their third album, was composed by Teddy Riley who was the famous producer of the late Michael Jackson. Girls’ Generation’s “HOOT,” “Run Devil Run” and “Genie” were all composed by foreign songwriters as well.
It was not only for Girls’ Generation that rolled out foreign songwriters’ tunes. SHINee’s “Sherlock,” Girls’ Generation TTS’ “Twinkle,” f(x)’s “Electric Shock” and Super Junior’s “Sexy, Free & Single” were from overseas and they succeeded in gaining positive response from the public. Accordingly, composers Thomas Troelsen, Willem Laseroms, Brandon Fraley successfully carved their names onto K-pop idol groups’ records.
Son Dambi and After School’s agency Pledis Entertainment is a stand-out agency when it comes to collaborating with foreign songwriters. Pledis made the bold move of requesting Swedish songwriter Daniel Barkman to make their rookie boy band NU’EST’s debut tune “Face.” He had composed After School’s sub-unit trio Orange Caramel’s “Bangkok City.” “Face” differentiated itself by applying the trendy genre dub-step, which helped the group become known for a musicality that is clearly different from other boy bands and gain them awareness overseas in a short period of time.
After School had picked Japanese songwriter Daishi Dance’s “Shampoo” as the title tune to their first album in 2011. Daishi Dance, who is a famous DJ himself, made the original score of Japanese animation “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away” as well as composing Big Bang’s “HARU HARU” and “Heaven.” After School also included two songs by foreign songwriters in their latest album “First Love.”
SM Entertainment was the pioneer of all this, visiting Europe to introduce the Korean music market and knocking on doors to buy songs in person starting in the late 1990s. That was how BoA’s “No. 1” was born. That period was, so to speak, the first phase of how K-pop interacted with foreign songwriters.
After the music royalties system was settled in Korea, music publishing companies began to emerge in the K-pop scene. Sony ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing and Music Cube are the examples. They are almost like management firms that sign on songwriters and lyricists, and introduce their songs to labels and singers. This second phase has stayed around but recently, the trend is shifting to the third phase where agencies deal directly with foreign songwriters and take charge of their publishing in the Asian region.
Pledis’s A&R manager Park Je-joon explained, “We went to Sweden directly to bring back the songs for both NU’EST and After School’s. Sweden’s melodic music style suits Korean people well.” He then added, “Direct contact helps us save more time and money than going through a publishing company. It also helps in securing songs faster than other singers around the world. In the case of songs by foreign songwriters, we can also make additional profits by handling the sub-publishing rights in Asia.”
Reporter. Lie Jae Won email@example.com
Translator. Lee Hye Ji firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor. Jessica Kim
Courtesy of Insight