The American songrwiters and producers behind some of the biggest KPOP hits of recent years were asked their opinions on the difference between Korean and American pop, as well as their thoughts on cultural appropriation and racism in the industry. Here are the artists/writers and some quotes from the interviews:
Behind: Red Velvet's "Bad Boy," BoA's "Kiss My Lips," Taemin's "Press Your Number," Super Junior's "Devil," Jessi's "Gucci"
as well as Justin Bieber's "Somebody to Love," Chris Brown's "Beg For It," and Fifth Harmony's "Deliver." They won two Grammy Awards in 2018 for their work on Bruno Mars' "That's What I Like."
Excerpt from interview: "Here in America, people want it simple and, you know, a four-bar loop," Yip said.
"But the thing they really stress over there in (Korea) is changes within the beat ... From the verse to the pre-hook, there's a change. From the second hook to the bridge, there's a change. They want to be able to change your emotion every time, which we love because that allows us to be more musical," Yip added.
Melanie Fontana & Lindgren
Behind: BTS' "Boy With Luv," "ON," "Euphoria," Twice's "Trick It," I.O.I's "Crush," TXT's "Crown," EVERGLOW's "Bon Bon Chocolate"
Quote from interview on writing "Euphoria" for BTS' Jungkook:
"If it wasn't for that moment, I don't think we would be here right now," Fontana told CNN. "It was a stadium favorite of theirs and I just couldn't believe how big it was. I knew BTS was big. I always admired them from afar, but I didn't think a boy band would really want to work with some girl, you know? But turns out they do."
Behind: Taeyang's "Eyes, Nose, Lips," Blackpink's "Whistle," "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du," "Kill This Love," iKON's "Goodbye Road"
Quote from interview: They put her on a plane and brought her to Korea. While she felt shy and out of place, one of the first artists she was able to connect with was Taeyang. He and Bekuh bonded over their shared Christian faith and the next thing she knew, she was writing the chorus to "Eyes, Nose, Lips."
ChikkBehind: EXO's "Overdose," "Monster," Girls' Generation's "Mr.Mr.," Taeyeon's "Why," Red Velvet's "Red Dress," NCT 127's "Kick It"
Quote from interview:
Chikk mirrored what Yip of the Stereotypes said about how American pop artists want repetition in their music while K-pop artists want more complex melodies and changes within their music. Chikk said the reason for it traces back all the way to the Korean War.
With a large number of US troops stationed in South Korea during the war, jazz superstars including Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong held performances there to support the troops. Their music created a "major buzz among the Korean people," according to the Korean Culture and Information Service.
"So Korea technically, since the rebuild, was built on complex melodies and during that crucial time of coming together as a country, it was built on black music," Chikk said.
But with black music and culture being such a driving force in the genre, K-pop has also been accused of cultural appropriation.
From K-pop artists sporting dreadlocks and cornrows in their music videos to some even performing with blackface, many K-pop and K-hip hop artists have been slammed for stealing from black culture or being downright racist.
South Korea, however, is one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world, so Chikk says the artists and entertainment companies are still learning to find that "happy medium" between cultural appropriation and appreciation.
Chikk said what hurts more than seeing K-pop artists being accused of cultural appropriation is the lack of credit that's being given to songwriters.
"I remember once hearing years ago that you will never see any artists of color on the Korean charts. That's what an executive in Korea told me," Chikk recalled. "But when I looked around, everyone was of a different race writing the song. I think that is what hurts and what we're fighting for. Inclusivity in the acknowledgment of who's really helping these artists be who they are."
No wonder kpop songs always seemed too busy for me! Has anyone else heard about this connection to jazz music?