Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of fandoms tear each other down based on their favourite artists’ discographies. It’s a frustrating battle of ‘your faves’ vs ‘my faves’ which I’m sure said ‘faves’ would not endorse. Yet, the battle to boast and one-up each other continues.
For me, a post on Twitter claiming BTS have ‘experimented with more genres than any other K-pop group’ was the last straw. This claim was a product of blind hero-worship and takes away credit where credit is due.
Now don’t get me wrong; BTS are my favourite K-pop group and I love them with all my heart. Every member is immensely talented and regularly takes part in the group’s songwriting and production process. The rap line—consisting of RM, Suga and J-Hope—are known for their production prowess and affinity for experimenting with several genres including pop, rock, trap, EDM, R&B and hip-hop, all of which I’ve outlined previously in my interview with BTS’ RM from 2017 for Rolling Stone India.
So while I agree BTS have gone out of their way to explore several different kinds of music, I dislike the spreading of a false notion that other K-pop groups have not done the same.
Here is a list of just a few talented K-pop stars who are also multi-genre producers:
SHINee’s “1 Of 1” had a distinctly late Eighties/early Nineties vibe, bringing in funk, new jack swing and R&B reminiscent of Michael Jackson, New Edition and H.O.T. Also let’s not forget the diversity in Jonghyun’s solo work—he has produced songs for SHINee and other artists and explored elements of neo-soul, electro-punk, soul, retro R&B and more.
Big Bang’s ‘MADE’ album mixed elements of electronica, R&B, soft rock ballads, trap and hip-hop. “Loser,” “If You,” “Bae Bae” and “Zutter” are particularly brilliant in terms of production. Leader G-Dragon is one of South Korea’s most celebrated producers and songwriters with over 180 songs listed under his name.
Ravi is one of the most original and outstanding producers in the game. Not only has he produced and written a lot of Vixx’s gorgeous dark pop discography, but makes striking combinations of deep house, synth rock and trap in his solo mixtapes and singles.
B.A.P’s Bang Yongguk
B.A.P’s leader is another gifted, versatile artist. Bang Yongguk had a role in producing the group’s music since their debut and plays several instruments including the daegeum, janggu, kkwaenggwari, jing, guitar, piano, and violin. B.A.P explore alt-rock, R&B and hip-hop in their artistry while Yongguk’s solo discography explores dark trap and string instrument fusions, acoustic ballads and more.
EXID’s LE is a gifted producer as well, having written and produced several of the group’s songs, tracks for other artists and her own solo work. She co-wrote and co-produced the EXID’S 2017 super-hit “DDD” which uses disco-pop, 80s synth-pop and deep bass elements.
Seventeen are called ‘self-producing idols’ because their members (especially Woozi and Hoshi) participate in composing and writing almost every track. All members contributed to their 2017 LP Teen, Age which features elements of EDM, jazz, trap, R&B and rock.
Not many people know that Seventeen’s sister-group Pristin are also self-producing idols. Members Sungyeon, Eunwoo and Rena are often involved in the production process and all 10 members take part in songwriting. “Black Widow” is particularly impressive; composed by Rena, the track is a mix of dark pop, Asian instrumentals and trap.
GOT7’s JB (who produces under the name Defsoul), Jackson and Youngjae (who produces under the name ARS) all participate in producing the group’s music and have solo projects that span several genres including trap, EDM, rock ballads and more. “Teenager” composed by JB is a refreshing take on neo-trap soul.
Leader Zico, B-Bomb and Kyung are known for their versatility as producers. Zico also founded the hip-hop/R&B collective Fanxy Child with Dean, Penomeco and more. He produced Block B’s “Shall We Dance” which features Argentine tango and house elements and his solo work is reminiscent of early Eminem; hard-hitting verses with fluctuating R&B, gospel and rap rock.
In addition to their solo mixtapes and collaborations, Monsta X’s I.M and Jooheon are credited with songwriting and production on several tracks on the group’s first full length album The Clan Pt. 2.5: The Final Chapter. I.M seems to favour darker, thrumming trap combined with haunting vocals (evident on his new solo track “Fly With Me”) while Jooheon goes old school with his beats and faster-paced diss-rap.
Members Bobby and B.I. have a huge hand in writing and producing several of iKon’s tracks. B.I. co-composed their recent hit single “Love Scenario” and is involved in the production of every song on iKon’s 2018 LP Return. In addition to producing on his solo debut Love and Fall, Bobby also produced tracks with Winner’s Mino for their collaborative project MOBB. B.I and Bobby’s work spans from heavy hip-hop and rolling trap to early-2000s-style R&B, acoustic soft rock and rhythmic pop.
I’m going to keep adding to this list and make it a sort of reference point because there is no need to tear down one artist to appreciate the work of another’s.
Lead image: Promotional photo of Bang Yongguk courtesy of King Records