RM of BTS
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5 K-Pop Songwriters & Producers Who Defined 2021: SUMIN, Teddy Park, ADORA, RM & SUGA
Behind every successful K-pop act is a creative team helping compose their hit songs. Though more and more K-pop idols are becoming involved in their music creation, there are some contributors whose work on your favorite tracks simply can't go unrecognized. From R&B ballads to trap beats to electronic party anthems, the sonic possibilities are endless as genres continue to blur and producers get bolder with their choices. Many K-pop songwriters have done notable work abroad as well, collaborating with some of the biggest names in music globally and serving as the think tanks that made your favorite hit songs possible.
Though much of K-pop music mixes genres and languages, the structure of the songs often allows for more experimentation and nuance than we see in the Western pop industry. Taking inspiration worldwide and incorporating cultural markers in the music, the undefinable sound and flare of K-pop creatives has had an enormous impact on music as we know it.
To celebrate the incredible talent within the Korean music industry and to close out 2021, GRAMMY.com is spotlighting five Korean K-pop songwriters and producers who made their mark worldwide this year. Get to know SUMIN, Teddy Park, ADORA, RM, and SUGA.
Producing is too often dominated by men, but South Korean songwriter and producer SUMIN is a woman doing wondrous work in the space. SUMIN's versatility has found her expertly navigating both the underground and popular music scenes in Korea. Her style isn't bound by genre, often drawing influence from hip-hop, electronic, bass, and other sounds, with some dubbing her sound "Neo K-pop."
In addition to her own music — she released an EP called XX in 2020 — the composer has graced the credits of a diverse roster of Korean artists over the years. Some of the most popular songs she helped pen include "Lie" sung by Jimin on BTS' critically acclaimed 2016 Wings album; "Look" on Red Velvet's 2017 Perfect Velvet: The 2nd Album; "Eyes Locked, Hands Locked" on Red Velvet's 2019 The Reve Festival' Finale; and 2018 R&B single "Pool" by Woodz. Her most recent credits include "Epilogue" on IU's long-anticipated fifth album, Lilac, and "Bother Me" on Chungha's album, Querencia.
From all the amazing work SUMIN has done, K-pop will benefit greatly as she continues to innovate and experiment.
If you're a hardcore Blink, you may be familiar with the name Teddy Park. The in-house YG Entertainment producer is credited for BLACKPINK member Rosé's solo debut songs "On the Ground" and "Gone," and he has a close working relationship with the group as well. He is also credited on major hits, like BLACKPINK's "Ice Cream" featuring Selena Gomez as well as the group's collab with Lady Gaga, "Sour Candy," off her Chromatica album. He also produced most tracks on BLACKPINK's 2020 album, The Album, and the 2018 party staple "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du," which became the highest-charting song by a Korean girl group on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Besides BLACKPINK, Park works with other major K-pop artists and has helped write and compose hits like Big Bang's "Fxxk It" and "Bang Bang Bang," Psy's "Daddy" ft CL, and Sunmi's "Gashina," in addition to working on a huge chunk of 2NE1's discography. The Korean American's production style is influenced by his days as a rapper, but also incorporates contemporary R&B, reggae, house, and EDM.
As Park has had a hand in some of the industry's biggest hits, he rightfully deserves recognition for his success in shaping the sound of K-pop over the years and into the future.
ADORA, or Park Soohyun, has been a longtime interest to the BTS ARMY. Her angelic vocals lace many BTS songs, including "Trivia: Seesaw," "The Truth Untold," "Serendipity," and "Euphoria," which she also helped write. As the only woman on their producing team, ADORA's presence on the tracks provide an extra layer and perspective that helps complete them. Her contributions to BTS' discography are expansive: She's written lyrics for fan favorites like "Spring Day," "Love Maze," and V's "Sweet Night."
More recently, she worked alongside J-Hope on "Blue Side," sang on "Telepathy" on BE, and contributed vocally and lyrically to TXT's minisode1 : Blue Hour. Her other standout work includes GFriend's "Labyrinth" as well as production on the solo projects from BTS members, like "forever rain" on RM's Mono and "Daydream on J-Hope's Hopeworld. She can be heard on multiple songs throughout BTS' Map of the Soul: 7, Map of the Soul: Persona, and the group's other chart-topping albums.
ADORA's unique touch hasn't gone unnoticed to many fans, and it'll be exciting to see how she continues to add to the multifaceted sound of other Big Hit artists.
You may know him as the charming leader of BTS, but RM's talents span boundaries. His songwriting and producing work deserves just as much recognition as his leadership abilities and rap skills. He's credited as a songwriter and composer on the group's GRAMMY-nominated hit "Butter" in addition to a large portion of their overall discography, including Map of the Soul:7, BE, Map of the Soul: Persona, the Love Yourself albums, his own mixtape, Mono, and more.
The list goes on and on, and his hip-hop roots have led him to solo collaborations with artists like Wale on 2017's socially conscious "Change," which the two artists wrote together. RM also wrote his iconic verse on the chart-topping "Old Town Road (Seoul Town Road Remix)" with Lil Nas X and penned TXT's lead single, "0X1=LOVESONG."
RM's expert lyric writing incorporates exceptional wordplay and a deft mastery of multiple languages, which give him a unique edge and which can be heard on his notorious rap lines on "Ddaeng," "Tear," and "UGH!" As RM continues to expand on his production and songwriting work, K-pop fans are truly in for a treat.
BTS member Suga originally joined Big Hit as a producer. Most of his work outside of BTS has notably been with women artists. From co-writing and producing IU's "Eight," Heize's "We Don't Talk Together," and Suran's "Wine" — which earned him a Best Soul/R&B award at South Korea's 2017 Melon Music Awards — Suga has been passionate about creating meaningful music with artists he respects. With American artists, he wrote his verse on MAX's "Blueberry Eyes" and "SUGA's Interlude" on Halsey's 2020 album, Manic.
Suga's style has an introspective charm that reflects his own personality well. He's credited for co-producing earlier BTS hits like "Tomorrow" and "Let Me Know," but has since gone on to work on more as their sound continues to evolve. His own solo project, released under the alias Agust D in summer of 2020, gave a full-throttle view of his hard-hitting, diss-track style of rap coupled with more self-reflecting songs.
While the BTS members each have involvement in the behind-the-scenes music-making process, Suga counts more than 100 credits with the Korea Music Copyright Association. Along with BTS bandmate J-Hope, Suga became the first Korean lyricist and composer to take part in a No. 1 song in the Billboard Hot 100 chart with "Savage Love (BTS Remix)".
There's no telling what else Suga has in store for K-pop fans in the years to come, but his past work shows a promising future in production.