meta-scriptMeet LE SSERAFIM, The K-Pop Group Nile Rodgers Chose For His First Foray Into The Genre | GRAMMY.com
Nile Rodgers and LE SSERAFIM hero
LE SSERAFIM

Photo courtesy of SOURCE MUSIC

interview

Meet LE SSERAFIM, The K-Pop Group Nile Rodgers Chose For His First Foray Into The Genre

In an exclusive joint interview, LE SSERAFIM and legendary musician Nile Rodgers — who is featured on their debut record, 'Unforgiven' — discuss the importance of being unconventional, and why K-pop is so exciting to Western audiences.

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2023 - 01:30 pm

What Nile Rodgers loves the most about K-pop is that it is fearless. The revered producer, guitarist, and four-time GRAMMY winner (as well as Lifetime Achievement Award recipient) spares no words on how invigorating the South Korean industry is. "For a musician like myself, it’s exciting to have that kind of challenge," he says over a Zoom from his studio, whose walls are covered in gold, platinum and diamond albums.

Rodgers’ work has soundtracked our lives more than we know. In 1977, he co-founded the disco vanguard band Chic, which then spawned samples for the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," and Daft Punk’s "Around the World." He collaborated with Diana Ross, David Bowie, Beyoncé and many others, and produced era-defining albums such as Madonna’s Like a Virgin and Duran Duran’s Notorious

Now, he’s ready to make his debut into the K-pop realm alongside girl group LE SSERAFIM. Rodgers is featured on "Unforgiven," the title track from LE SSERAFIM's debut studio album. The track also samples Ennio Morricone’s theme song from the 1966 spaghetti Western film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and the music video, recorded in Thailand, sees them boldly take the town in cowgirl outfits — a celebration of all the "unforgiven girls" and "unforgiven boys" in the lyrics.

Rodgers couldn’t have chosen a better act for his first K-pop feature. LE SSERAFIM takes their name out of an anagram for "I’m fearless." In May 2022, the quintet became the first girl group launched by Source Music under HYBE — the same label of K-pop icons BTS and SEVENTEEN — with the fittingly-titled EP Fearless. Aiming to spread self-confident messages, LE SSERAFIM established themselves as unflinching, dare-devilish stars.

Throughout Unforgiven’s 13 tracks, LE SSERAFIM are boldly themselves, regardless of what others think. Whether they are the unforgiven villains of the title track, "a mess in distress" in "Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife," or demonstrate vulnerably on "FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost)," LE SSERAFIM live by their truth. And what’s more fearless than that?

GRAMMY.com caught up with Nile Rodgers and LE SSERAFIM's Sakura, Kim Chaewon, Huh Yunjin, Kazuha, and Hong Eunchae for an exclusive conversation about Western and Eastern collaborations, what makes K-pop so exciting, and what they learned from each other.

Nile, you have collaborated with many legendary artists throughout the decades. What made you choose LE SSERAFIM to be your first K-pop collaboration?

Nile Rodgers: Why? Because when I heard the song, I loved it.

LE SSERAFIM [in unison]: Thank you!

LE SSERAFIM, did you know about Nile’s work before? What was your reaction when you learned that he was featuring on "Unforgiven?"

Yunjin: Well, I grew up in the States, so of course I knew. We were all so shocked to know that such a legend would work with us. It hasn't even been a year since we debuted, we were so honored and so excited.

Sakura: It was a really, really huge honor, and I still cannot believe that it happened. When Nile first played the guitar for us, I was completely blown away. I was like, "Is this going to be in our song?" I couldn't believe it. I was really proud.

Yunjin: I remember when I first told my parents, they were like, "No way! You? You and Nile Rodgers?" [Laughs.]

Nile, what are your impressions about K-pop in general? How do you see its growth in America and across the world?

Rodgers: This may sound nerdy, but I love the fact that it seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the new music, [has] the harmonic changes. The chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years.

And that's made me excited, because I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me.

LE SSERAFIM, as a K-pop group, why do you think that it's important to collaborate with Western artists like Nile Rodgers? Is making your music more global something that you strive for to reach more people?

Yunjin: As time goes by, on the contrary, I think it's harder to find boundaries. Music is a universal language, and I think it's very good and very honorable to have Western and Eastern artists collaborating from wherever they are. It's just so that more people can enjoy good music. Isn't that the only reason? Like, music is good, and so more people should listen to it.

Rodgers: And I agree.

How has this collaboration inspired you further? Is there anything you learned from working together that you want to apply to your future work?

Rodgers: I was thinking I should have worn a cowboy hat today. [Laughs.]

Kazuha: When we first met online, Nile played [the guitar] according to our song, and it was completely freestyle. It wasn't something like "Oh, I'm gonna sit down and play music," it was just completely freestyle. I thought it was really cool and fascinating for a new work of art to be formed just by going with the flow and feeling the vibe. I thought it would be nice to [have] that process for us too, as true artists and for [creating] similar works of art as well.

Since Nile mentioned the cowboy hat, "Unforgiven" samples The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly soundtrack, which is a surprising novelty. What do you think about the fact that you are actually merging the past with the present, and bridging decades of culture in one song?

Sakura: I just learned that there are no set rules in music, we just do it.

Rodgers: I once attended a concert with maestro Ennio Morricone, who wrote the music for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He had me sit right behind him while he conducted. It was fantastic.

Yunjin: Wow, so it must have been very weird to hear that in a K-pop song?

Rodgers: It's cool. See, that's the thing I like. K-pop music is stretching the boundaries. I was talking to my engineer today, and we were listening to, not just the rest of [LE SSERAFIM’s] album, but other people who are sending me music or would like me to play with them. And I was noticing that, as I said earlier, harmonically, it's a lot more interesting than what's been happening in the last maybe 10 years, where it's been almost the same four chords over and over and over again, just different melodies.

Nile, you've heard the rest of Unforgiven. LE SSERAFIM’s album. What was the main takeaway that you got from it? 

Rodgers: I actually think that it's really cool. I think it's progressive. It's fun. It's exciting. I hope that what I feel is what the rest of the world feels — I loved it. There’s a lot of good writers and producers. It's really great.

**LE SSERAFIM [in unison]: **Aw, thank you so much!

The title Unforgiven is based on the idea that you don’t need excuses to be who you are. Is there anything specific that you learned about yourselves while working with this concept?

Yunjin: Through every album, we grow with it and then we are able to personify [it]. I think the main message that we want to convey has actually become our story. No matter what people say — even if they might judge us, or misperceive us, or point fingers at us —  regardless of what people think, we might become the villain in other people's eyes. But just like how our music is crossing lines and stretching out the boundaries, we want to become a team that can continue doing that.

Rodgers: I think what you're saying is exactly right. If you have a message and a concept, never worry about some people not liking it, because there's no way that everybody can like everything. 

I mean, even the five of you probably don't like all the exact same food at the exact same moment, but it's okay. Sometimes people don't understand it right away and they get it later on, and that's cool too. Art is personal.

Were there any challenges working together, or any obstacles that you had to overcome while recording?

Rodgers: Well, I was In America, unfortunately, and they were in Korea. You can see that we can work like this, we can work remotely, but it would probably be fun to be in the same room.

Chaewon: Sure, sure, hopefully.

LE SSERAFIM was the first girl group launched by Source Music under HYBE, and now you're part of such a strong new generation of girl groups who also debuted in the past few years. What are some of your thoughts about being part of this new wave?

Eunchae: I think it is really nice to be active in a time where so many great girl groups are getting a lot of attention. A lot of people are listening to their music, and while we are also promoting with other groups, we're getting a lot of motivation and positive influences. I'm really satisfied and happy with that.

There’s plenty of musical styles that you approach on Unforgiven — Latin rhythms, Jersey Club beats, and even some country rock. What are some of your favorite experimentations or favorite moments to work on in the album?

Chaewon: "Unforgiven!"

Yunjin: I think the fact that Nile is in our album is just… You just can't not have "Unforgiven" as a favorite. I think all of us have "Unforgiven" as our top two. It's my personal favorite title track that we have ever done.

Sakura, Kazuha and Eunchae: Yes, "Unforgiven"!

Rodgers: I didn't pay them to say that. [Laughs.]

Nile, do you have any other favorites in the album, besides "Unforgiven"?

Rodgers: I actually liked the whole album. That's why, when we first started talking, I really was impressed with the fact that it's not conventional. It's not exactly what you would think. As a musician, it's great to listen to, to have different styles of music, and all of the styles that they pursue sound sincere.

If you could collaborate together again, what kind of music would you want to make?

Chaewon: Wow, that’s hard. I think if we can collaborate together again, anything would be fine.

Yunjin: We will try our best at everything.

Rodgers: I have a feeling in my heart that we will collaborate again.

[LE SSERAFIM cheer and send heart hands and thumbs ups to Nile.]

10 K-Pop Rookie Girl Groups To Watch In 2023: Le Sserafim, Mimiirose, Ive & More

Tori Kelly
Tori Kelly

Photo: Sarah Morris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

news

Tori Kelly Gets “Unwrapped” For 'TORI' At GRAMMY U Event Showcasing Production & Recording Techniques From Her New Album

The singer stepped out for GRAMMY U's first "Unwrapped" event to give fans a look deep inside her new record, TORI. Joined by producer and collaborator Tenroc, the pair walked guests through the making of several tracks including "missin u" and "oceans."

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 10:11 pm

GRAMMY U members got a special treat from Tori Kelly when the singer (and Sing-er) took the stage for the first ever GRAMMY U "Unwrapped" event on May 15. Held at The Novo in downtown Los Angeles, the event brought together fans, music industry professionals, and students for a night that dove deep into the creative process behind Kelly’s brand new record, TORI. Amazon Music and Mastercard were participating sponsors for this event. 

Joined on stage by producer and collaborator Tenroc, Kelly took fans through a journey of several tracks from her new record, from inception to completion. Kelly discussed each track, aided by a video presentation and using stems to highlight special production techniques, musical intricacies, and cool little Easter eggs. The showcase was followed by a round of live questions from the audience, where Kelly dished about everything from her voiceover work to her pre-studio rituals, before grabbing a guitar and performing two new tracks: "High Water" and "Oceans." 

Here’s a glimpse into all the songs Kelly and Tenroc featured, from "Missin' U" to "Spruce."

"thing u do”

When it came time to make Tori, Kelly told the audience that she wanted to focus on "songs that make [you] wanna dance," and "songs that [anyone] can belt out in the car." Mainly collaborating just with Tenroc, Bellion, Clyde Lawrence, and Jordan Cohen, Kelly put together a record that's strongly influenced by late '90s and early '00s pop, with references to chirping Sidekick phones and plenty of nostalgic vocal effects. 

"missin u" in particular is interesting, not just because it was inspired by Craig David and the U.K. Garage sound — with Kelly taking special care to pronounce "garage" in true British fashion at the live event — but also because it was released in both its original form and as an R&B edit. The latter version is the one Kelly and Tenroc highlighted at the event, going through Kelly's vocal tracks, and really digging in on the remix's bridge, which Kelly wrote just for that track and recorded in her home studio.

Getting to see Tenroc's Logic Pro work on the big screen seemed to mesmerize everyone in attendance, with most marveling at the ease he seemed to have flicking through the dozens of stems, layers, and plug-ins. 

"missin u"

When it came time to make TORI, Kelly told the audience that she wanted to focus on "songs that make [you] wanna dance," and "songs that [anyone] can belt out in the car." Mainly collaborating just with Tenroc, Bellion, Clyde Lawrence, and Jordan Cohen, Kelly put together a record that's strongly influenced by late '90s and early '00s pop, with references to chirping Sidekick phones and plenty of nostalgic vocal effects.

In particular, "missin u" is interesting, not just because it was inspired by Craig David and the U.K. Garage sound — with Kelly taking special care to pronounce "garage" in true British fashion at the live event — but also because it was released in both its original form and as an R&B edit. The latter version is the one Kelly and Tenroc highlighted at the event, going through Kelly's vocal tracks, and really digging in on the remix's bridge, which Kelly wrote just for that track and recorded in her home studio.

Getting to see Tenroc's Logic Pro work on the big screen seemed to mesmerize everyone in attendance, with most marveling at the ease he seemed to have flicking through the dozens of stems, layers, and plug-ins. 

"shelter"

Talking about "shelter," Kelly described a sort of shorthand she'd developed with Tenroc, after working closely together over the past few years. She said they're at the point where they can communicate with "sounds" and "telepathy," a benefit she attributes to not switching producers throughout the making of her record.

Tenroc and Kelly used "shelter" to talk about the comping process, or the act of combining the best parts of different takes into a single track. Kelly said she typically does about five takes of a vocal track, all in different personas: one normal, one shyer, one wild, one with a lot of vocal runs, and one that's sort of a wild card. She can keep each take separate in her mind that way, remembering how she recorded a vowel slightly better in one take or gave a line a little grittier vocal texture in another. It's not something everyone can do, though, and Tenroc said it's truly amazing to witness in person — a fact the live audience could attest to. 

For Kelly, a lot of making TORI, was about exploring different tones and textures of her voice, she said. She'd sometimes start by doing an impression of a singer like Rihanna and Willow in one run, and then blend the inspired version with her own, stretching herself vocally. She demonstrated that kind of thing live at the show, doing off-the-cuff runs of bits of "Shelter" to talk about how they changed the way the word "plate" in the chorus. 

Tenroc also showed off how he used the Little Alterboy plug-in to alter Kelly's voice, turning the rap in "shelter," as well as the "you, you, you, you, you" bit into what sounds like a deep masculine voice, even though those lines were originally laid down by Kelly herself. 

"spruce"

When "spruce" was first being envisioned by Kelly and co-writer Casey Smith, it was a song called "truce" about making up with your loved one before going out on the town. Kelly had been wanting to make a "getting ready, girly song," though, and Bellion came into the studio one day with the idea of merging the two ideas in what became "spruce." 

Written over a loop made by Tenroc, "spruce" — featuring Kim Chaewon of K-Pop group LE SSERAFIM — is emblematic, Kelly said, of her effort to let go, change, and try new things in the studio. The production was inspired by Jai Paul and uses sidechain compression, which is when the level of one instrument or sound triggers a compressor to control the level of another sound. The crowd clearly seemed taken with the sound when Tenroc played examples of how it was used in the track, which he said he made in part with the Serum plugin. Kelly said the result feels fully "3-D," like you're "inside" the track rather than just listening along.

"same girl"

The last — and most personal —song on the record, "same girl," was mostly written by Kelly while she was on a plane. She wanted something that felt like it could close the record, and she recorded it live with Tenroc in her studio, where he also played piano. 

Kelly said the song was inspired by her love of various music styles and genres. She explained, "Coming up as an artist, I always felt a little insecure about trying to stay in one lane and be in one box. I love so many different genres. I'm inspired by so many different things." She continued, "And so finding my sound I always thought that was a bad thing... But I'm grateful for all these different genres I've been able to dabble in. This song was me being overwhelmed by people's opinions and letting it get to me a little bit while thinking of my career as a whole."

Kelly said that while she worried when she was writing that the lyrics would be too personal and too specific, she's had great feedback about the track, something that reminds her that, "Anytime you write about your own experience, someone else out there is going to be able to relate to it." 

5 Takeaways From The 2024 GRAMMY U Conference In New York City

ATEEZ perform at Coachella Weekend 1

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella

list

K-Pop Summer 2024 Guide: ATEEZ, IU, TXT & More Live In Concert & On Tour

Whether you want to have your Head in the Clouds, go over the moon at KCON or head Towards the Light, plan out your summer with these K-pop events and tours featuring TWICE, LE SSERAFIM, Stray Kids and more.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 12:31 pm

2024 has had a handful of memorable K-pop moments in North America so far. From boy group ONEUS's La Dolce Vita tour to TWICE's one-night-only show at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium in March, the industry has kept a steady flow of entertainment for lovers of Korean music and culture. Last month, ATEEZ, LE SSERAFIM, and indie band The Rose also left their mark at Coachella Festival in California, proving that K-pop acts at major festivals are a rising trend.

With summer right around the corner, even more tours, festivals, and conventions are set to pop up across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. From mid-May to September, whether on weekdays or weekends, there will always be something to do or someone to see. Among the most-awaited events are singer IU's first world tour and ATEEZ's massive trek in July, as well as Stray Kids, IVE, and VCHA's performances at Chicago's Lollapalooza Festival.

To help you enjoy the most out of this busy season, GRAMMY.com assembled a list of all the K-pop concerts and events happening in the next few months below.

May

CIX: 0 or 1 in North America

May 10-26

Boy group CIX will be back in North America for their third tour this May. Named after single album 0 or 1, the stint will cover eight cities across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, starting in Chicago, IL and wrapping it up in Los Angeles, CA. The quintet will likely perform hits like "Cinema" and "Movie Star," as well as their latest single, "Lovers or Enemies," and celebrate their upcoming fifth anniversary.

Head in the Clouds Festival

Forest Hills, New York

May 11-12

Following the success of last year's edition in Queens, New York, Head in the Clouds Festival returns to the big apple in 2024. In their mission to spread Asian diaspora talent, the lineup for this year enlists (G)I-DLE to headline on Saturday and singer BIBI on Sunday, along other names like ATARASHII GAKKO! and Joji. Korean acts Balming Tiger, Wave to Earth, and newcomer girl group Young Posse will also join them. HITC Festival is usually based in Los Angeles, but this year's L.A. edition has yet to be announced.

BM (KARD): After the After Party Tour

May 14-25

Hailing from co-ed group KARD, Korean-American singer BM will kick off his first U.S. solo tour in mid-May. After the After Party Tour was inspired by the track "ATAP (After the After Party)," off his December single album, Lowkey. BM will perform in six cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. He also teased an EP soon, and stated that he will be "taking new music on this tour."

P1Harmony: P1ustage H : UTOP1A Tour

May 14 - Jun. 16

Boy band P1Harmony is also returning to North America with their third tour, P1ustage H: UTOP1A. Beginning in Houston, TX, on May 14, it will follow with shows in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and more — including a prestigious performance on June 8 at New York City's Governors Ball Music Festival 2024. The sextet released their first studio album, Killin' It, in February of this year.

Tomorrow X Together (TXT): ACT : PROMISE World Tour

May 14 - Jun. 8

A TXT tour in the U.S. has become an annual event: following 2022's ACT : LOVESICK and 2023's ACT : SWEET MIRAGE, 2024 welcomes ACT : PROMISE. Featuring 11 shows across the country, the boy group will play in Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and more. They will also perform two nights at New York's legendary Madison Square Garden before heading to the Japanese leg of the tour in July.

Wheein (MAMAMOO): Whee In The Mood [Beyond] World Tour

May 17 - Jun. 4

Powerhouse vocalists MAMAMOO hit stateside last year with their MY CON World Tour, a first for the group. Now, it's member Wheein's turn to celebrate her solo career with Whee In The Mood [Beyond] World Tour, inspired by her first LP, 2023's In The Mood. After a slew of shows in Asia and Europe, the singer will head to San Francisco, CA, for the first out of eight concerts in the U.S. Other cities include Dallas, Orlando, Los Angeles, and New York.

RIIZE: RIIZING Day Fan-Con World Tour

Los Angeles, California

May 20

SM Entertainment's freshest rookies RIIZE announced their first fan-con, RIIZING Day, to take place from May to August in various cities across the globe. After playing in Seoul, Tokyo, and Mexico City, the boyband will come to Los Angeles for a single performance at the Peacock Theater on May 20. RIIZE are expected to play their compact yet dynamic discography, including singles "Get A Guitar," "Talk Saxy," and "Impossible."

June

Purple Kiss: 2024 BXX Tour

June 2 - July 2

It's not even been a year since Purple Kiss toured the U.S. with their The Festa Tour in fall 2023, but they're already gearing to come back. Starting June 2 in Oceanside, CA, the 2024 BXX Tour will take the girl group to seven cities in the U.S. and nine cities in Canada, closing it off in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on July 2. This is a big chance for fans who missed their performances last year, or simply to those who want to see singles like "Zombie" and "Sweet Juice" live again.

ITZY: Born to Be World Tour

June 6-28

Girl group ITZY has spent the majority of 2024 bringing their second world tour, Born to Be, across Oceania, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. In June, they will finally step in North America for a 10-stop stint, including cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, Newark, Fairfax, Toronto, and more. Despite featuring only four out of five members while vocalist Lia is currently on hiatus due to health reasons, they promise to set the stages on fire with their high-energy discography.

VERIVERY: Go On Fan-meeting Tour

Jun. 14-23

Starting June 14, boyband VERIVERY will kick off their Go On Fan-meeting Tour in New York at Brooklyn Steel. Then, they will head to Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and finally Los Angeles for a last performance at Vermont Hollywood. The seven-member group is currently a quartet, as member Dongheon is currently enlisted in the military, and members Minchan and Hoyoung are on hiatus due to health concerns. VERIVERY's latest release was 2023's EP, Liminality.

A.C.E: 2024 REWIND_US U.S. Tour

Jun. 19 - July 18

February marked the much-anticipated comeback of boy group A.C.E with the EP My Girl: My Choice. It was their first release in three years, and to rejoice further, the quintet announced an extensive 14-date tour throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Starting June 19 in Madison, WI and closing off on July 18 in San Juan, PR, A.C.E will also perform in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, and more.

HYO: Milwaukee Summerfest

Milwaukee, WI

Jun. 28

HYO, also known as Hyoyeon from Girls' Generation, will be showcasing her DJ chops on June 28 at Milwaukee Summerfest. The performance will happen just months after HYO held her 2024 Spring U.S. Tour, Cherry Blossom, which spanned seven cities across the country. In the setlist, fans can expect hits like "Dessert" and "Deep," but also some innovative remixes of other artists' songs, like GALA's "Freed From Desire" and Girls' Generation's "Gee."

July

AB6IX: Find You Fan Concert Tour

Jul. 3-21

Another boy group to embark on a North American tour this year, AB6IX will bring their Find You Fan Concert across nine stops in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Starting off in the cities of Toronto and Montreal, they will then head to New York, Mexico City, Miami, Denver, and more, before wrapping it up in Los Angeles. The tour title was inspired by their latest release, January's EP The Future is Ours: Found.

ATEEZ: Towards the Light: Will to Power 2024 World Tour

Jul. 14 - Aug. 11

Performance kings ATEEZ never stop. After the release of their EP, Golden Hour: Part. 1 on May 31, the eight-member group will head to North America for their Towards the Light: Will to Power 2024 World Tour. Kicking off on July 14 in Tacoma, Washington, the boyband will also play in the cities of Los Angeles, Arlington, Washington, D.C., Toronto, New York, and more. The tour supports ATEEZ's December 2023 LP, The World EP.Fin: Will, but hopefully the setlist will include surprises as new music comes out.

IU: HEREH World Tour

Jul. 15 - Aug. 2

One of the most important artists to come from South Korea, IU (born Lee Ji-eun) has been shaping the country's music industry since 2008 with her unique voice, sensitive songwriting, and sharp mind. Given her journey, it's almost absurd that her first world tour is only happening in 2024 — but better late than never. After stops in Asia and Europe, IU will head to the U.S. for six sold-out concerts, beginning on July 15 at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, and concluding on August 2 at Kia Forum in Los Angeles, CA.

The Boyz: Zeneration II World Tour

Jul. 19-28

Following their 2023 Zeneration Tour, which featured 24 stops across Asia, 11-member group The Boyz are now bringing its sequel worldwide. After a 3-day July stint in Seoul, South Korea, the Zeneration II tour will head to the U.S. for five shows in New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Throughout August, The Boyz will segue onto the Asian leg of the tour, wrapping it up with a few European dates in September.

KCON Los Angeles 2024

Jul. 26-28

Known as the largest Korean culture and music festival in North America, KCON has a decade-long legacy of serving as a bridge for "all things Hallyu." Held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and Crypto.com Arena, the festival includes a two-night concert, fan signings, food and merch stalls, panels with professionals in the industry, and many other attractions. KCON hasn't announced its official lineup yet, but attendees can expect it to maintain the same excellence of past years.

Secret Number: The 1st U.S. Tour 2024 Unlock

Jul. 26 - Aug. 10

Girl group Secret Number debuted amidst the chaos of 2020's COVID-19 pandemic, therefore falling short of live experiences with their fans. As they enter their fourth year together, they will finally meet North American fans with their 2024 Unlock tour this summer. Kicking off on July 26 in Chicago, the sextet will then head to Minneapolis, Charlotte, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, and Los Angeles for a final show on August 10.

August

Stray Kids, IVE, VCHA: Lollapalooza Chicago 2024

Aug. 1-4

K-pop's presence on Lollapalooza continues to expand. This year, Stray Kids is set to headline on Friday, Aug. 2, alongside singer SZA. It's the boyband's second appearance at the festival, following their 2023 show at Lollapalooza Paris. On that same day, U.S.-based, K-pop-trained girl group VCHA, formed by JYP Entertainment in partnership with Republic Records, will also make their first performance at the festival. To close it off, Saturday will feature the captivating girl group IVE.

I.M (Monsta X): Off The Beat 2024 World Tour

Aug. 8-31

Monsta X's maknae (youngest member) I.M has been building a prolific solo career while his teammates are enlisted in the military. Accompanying his third EP, Off The Beat, the singer announced an eponymous world tour, featuring 19 stops in Asia, North America, and Europe. He will play seven dates In the U.S. and two in Canada, including New York, Boston, Toronto, and more.

ARTMS: 2024 Moonshot World Tour

Aug. 16 - Sept. 10

Formed by five LOONA members (Kim Lip, Choerry, JinSoul, HaSeul, and HeeJin), girl group ARTMS was one of 2023's most-awaited debuts. Their first studio album, Devine All Love & Live, is set to drop on May 31, and the quintet will celebrate with a string of concerts across South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Starting August 16 in New York, the tour will cross Atlanta, Orlando, Los Angeles, and more cities before wrapping up on September 10 in Chicago.

11 Rookie K-Pop Acts To Know In 2024: NCT Wish, RIIZE, Kiss Of Life & More

Danny L Harle attends Last Days Opera After Party at Chateau Marmont on February 06, 2024 in Los Angeles
Danny L Harle

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Photonia

interview

Danny L Harle's Quest For Pop Euphoria: How Working With Dua Lipa Led To A New Level Of Creative Joy

The songwriter and producer talks about crafting Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism’ and the UK’s Eurovision entry for 2024. "It was all about making space for the great emotion of the song," Harle says.

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 01:51 pm

**"I’ve got an obsessive mind," admits producer Danny L Harle. "I often can't sleep at night because I've got melodies circling in my head. I get haunted by melodies, and I think that's why some people trust me, because they know that I will not let it go unless I think it's absolutely perfect."

That dedication to crafting powerful pop melodies has resulted in a treasure trove of earworms on Dua Lipa’s new album Radical Optimism. Harle was recruited by Lipa as one of the album’s co-producers, alongside Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and songwriters Tobias Jesso Jr and Caroline Ailin.

It's no surprise that Harle was recruited to craft a record that seeks to find light and happiness where darkness prevails. Since his 2015 debut EP Broken Flowers, Harle has created dance-pop that examined the relationship between melancholia and euphoria, as well as the grandeur and escapism of a rave. 

After releasing a string of singles via PC Music, Harle dropped his first album, Harlecore, in 2021 with Mad Decent. The ecstatic spirit of Harlecore, which is centered around a virtual rave headed by four imaginary DJs, echoes in Harle’s latest collaboration as co-writer and producer of the UK’s Eurovision song, "Dizzy" by Olly Alexander. 

"There is good pop music and more algorithmic pop music, pop music which is more guaranteed to work and is less interesting," Harle says. "I just really like good pop music, and that, for me, always seems to start from my research with people."

It was Harle’s naturally synergistic approach to collaboration that led to his work with Lipa. He has also worked with yeule on their album Glitch Princess, and the likes of Charli XCX. But it was his production and writing on  singer Caroline Polachek's  debut solo album that caught Dua Lipa's ear. "She appreciated the spirit of collaboration with that album and wanted me to make her album."

Read below to get a taste of how Danny Harle made Radical Optimism and other earwormy, dancefloor hits.  

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Hey Danny! What’s that cool instrument behind you?

It’s an electric double bass, which is my main instrument: bass guitar and double bass. I use that on some of the Caroline Polachek stuff. There's certain artists who come into the room and see that and they're like, "We have to use that." And some people try to pretend it doesn't exist.

It’s fascinating; I used to play that instrument when I was younger, and then gave it up. There was a 10 year gap, and then I found a place much later in my life where it could fit in. I stopped playing bass guitar at one point as well. 

Then I found myself in a session with NAO, and she was like, "Can you play bass guitar?" There was one literally on display outside, the Squire bass, so I picked it up and we made a track together. She was in a session with Nile Rodgers the next day playing it to him, and he loved it, and then it was on the Chic album [It’s About Time]! At that point I lost any preconceptions I had about needing good gear to make a great sounding music.

Did you do a lot of the bass work on Dua’s album?

I did a fair amount of it, but a lot of it is a collaboration with me and Kevin Parker. All that time he's spent touring and playing the bass live is time that I've spent in front of a computer. So it's hard to compare bass skills, as much as it's my instrument. 

Alongside being a great live player, Kevin has a particular skill for making an instrument sound great when it is recorded, which is a completely different thing. There were some times where I was like, "I prefer the way that it sounds when you do it." And then sometimes he would ask me to do it as well. It was a really nice, trusting partnership. 

The process of the album was very trusting; a sense of being able to say when you think something could be better, but also understanding that trusting someone else is good at what they're doing. It was a very rare environment, but the atmosphere of respect and trust was quite an incredible thing to experience. If you hear what anybody says involved in that process, they'll say those are some of the best sessions they’ve ever had in that respect. 

We were talking about this key Motown idea, which is that happy songs go best over a sad melody. It doesn’t have to be the melody, it can be the music sounding sad; "Tears Of A Clown" by Smokey Robinson is a good example. There's something very resonant in that combination. 

"Houdini," "Training Season" and "Illusion" are all in minor keys, aren’t they? It makes for such melodically rich stuff that’s different from your average four chord pop progression.

Yup. It’s not as simple as happy song, happy chords. It adds richness to the emotional landscape of the song, and that was a key element in that. 

It was a room full of people who are excited by hearing new melodies and approaches and structures. That’s why you don’t really hear the same melodic patterns that music’s fallen into these days on the album. I find that particularly inspiring. 

You’ve written with stars like Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama before, but this is your first extended project with a pop star. You first made pop music to engage people as a virtually unknown musician, but now that attention is guaranteed. Did that change the way you think about pop?

Not at all. My approach to this stuff, especially these days, is that I can just do my thing. I'm very honored to work with the people I've been working with. Very early on in my career when I was trying to make pop music in that way, it would always go horribly wrong. Whereas now I just try to make good music. 

Some people can just make a pop song and I can't do that. I'm like, "Let's make a good song." I personally believe that there is good pop music and more algorithmic pop music, pop music which is more guaranteed to work and is less interesting. I just really like good pop music, and that, for me, always seems to start from my research with people just trying to make the best music. 

How did you make this record more personal to Dua in terms of influences and not just lyrically?

It all stems from her at the center of it; so much stuff happens to her. It’s insane, the amount she’d have to say before every session — [like] "These tracks are actually making points." 

Then it would be a case of finding an instrumental with a certain emotion, and out of natural conversation, there’d be a sense of connection [from] a phrase someone would hit on. [But] it would always stem from her as the center of the whole thing. It was just a very organic way of writing and we were very privileged with the rich life Dua leads to draw from. 

This record was a tight songwriting team — where did you fit into it?

I was contributing to all of the tracks in all factors: lyric ideas most rarely, but also melodic ideas, songwriting ideas, mainly from a production standpoint.  

I would be in the corner on my computer, and I would constantly be in conversation with everybody. We might have Kevin on a guitar, and then I’d be making some electronic arpeggios to go with that. I’d be constantly AirDropping stuff to Cam Gower, the greatest vocal engineer in the world, and he would be stacking what we had in ProTools. Sometimes I would take Cam’s session and put it into my computer — like with ‘Illusion’, because there’s stuff that goes on that affects the whole track in a way that I needed to do to get that dancey feel. 

It's quite a global, almost old-fashioned producer role I was taking. I think that was a valuable thing for Dua in certain cases, because I would know about every song on the album. If we were writing with new writers, I'd be like, ‘we already said this idea in that song.’ I would have an eye on the whole thing and be a soundboard for the overall project. 

Let’s start with the opening track, "End Of An Era" is unexpectedly calming and gentle. What prompted you guys to make this the opener?

I just love the idea of starting an album with the track called "End Of An Era"; it is quite an alarming thing to see. I love the tone of the track, the joy of it, but also the fairy-godmother-style commentary going over it as well. 

It's about that heart-eyes emoji feeling of knowing you're irrationally in love in the moment where you rethink everything about your life. I just thought the emotion fit really well. The album has a story to it, and it's a great opener for that story.  

The track "These Walls" expands Dua’s voice in a way I haven’t heard her sing before. Could you walk me through the production of that song?

With that song, I didn't want to get in the way of the purity of the message. It’s very important to understand when a track does not need to be a production showcase, you are in service of the storytelling. 

It was all about making space for the great emotion of the song and having occasional moments of departure, and always being relevant to what is being said. When she says "Did you really mean it when you said forever?", the track disappears into a strange fantasy synth moment. That idea is [that] your mind might get taken away by the thought of forever, just for a moment, as a sort of impossible idea. That's what the music's doing — it takes you out and it lands you straight back into the track.

There’s also a moment of self-deprecating humor: "If these walls could talk / they’d say you’re f—ed.". Was that humor fostered by the close relationship all the songwriters had?

Absolutely. That kind of thing is often the most memorable bit of a song, if placed correctly in the most tasteful area. There’s a track on the yeule album Glitch Princess, where it’s these big Charles Ives chords I wrote. It sounds like it’s gonna be a nice piano ballad, but the first line is "feels like s—." [Laughs.] It takes you by surprise, but it fits with the mood of the track. 

With Dua, it’s tastefully placing it where it fits in the story, and that point in the chorus, it felt perfect. It also reminds me of this idea in the [software] engineering world: the rubber duck principle. They have a rubber duck there because engineers will want to ask a question, but often when you’re asking the question, you’ll realize the answer to it. The rubber duck is there so you can ask the question and it’ll tell you the answer because you already knew it. ‘These Walls’ reminds me of that; if these walls are saying I’m f—ed, you know you’re f—ed. 

The climax of the album is "Falling Forever." It’s super ballsy, and the drums are mixed so loudly. Tell me about how this track came to be.

It’s a beautiful one, that one. A great thinker said it sounds like a thousand galloping horses. That one came about in the sessions with [producer and songwriter] Ian Kirkpatrick. He came in with the chords you hear at the beginning, and I really enjoyed the idea of having a galloping rhythm. You don’t hear the gallop very often, I can’t think of one other song that’s done that in recent history. 

I also thought up the "how long" thing — I thought it would be fun to make the word ‘long’ really long. Those were my key contributions to the song. Ian Kirkpatrick, his drums are so fantastic. You’ve gotta let him get on with it. 

The vocals are also so close there’s subtler production going on earlier in the album, but this song punches you right in the face.

It’s so great. It’s very much an approach that I have with singers where I want them to do a thing that makes their voice sound f—ing amazing. The first time I thought I achieved that with Caroline was with "Parachute," using everything her voice can do: the runs, the high register, the emotional low register. This is a showcase. "Falling Forever" does that with Dua. "These Walls" is an interesting comparison as well, it shows a real range of emotion that Dua is capable of in a way I find really exciting. 

It’s indescribable to hear her sing in the room. I had the privilege of having her recording demo vocals on an SM-7 [microphone] like this sitting in front of her. It is unbelievable to hear that: just a human making that sound in front of you, it’s like nothing else. It’s like witnessing a wonder of the world. Also to use the specific, occasionally metallic sound she can make with her voice, to use it when necessary as part of an expression of something, the way she phrases things is incredible as well. 

Does the message of Radical Optimism — of finding grace in the chaos — match the euphoria you want to explore in music?

There is a sense of melancholic euphoria as well, the Elizabethan side of things. I would say there's a Venn diagram of euphoria that fits with Dua. 

On the track "Happy For You," there are certain ravey things going on where Dua was like, "What’s that sound?" It’s these chords Kevin wrote, and I start stuttering them. 

Also the flute mellotron in the song "Maria," she was immediately like, "Yep: I love it." I was so happy because it’s so my thing, that cyclical melody. Also, the bit in "Illusions" before the chorus where it goes to a major chord before the chorus, I love the sound of the unexpected major chord. Having repeated moments like that, I think, was the reason why I was asked to stay on the project; we clearly had chemistry, but it was interesting how macro it was. 

That unexpected major chord moment also appears in your Eurovision song with Olly Alexander, doesn’t it?

I've written some more tracks with him that do that. I've really been enjoying that with Olly because his voice is so agile and can really make sense of more complicated chord sequences. 

Another thing I've been enjoying with him is when there's sparseness and letting the vocal melody spell out the harmony and maybe occasionally go minor and major over one bass note, which is something I really, really enjoy. 

I've always been a big fan of Olly Alexander, I’ve wanted to work with him my whole career. I believe I tweeted at him in 2009 saying hi. But I think people who like my stuff could hear that he has the kind of voice that I really like: a very virtuosic, melodic voice. [We] just had immediate chemistry, musically. We've written a fair amount of music and he’s a very exciting artist to be involved with. 

The UK has a pretty shaky track record with Eurovision. Did you feel any of that pressure?

No, there wasn't that thing in my head. I just love Olly’s voice. And collaborating with him is just fantastic. I've had ideas for Olly for years now, and it was a dream to be able to actually enact some of them.

What’s next in store for you?

My own album. I've got another one that I'm finishing up at the minute that I'm very excited about. It was delayed by two and a half years because I got all of my dream projects offered to me at the same time and I wanted to make sure that I did them all properly. But now I can get back to doing my own stuff. 

It feels so good to be back at the grindstone, sitting in my studio writing beautiful things, making beautiful objects to present to the world. It’s the dream, really.

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Megan Thee Stallion (Center) and (from L to R:) J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V, RM, Suga, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Megan Thee Stallion (Center) and (from L to R:) J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V, RM, Suga, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 03, 2022.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie

From Jungkook and Usher's tribute to their shared musical idol, to BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez' sugary sweet collab, K-pop and Western artists of all genres are joining forces to create killer hits.

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2024 - 02:12 pm

It’s impossible to ignore the growing global popularity of K-pop. Although Korean pop has been around for decades, the genre's meteoric worldwide success over the past 10 years is reminiscent of Beatlemania and the early 2000s American boy band craze. With a steady increase year-over-year in album sales and K-pop groups touring the U.S. and Europe, interest in K-pop shows no signs of slowing down.

Initially launched in South Korea as a music subgenre with Western pop, R&B and hip-hop influences in the '90s, the K-pop industry is valued at around $10 billion.

Given the worldwide appetite for K-pop, several Western musicians are keen to partner with K-pop acts crossing over into more international markets, often with songs sung partially or entirely in English. While K-pop artists do not need Western artists to be successful — BTS sold out London’s Wembley stadium in under 90 minutes back in 2019, and BLACKPINK made Coachella history twice with performances in 2019 and 2023 — K-pop's massive fanbase and multi-genre influence make it an ideal collaboration for everyone from rappers and singers to electronic DJs.

But don’t take our word for it. Here are nine of the most iconic K-Pop/Western collaborations (not in any order; they are all great songs!).

Usher and Jungkook - "Standing Next to You (Usher Remix)" (2024)

The maknae (the youngest member of the group) of global K-pop superstars BTS and the King of R&B are both having banner years: Jungkook released his debut solo album, and Usher just performed at the Super Bowl

The Bangtan Boys have cited Usher as a significant influence (even singing a callback to his 2001 hit "U Got It Bad" in their No. 1 song, "Butter"), so BTS fans were delighted when the Jungkook tapped Usher for a remix of "Standing Next to You." The song marks the fourth single from his Billboard 200 chart-topping debut album, Golden

Both singers count Michael Jackson as a major influence. In their collaboration video, Usher and Jungkook pay tribute to the King of Pop as they slide, pop, and lock across the slick floor of an abandoned warehouse. 

John Legend and Wendy of Red Velvet - "Written in the Stars" (2018)

R&B singer/pianist John Legend was the perfect choice for an R&B ballad with Wendy, the main vocalist of K-pop quintet Red Velvet. The final song on the five-track SM Station x 0, a digital music project, "Written in the Stars," is a beautiful, mid-tempo love song. A bit of a departure from K-pop’s typical upbeat sound, Wendy and Legend are in perfect harmony over a warm yet melancholic rhythm.

As Red Velvet’s main vocalist, Wendy was the ideal voice for this collaboration. Additionally, she split her childhood between Canada and the U.S., and has been comfortable singing in English since Red Velvet debuted in 2014. This wasn't her first collab with a Western artist: In 2017, she released an English-language version of the pop ballad "Vente Pa’Ca" with Ricky Martin

BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez - "Ice Cream" (2020)

A powerhouse debut single, BLACKPINK collaborated with pop royalty Selena Gomez on the massive 2020 hit "Ice Cream."

An electropop-bubblegum fusion filled with dairy double entendres, "Ice Cream" was an enormous success for both Gomez and the BLACKPINK girls. The track peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has racked up nearly 900 million YouTube views to date. 

Written by a consortium of hitmakers, including Ariana Grande and BLACKPINK’s longtime songwriter and producer Teddy Park (a former K-pop idol himself), "Ice Cream" shows that YG Entertainment’s golden foursome and Gomez were the correct partnership for this track. The pop-trap bop marked the first time a K-pop girl group broke the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and immediately solidified BLACKPINK as global superstars. 

Snoop Dogg and Monsta X - "How We Do" (2022)

West Coast rap godfather Snoop Dogg has quietly become one of the go-to Western acts for K-pop collabs, working with Psy, BTS, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1. K-pop is the Dogg Father's "guilty pleasure," and he performed at the Mnet Asian Music Awards with Dr. Dre in 2011. Without Snoop's love of K-pop, the world might not have gotten this fun and energetic collaboration with Snoop and Monsta X, a five-member boy group under Starship Entertainment.

The song appears in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run in a dance segment where Snoop, decked out in a pink and purple Western suit, is accompanied by zombie dancers. Though we do not see the members of Monsta X, their harmonious crooning is the perfect accent to Snoop Dogg’s trademark casual West Coast flow.

BTS and Steven Aoki - "MIC Drop (Steve Aoki remix)" (2017)

No K-pop list is complete with a nod to the magnificent seven, and "MIC Drop" is one of their catchiest Western collabs to date. 

"Mic Drop" is quintessential BTS: a nod to hip-hop with a heavy bass line and fun choreography. While the original version of "MIC Drop" is excellent, the remix with EDM superstar DJ Steve Aoki and rapper Desiigner cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first of many hits for the Bulletproof Boy Scouts. 

Released at a time when BTS were just starting their ascent to chart-topping Western dominance, the track's boastful lyrics and tension-building electro-trap production offered an excellent introduction to the group that would soon become international superstars. 

JYJ, Kanye West and Malik Yusef - "Ayyy Girl" (2010)

A truly deep K-pop cut, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who know that Kanye West collaborated with a first-generation K-pop group over 13 years ago. Released as the lead single on JYJ’s English-language album The Beginning, West’s signature bravado and wordplay are on full display over a track that sounds like the Neptunes produced it.

The song garnered attention in the U.S., but after a string of bad luck (including a severely delayed U.S. visa process and issues with their management company, SM Entertainment), JYJ could not capitalize on their American success. The group continued to see success in Korea and Japan in the early 2010s but never made a splash in the Western market again.

IVE and Saweetie - "All Night" (2024)

A reimagining of Icona Pop’s 2013 song of the same name, "All Night," sees fourth-generation K-pop girl group IVE partner with rap’s resident glamor girl Saweetie for a funky, electronic-infused pop song that’s perfect for dancing from dusk till dawn. 

"All Night" is the first English song for the Starship Entertainment-backed group. Interestingly, none of the members of IVE have individual lines in the song, choosing instead to sing the lyrics in a six-part harmony. This choice is exciting but fun, giving listeners the feeling that they are more than welcome to sing along. 

The girl group embarked on their first 24-date world tour in January 2024, with stops in the U.S., Asia, Europe and South America. Given their quest for global dominance, there’s a good chance "All Night" won’t be IVE's last English-language release.

BTS and Megan Thee Stallion - "Butter (Remix)" (2021)

BTS’ "Butter" had already spent three weeks atop the Billboard charts and was declared the "song of the summer" when the group’s label announced Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion as the guest star for the song’s remix in late August 2021. The GRAMMY-nominated septet is no stranger to collaborating with Western musicians, having worked with Halsey, Jason Derulo, and Coldplay

Though only slightly altered from the original (Megan’s verse was added in place of the song’s second original verse, along with several ad-libs), the remix was praised by both fans and critics alike, catapulting the song’s return back to the No. 1. Although the collaborators did not release a new music video featuring the group and the self-proclaimed "Hot Girl Coach," three members of BTS’ "dance line" (members J-Hope, Jungkook and Jimin) released a specially choreographed dance video. Additionally, Megan was a surprise guest during BTS’ record-breaking Permission to Dance LA concert in November of the same year.

LE SSERAFIM and Niles Rodgers - "Unforgiven" (2023)

GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nile Rodgers' first foray into K-pop was a partnership with LE SSERAFIM, a fourth-gen girl group from the same parent company behind BTS. "Unforgiven" was released earlier this year as the lead single from the group’s debut album of the same name. 

A darker take on the familiar K-pop formula with A Western feel and look (the young quintuplet dons cowboy hats, boots and bolo ties in the song’s accompanying music video), "Unforgiven" is about rebellion and being a fierce, strong and independent risk taker. That riskiness drew Rodgers' ear. 

"It seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the…chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years," he told GRAMMY.com in 2023. "I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me."

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