The K-Pop industry has changed noticeably throughout the years, especially behind the scenes. In an interview with reacttothek, renowned producer Rodnae “Chikk” Bell talked about her experience writing for top groups over the last decade.
She is best known for working with SM Entertainment artists. Her repertoire includes the likes of Girls’ Generation (“Mr. Mr.”), EXO (“Overdose”), SHINEE (“Don’t Call Me”), aespa (“Girls”), and more.
he noted that several aspects about her job have changed throughout the years.
1. Finishing a Song
First up, there is a difference between the K-Pop song production process a decade ago versus the now.
Producers used to pitch an unfinished track to an entertainment company and only complete it once they received the go-signal to do so. This meant that the bridge would be added only after company executives agreed that the chorus and first few verses were strong enough to make the cut.
The chorus lead everything, yeah, that ‘Mr. Mr.’ just lead us into everything else. We didn’t actually finish the song in Korea, so we got all the way up to the bridge, and at that time it was more or less like, ‘If you like it we’ll finish it.’ The bridges usually came after they decided ‘Yes, we want to take the song.’
This changed after only a few years. Producers now send companies the entire song and hope that they like it enough to pick it.
Now, we just kind of finish songs now, but back then it was like, “If you like it,’ [good] but let’s move on to the next one so we can get as many as possible.’
2. Writing Parts
Next up, Chikk admitted that she did not know much about K-Pop before she got involved with SM Entertainment. She made each line thinking about K-Pop as a spectacle including the stage and choreography rather than envisioning the members.
That is something that we do as writers now, think about how many members, but back then I didn’t understand that just yet. You gotta remember, I’m at the beginning. So actually, what my thought process was, was, I wanted to be entertaining. So for me, when I do my raps and I’m toplining, I am really thinking concerts, I am thinking the tour, I am thinking them on stage, like, I am thinking dance.
The importance of writing a song with each artist in mind is something she only realized later on. Nowadays, she makes sure the lines can be divided so they belong to different people.
I was not really thinking how many members, so at the time it was like, let’s color it! But then I’m like, ‘Oh wait, now there is enough parts for members.’ So that was something I caught on to after, personally.
Finally, details about payment were also different back then. It is actually due to Chikk defending her rights to be paid for her vocals on “Mr. Mr.” that led to better treatment for songwriters today.
I… I remember being in like total shock, like first of all, that’s my voice…I actually didn’t sign a very big advance…so ‘Mr. Mr.’ was my very first cut, like, pretty much ever.
[I was] so young, so green, not knowing, and actually I didn’t get paid initially for my vocals, I didn’t. When I asked to get paid for it because I just felt like that should have probably happened, I had to fight for it.
She was apparently almost blacklisted from the K-Pop industry for speaking out about the unfair treatment she was subjected to.
I had to fight for years. I was threatened that I would never work in the K-pop business again because I would ask for what was fair.
Now, there is no question that whoever’s vocals are included in the song need to be credited and given a cut of the earnings.
Now, today, it’s a given, it’s a given….now they pay when the vocals are on there, now they’re giving something to the songwriters.
She even gets approached by fellow songwriters who thank her for standing up for herself and therefore for the rest of the industry workers as well.
I have actually had writers reach out to me like, ‘Thank you for fighting for us years ago because now, today, I actually get something.’ And I think that those messages from the newer K-pop writers. have really made those nights where I cried and I asked God ‘Why would you have it like this?’ made it all worth it.
Check out the full video below to learn more about K-Pop in the eyes of a top producer.
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