The most under-appreciated role in many K-Pop songs, the producer, has the power to make or break a song with how they handle the soundscape of each record.
This list will present five of the greatest producers in K-Pop.
Although his credits have thinned out recently, there’s no doubt that Kang “Brave Brothers” Dong-Chul is one of the most prolific and influential producers in K-pop history.
His hook-heavy sound and “Brave Sound” watermark were everywhere in 2013 and 2014, becoming the sound that defined K-pop in those years. Best known for his work with girl groups, he produced trilogies for Sistar, AOA and 4Minute, and created huge hits for plenty of other artists.
Brave Sound’s style is catchy with a strong rhythmic through line. In his songs there is never a point where the listener is bored, with synth riffs and syncopated “hey’s” which to keep them hooked. Extremely poppy, his sound will be stuck in your head for weeks upon listening to it even once. For a typical Brave Sound song, you can look no further than AOA’s “Short Hair (단발머리)“.
The only contender to Brave Sound for the title of most prolific producer is the production duo Duble Sidekick. Comprising of lyricist Park Jang-Geun and songwriter Kim Jung-Seung (better known as Chancellor), Duble Sidekick began crafting hit songs in 2012. They first worked with B.A.P and MBLAQ, carving out a place for themselves in the industry, and have since gone on to produce for groups like Girl’s Day, Bestie and Mamamoo.
Duble Sidekick’s style is hard to pin down, since they tend to vary between releases. A constant element is their creative use of percussion and rhythm, with catchy drum beats being the backbone of most of their work, and careful use of brass also prominent. A great example of this and their style in general is CLC’s “Pepe (페페)”.
When it comes to back catalogue prestige, few come close to Lee “Shinsadong Tiger” Ho-Yang. His production credits include some of the most popular and memorable songs in K-Pop history; the careers of groups like Beast, EXID and T-ara wouldn’t be as impressive without him.
Shinsadong Tiger’s songs have gone through probably the biggest evolution of any of the producers on this list; he started off with the typical synth-driven dance-pop songs of the late 2000’s, like 4Minute’s “Muzik (뮤직)” and Beast’s “숨 (Breath)”, but went on to brassier compositions like Ailee’s “U&I (유앤아이)”, retro sounds like Dalshabet’s “B.B.B (비비비)”, and eventually club dance like on T-ara’s “Sugar Free (슈가프리)”.
Having changed so much along the way, it’s tough to say what lets a listener know that they’re listening to a Shinsadong Tiger song. The clearest signifier I’ve found is his dense layering of vocals; he tends to create interesting harmonies all over his tracks which add to the catchiness of his beats and choruses. For a typical Shinsadong Tiger song, Apink’s “NoNoNo (노노노)” fits the bill.
Sweetune is another production team somewhat in the vein of Brave Brothers – they have a defined style, and although they rarely deviate from that style, they are incredible at it. Sweetune is all about that 80’s synthpop. Fans of Infinite, Snuper and Kara will be very familiar with their sound, since it laid the foundation for these groups.
Fans of the 80’s sound may have an epiphany upon finding Sweetune. So many all-time favourites were produced by Sweetune: Kara’s “Step”, “Mr. (미스터)” and “Lupin (루팡)”; Infinite’s “BTD”, “The Chaser (추격자)” and “내꺼하자 (Be Mine)”; Snuper’s “지켜줄게 (Platonic Love)”, “It’s Raining” and “Back:Hug (백허그)”. These are all just phenomenal songs, and if you enjoy their style, Sweetune has a lot to offer.
A typical Sweetune song would have to be Infinite’s “BTD”. Although it’s far from their most iconic song, it showed Sweetune what their style was going to be, and they nailed it on the first attempt.
It’d be hard to make a list about producers without mentioning YG Entertainment’s in-house producer, Teddy Park. He’s had a huge part to play in the careers of Bigbang, 2NE1 and Blackpink, and has produced a lot of popular songs.
This is especially true for 2NE1, since his slick reggae-inspired hip-pop production is what gave that band their identity. Songs like “Fire” and “I Don’t Care” are both great examples of this sound. In recent years, Teddy has strayed away from this style in favour of a more contemporary dance-pop style later seen in 2NE1 comebacks and Blackpink’s releases.
There’s a song for each of Teddy’s main styles which are worth a look to see his evolution. “Falling In Love” by 2NE1 is the most reggae he’s ever gone, and “불장난 (Playing With Fire)” by Blackpink is as beautifully mixed and modern as you can get.
This post was written by our guest blogger, Ben Chuter.