SM Entertainment‘s veteran songwriter and producer Kenzie has made hits for many artists like BoA, NCT, Girls’ Generation, aespa, and more. Sitting down for an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, she pointed out the technical elements that set K-Pop apart from other genres—especially Western music.
Being in the K-Pop industry for over twenty years, Kenzie noticed that Western music tends to focus on melodies. They often “maximize the use of one specific melodic motif by repeating it throughout the whole song.” K-Pop puts a twist on that idea by adding some unique elements, with Kenzie diving into specific examples.
In contrast, K-Pop melodies certainly have some repetitive aspects, but on top of that, there are also some unexpected melodic changes as well.
K-Pop songs are all about the layers that bring them to life, paying close attention to how well the sounds blend together. Kenzie explained, “Compared to other genres, K-Pop tends to have more dramatic transitions between each section of the song, more emotional melodies, and rather maximal track (instrumental) layers.”
Kenzie compared it to a bunch of pieces fitting together like a puzzle, forming the same picture.
In the end, these bits of changes eventually lead to one, big musical theme. If I were to visualize these K-Pop melodies, I would think of a fractal structure.
As a songwriter and producer who creates multiple hit songs a year, Kenzie revealed her one goal when making working with a K-Pop song: finding that “one special note” that transforms the whole song.
Personally, I feel that every chord progression always has this one special note, which when laid on top, unexpectedly completes the progression and makes it a pleasing phrase that hits our ears. I always dig for this one special note till I get satisfied.
While K-Pop may be influenced by Western music and incorporates songwriters and composers from around the world, the many unique layers come together to form the hit songs fans love.