With all this talk about K-pop recently, I tried asking about what musically makes K-pop. It’s a pretty ephemeral subject, very hard to nail down. Plenty of people say there is nothing unique about it. Others say it is just a rip-off of J-pop. One former Korean music exec had a theory that it was a technical issue, regarding the equipment that Korean studios use. So I thought talking to someone who actually finds songwriters and sells songs around the world — Pelle Lidell — could provide some good insights into the question.
Sadly, some of my favorite subjects did not make the final cut. He talked a fair bit about how you have to write always keeping in mind the accompanying dance performances. And we discussed what kind of feedback Korean labels provide as a song is developed. I was expecting a lot of technical detail, but instead instructions tend to be quite cinematic and abstract. “Sassy cheery attitude + fire explosive beat,” for example. Or “deliverance of deep emotions and force.”
But the best quote to get axed was his answer to whether K-pop was just a copy of J-pop: “Bullshit,” he said.
Anyhow, thanks much to everyone who let me pick their brains for this story. It is definitely a subject I plan on coming back to in the future.