Dsign Music first broke into the Kpop scene with Girls Generation’s “Genie”, which led to them gaining their first Billboard No.1! Since then, the Latin Grammy-nominated music producing collective has gone on to gain 40 Billboard No.1s and worked with several Kpop artists, including NCT, EXO, MONSTA X, ITZY and TWICE.
UnitedKpop sat down with Dsign Music’s Anne Judith Wik (songwriter, topliner), Ronnie Svendsen (producer, songwriter) and Nermin Harambasic (producer, songwriter, topliner) to discuss their latest Kpop song, “Baby Blue Love”, for TWICE, as well as their 15 years of experience in producing for Kpop. Unfortunately, Jin Suk Choi (producer, songwriter) was unable to be part of the interview.
Congratulations on the release of “Baby Blue Love”! What was the inspiration behind “Baby Blue Love”, and did you write it with TWICE in mind?
Thank you! “Baby Blue Love” was definitely written with TWICE in mind. We had been asked by JYP Entertainment to create something with danceful rhythms and cool hooks, so “Baby Blue Love” was born. Fun fact, it was originally called “Old School Love”.
Can you recall any anecdotes whilst producing the song?
When we wrote the song in English, we didn’t know who would write the Korean lyrics. When we heard the first draft, we loved it. It was also exciting to see that they kept parts of the English lyrics that we had written. We didn’t have any challenges, to be honest, but one of our friends [Emily/Yoon Seo Kim] did the vocal guiding in Korea and she told us that the girls were quite nervous. We told her to tell them to have fun and that we had full confidence in them, and we think you can hear it in their voices.
How did you become Kpop music producers as Dsign Music?
It was our publisher who introduced us to Kpop actually. We were in Stockholm in 2008, and our publisher showed us some recent Kpop hits, some of which were written by Western producers. Having already produced music for Western artists, we thought that we could do the same. We wrote “Genie” for Girls Generation the same year, which went on to be a huge success, and since then, we’ve developed a good relationship with SM Entertainment, so requests have kept coming.
What is it like to work as a music producing collective?
We started this as a team, so set roles as producers, songwriters, topliners etc. have formed organically over time. We do have creative differences at times; however, we also trust each other. Everyone wants the best for the song, and that’s really important to remember. We have a rule between us – if all of us are happy with the song, then the song must be great.
How do you go about pitching songs to companies?
That comes down to our publisher, really. We receive briefs from various labels and create songs based on those briefs. Then, we pitch them back to the company. Sometimes, the songs are chosen, and other times, they’re not. We’ve also had instances where our songs have gone to other groups. For example, EXO’s “What with You” had actually been intended for NCT. Similarly, WAYV’s “Unbreakable” had originally been intended for EXO. It’s just been the case that the songs matched their concepts more.
How has the pandemic impacted how you work with Kpop companies and artists?
Before the pandemic, we were travelling between 100 to 150 days a year, whereas now everything is predominately done remotely and over FaceTime. It’s not as fun and we certainly miss the social aspect of it; plus, travelling is a huge inspiration!
You’ve produced songs for a vast range of groups and artists, both Kpop and non-Kpop. With your experience, what are some of the ‘must have’ characteristics you consider when producing a Kpop song?
Probably the idea that more is more. We need to remember that these songs will be in a different language and that labels except to hear a lot of twists and turns. Sometimes, you can also have several members in a group, so we need to ensure that each member has a chance to shine, with different verses and rap segments. That really does something to the structure of the song overall.
Is there a song that stands out as having been a challenging project or something you wish you had spent more time on?
Honestly, there’s no specific song that we can think of. Whilst we live and breathe the songs during the production stage, they belong to the fans once they’re released. If the fans love it, that’s amazing. If not, then we’ve done our best.
There are also times when we see fans saying, “this song should have been the title song”, and it’s interesting to see because each song will resonate with fans in different ways.
What similarities and differences in producing a song for Kpop, as opposed to Jpop or a Western artist?
When composing for Western artists, it’s simpler – you establish a vibe, and you stick it. With Kpop, on the other hand, you have more liberties. You can change up the vibe, mix genres etc. Girls Generations’ “I Got A Boy” is a great example of that.
Over the years, you guys have achieved several Billboard No.1s and awards. How did you feel when you gained your first Billboard No.1?
For us, considering we were trying out something that was new territory, Billboard was a massive milestone. At the same time, Kpop wasn’t as big as it is now, so it felt like it could have happened on Mars. Nonetheless, it felt rewarding to see our hard work pay off.
What would be your dream Kpop project to work on?
We would love to work on a project with BTS and BLACKPINK for sure.
We also enjoy working with new groups and being part of the process that can set them off into the stratosphere. Some groups we’re working with are preparing to debut, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.
Finally, do you have any message for our readers?
Thank you for listening to the songs we write, and for supporting the artists we write for! There will definitely be more to come, so keep an eye out for us on the credits!