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Collaboration becomes big trend in K-pop scene

Akdong Musician / Courtesy of YG Entertainment


By Kim Jae-heun

Never have there been so many musical collaborations between K-pop singers as there are lately. The collaborations have become more diversified in genres and styles as well.

K-pop idol singers have previously held special performances in collaboration with different bands time to time. The occasions were mostly to celebrate national holidays like Lunar New Year’s Day, Seollal, or Korean Thanksgiving Day, Choseok. The short projects gave enough impact to draw audience’s attention when two popular groups sang each other’s hit songs or a boy group turned into a girl band and performed their choreography.

The new trend of collaboration is more about displaying musical chemistry between singers.

S.M. Entertainment took the lead in the trend by launching its own digital music distributor “SM Station” last February and showcased collaborations between their singers and musicians outside of the label every week.

As the company is a front-runner of the trend, its artists are most active in the field.

S.M. Entertainment’s Baekhyun of popular boy band EXO recently released a duet song “Rain” with Starship Entertainment’s Soyu. The song instantly swept eight local music charts online and continued its success to the top K-pop chart in China’s QQ Music.

Seulgi of S.M. Entertainment’s girl band Red Velvet sang with soloist Hwang Chi-yeul of HOW Entertainment, introducing a digital single “Our story” on Feb. 21. Their single ranked tops on three major music charts, such as Melon, Bugs and Olleh Music and moved on to sell 150,000 copies on China’s QQ Music and record 220,000 downloads online. It was also successful in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Chanyeol of EXO also started his collaboration project with singer Junggigo on Feb. 23, releasing a track “Let me love you” that topped local music charts as well as second on China’s QQ Music charts and fourth on Weibo Music Chart. The musical project between the two singers started from their friendship and their personal desire to work together not their companies.

JYP Entertainment has jumped into the market to set their popular singer Suzy with singer-songwriter Park Won, releasing the song “Don’t Wait For Your Love.” Although their duet did not achieve big success on the music charts, Suzy and Park showed potential for their musical rapport in the acoustic genre.

YG Entertainment has also joined the trend with sibling duo Akdong Musician participating in a musical project with veteran folk music singer Yang Hee-eun. Their digital single “Tree” was written by Akdong Musician member Lee Chan-hyuk based on his personal experience. The collaboration was reportedly offered by Yang first, who took full control over the project with Lee, 44 years her junior.

Veteran folk music singer Yang Hee-eun talks during the showcase for her newly released album at M Pub in Yeoungdeungpo, Seoul, on Nov. 11, 2014. / Yonhap


Yang previously worked with other musicians in 2014 and 2015 where she experimented with collaboration projects, seeking authentic music and excluded commercial elements.

“The trend has been there for a while actually, but it was more of one artist featuring another,” said music critic Kim Yoon-ha. “Now, it’s more like artist versus artist and it’s no longer that only singers collaborate. A singer can collaborate with a music producer or an instrumentalist like EXO’s Suho, who released the digital single Curtain with jazz pianist Song Young-joo. Nowadays, the trend has gone further with singers collaborating with fashion brands or art directors,” Kim said.

“It’s a positive phenomenon as fans can enjoy more varied works of their favorite musicians and singers have more opportunities to try different musical genres with other musicians,” Kim said.


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