Girls’ Generation has had countless hit songs throughout their career, but often unnoticed are the behind-the-scenes songwriters and producers who compose these songs that Girls’ Generation flawlessly performs. To learn more about these talented songwriters and how Girls’ Generation’s music is made, Soshified interviewed the founders of Dsign Music, who are responsible for writing some of Girls’ Generation’s biggest songs, including the classic, “Genie”, fan-favorite, “Beep Beep”, and their latest #1 hit, “I Got A Boy”. The team at Dsign Music had nothing but praise for Girls’ Generation as we talked about Dsign’s career working with the girls, coming up with hit songs, and even finally getting to the bottom of the meaning behind “Let’s bring it back to 140.”
Dsign Music introduces themselves
-Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? How did you get into music and songwriting?
Dsign Music was founded by Ronny Svendsen, Nermin Harambasic, Anne Judith Wik and Robin Jenssen in 2005. All of us have been in the music industry for many years as musicians, artists and performers, always writing our own material for ourselves, and we felt it was now time to write and produce songs for others than ourselves. We wanted to see how good we could get by focusing only on writing and producing.
Anne had a long career as a singer in the band “SODA” touring and selling platinum in Norway. She also was a singer in the band “Stargate” later on in the UK. Ronny and Robin were into progressive rock and played together from 1994 until 2000. Robin as a singer, and Ronny as a guitar player. Ronny later played in a band with Nermin who also was a singer. There is a lot of musical talent and years of experience in the team of Dsign Music.
-How was Dsign Music founded? What were your goals as songwriters?
We came together when Ronny, Nermin and Robin formed a studio and Anne was hired as a session singer. The songs turned out great so the guys asked Anne if she wanted to be a part of a team and a few weeks later Dsign Music was formed. The goals were set from day #1. We wanted to write hits all over the world and live from our music production/songwriting. All songwriters wants to be #1 on Billboard and have a Grammy. So then the story started. This year started with two #1’s on the Billboard for us with both Girls’ Generation and SuperJunior-M.
-How many people work at Dsign? What’s the culture at Dsign like?
Dsign Music are now expanding but the original team is Ronny, Anne, Nermin and Robin. Now we also have a whole team of writers/producers associated and being a part of the Dsign family. The latest producer in our family is Jin Choi from Seoul, Korea signed to Dsign Music in January 2013.
The culture is based on a strong friendship and the different musical skills/qualities we all possess. One of the main ingredients are all of us being very competitive and wanting to succeed. We all have a high work moral and we always try to reach our common goals together. At the moment we manage 10 writers/producers working on a daily basis, including the original team of four. But the most important thing is: to have fun and enjoy what you are doing! In that way you can create the best songs!!
-What song are you most proud of composing? had the most fun/best experience composing?
That would be a hard question to answer since almost every song has their own story.
-Which song that you composed really jumpstarted your career?
There is one particular song that jumpstarted our career in Asia and this song is “Genie”. This song is really the breaking point in our careers, and took us to the top of the charts all over Asia. This gave us the opportunity to travel to both Korea and Japan several times. We got to see a whole new culture and take part of a great new experience. We are really thankful for what this song has done for us, and still does today.
-What is your process for writing songs? How many people are involved, from music to lyrics? How long does it usually take to compose a song?
Usually we write songs from scratch with the whole team in the studio. Either on our own, or in co-writes with other writers. A song can take from 20 minutes and up to 14 days to write. Usual spent time on one song is 1-2 days from starting point to finished product, which then is ready to be sent out to the artists/labels.
-Do you write a song with the idea that it will be for a certain market like in Europe, America, or in Korea, and if so, how are the markets different in your opinion? How is the music itself different in K-Pop compared to Western music?
We always try to have an artist or territory in mind when we write a new song. This helps to define both the melody and lyrics that we choose to use. There are several inequalities between western and Asian music, the most common ones are how many parts a song is divided into, type of hook lines, and the amount of syllables in the lyrics. When it comes to melody the Asian market is a mix of Europe and US. K-Pop is very unique in its style! We try to keep it playful, colorful, and most importantly catchy and sing-along friendly.
-Do you specifically compose songs for certain artists or agree to sell your songs only to certain artists?
Usually there are no politics involved in who can have our songs. But we have to say no when the market is too small or if the artist is not right for the song. We have certain quality measures that we do think of to make sure that we get the right song for the right artist. That is very crucial for a song’s success!
-What’s it like composing a song then hearing it become a hit in a foreign language?
It’s always a great feeling to see the video and hear our song becoming a hit regardless of what language or what country the song is released. To have a hit song and see the song going #1 is the best reward any songwriter/producer can get. So this is the ultimate feeling of high!
As mentioned earlier, Girls’ Generation has played a key role for Dsign Music. “Genie” was a huge song that proved to be the start of a long relationship between Dsign Music and Girls’ Generation.
-How has Girls’ Generation affected your career? Were you surprised with the success of “Genie”?
This was a real eye opener for us. We had never been to Asia before, and the first time we ever went to Tokyo, at the same day Girls’ Generation went #1 on the charts and had three sold out concerts as we got there. We went to the venue and met the girls, and we were totally overwhelmed. Fans everywhere dressed as Girls’ Generation. TV stations wanted to interview us and it was so crazy…like Beatles and even Britney Spears back in the old days. People screaming and pink glow sticks everywhere. We felt really humble when we were in the arena seeing the girls perform and hearing the audience singing along to the song. I think I had a tear on my chin when the song stopped and Tiffany said “DJ – put it back on!!” It was an experience of a lifetime for all of us. The work with Girls’ Generation has really affected our careers in a big way, and we are forever grateful for that! It gave us the opportunity to work with other Asian artists as well!
The success of the song was of course not expected, and it just didn’t stop. It was released as a single, mini-album, several albums, videos, etc. It still is being released in compilations today. So the success is still great fun for us…one of those perfect songs that you are lucky to write!
-How were you first approached to compose a song for Girls’ Generation? Did you know about them or K-Pop beforehand?
We got a call from our publisher at Universal Music (Pelle Lidell – European Executive) saying we should look into this very exciting market in Asia. This was a totally new scene for us, and we felt helpless since we didn’t understand the language. We also had some issues getting a grip of the music style and production.
We started to listen to all the K-Pop music we could find on YouTube and the internet and tried to understand the music.
One day we got a call and “Genie” was cut with SM Entertainment. We were really happy but didn’t understand how important and lucky we were at the time. We kept on studying the music and believe we have discovered some of the secrets of K-Pop. But we are still learning every day and would like to learn more. Anne even started to study the language.
-Have you met Girls’ Generation, and if so, what was it liking working with them?
We have met Girls’ Generation or at least some of the girls both in Korea, Japan and Paris.
The girls are really cool and sassy. They all have their own distinctive style. Anne even had the opportunity to be in the studio with all of the girls when they recorded “I Got A Boy”, where she was coaching the whole vocal session! The girls are SO professional!! They sing perfectly and are the nicest sweetest people ever!!!
-Which Girls’ Generation song that you have composed is your favorite? Had the best experience with?
This is a difficult question!! We love all of them but we got to say that “Genie” will forever have a special place in our hearts because it was our very first cut with them! Plus we had like the greatest time just writing the song in the first place!
-What do you think of Girls’ Generation, their voices, how they fit the songs that Dsign has written, and how their performances of the songs are?
Every time we have seen Girls’ Generation live, they have done a great performance and always deliver top quality. We think they have really cool voices and also quite different voices so they put their own flavor to their parts and stand out from other groups. We try to make the songs they release perfect for our favorite girls. We want to have parts in the songs so every girl can shine and show off her special talent! Every time we hear them sing our songs it’s gratifying, because they always deliver their A-game!
-What is the “bring it back to 140” thing all about in “I Got A Boy”?
Bring it back to 140 is referring to bringing the track back to how it sounded at 1 minute and 40 seconds into the song! “I Got A Boy” has several different parts and styles, and the song switches back and forth between these parts!
-Where did the inspiration for “I Got A Boy” come from? Was there a more global audience in mind when composing the song?
The inspiration for “I Got A Boy” was quite organic in the way that the song was literally written in 15 minutes!! It just happened!! Sometimes it’s just like that! We had an instrumental track and just jammed and freestyled melodies and rap over it and BOOM! The song was there! Every time we write for GG we always aim for and hope that THIS could be the song that will break them seriously worldwide! We wanted the song to have an urban danceable feel to it, some American swagger, but still keep the unique K-Pop flavor!! We think it’s a great and unique pop song that will stand the test of time! We are very proud of how the girls perform and sing it! It is super cool!!
-“I Got A Boy” has been receiving tremendous feedback, both positive such as Billboard’s rave review and some negative because of the adventurous style. Are you satisfied with “I Got A Boy” overall?
We are ecstatic about it!!! Very proud and happy about all the responses! I think it has achieved everything we could hope for and more! It has provoked people, has inspired people, has made more people fans of GG, and opened them up to a new audience!! The greatest thing for a songwriter is writing a song which people both love and hate! Then you know you have hit a nerve with the listener!! The worst thing you can do as a writer is to make something that people just shrug their shoulders to, that makes them say “the song is ok”, or “it’s generic”, or worst, “I don’t care about the song”!!! When you make someone have an actual opinion about your song, whether good OR bad you know you have done something!! Plus 40 million views on YouTube isn’t that bad either! It shows that the song is getting serious notice worldwide and that’s never a bad thing! So yes! We are very satisfied!
-“Beep Beep” is a ridiculously catchy song. How did you come up with this?
This song was written in Tokyo and was specially written with GG in mind. It was a collaboration with Jeff Miyahara, and we basically did the melody in 30 minutes. We were all smiling in the studio imagining the girls singing it. It was so much fun writing it, and this we think you can also hear in the finished recording.
I think they kept Robin’s voice saying “Hello” from the original studio recording which is an honor for him.
-In what ways would you like to be involved with more of Girls’ Generation’s music in the future?
Any styles you want to see the girls tackle next?
We would really like to be a part of the future releases in the US market as well as their Asian releases. Coming up with new and groundbreaking songs is always a part of our job for future songwriting. We have to be innovative and think outside the box all the time! Keep it interesting and fresh!! As for styles, I think the girls should just keep doing great groundbreaking, edgy and melodic pop songs!! And we also love their rapping skills!
-You seem to have a close relationship with SM Entertainment. How is it working with them?
SM Entertainment is a great business partner for us and we have had a close relationship for several years. They have the most professional staff which we enjoy doing business with. They give us instant feedback on our material and guide us in a really good way! And we have also become good friends over the years! We love, love, LOVE working with them!!
-What is your take on the Korean pop music industry, from idol groups and the surge of soloists, to hook songs, and the spread of K-Pop outside of Korea? What do you think are the strengths of K-Pop, and what could be improved to make it more appealing worldwide?
We think K-Pop now is ready for the world and has been for some time. The music is so good and has a huge fan base all over the world! All the artists and labels are very professional and take great pride in what they do and how their products are being presented. We love the way everything is packaged (CDs, etc.), music videos, shows and think this is a great advantage compared to the Europe and US markets.
To get more recognition it might be smart to also include some English songs on the albums so that more people can enjoy and understand the lyrics. Lyrics are important since they tell a story and create different feelings to people, so understanding them is crucial.
-Since becoming involved with K-Pop, have you taken any interest in Korean culture?
All of us have fallen in love with the Korean culture, food, people, movies and music.
We are always looking forward to our trips to Asia. Some of us would even want to move there for a period of time in the future. We actually eat sushi once a week together here in Trondheim. And Korean BBQ!! OMG! It’s fantastic!! People are so nice and kindhearted!! So yes…we are addicted!
Thanks again to the wonderful team at Dsign Music for participating in the interview, and of course, for writing such excellent songs for Girls’ Generation. To see more of Dsign Music’s work, head over to their official website.
Photos and Video by: Dsign Music, SM Entertainment, SoshifiedPD@youtube.com
Written by by: Moonsoshi9@soshified
Edited by: bhost909@soshified
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