“Follow the producers.” That’s been my mantra since day one. Yes, there are certain idol groups who catch my attention more than others, but when it comes down to it, it’s the songs that really matter. And although they might not get the same attention, composers and producers are the ones responsible for the music that fuels K-pop.
2020 continued to see a shift in generations. Most of my favorite second gen producers were inactive or very limited in their output, making way for a host of new creators. But, with teams of western composers making up more and more of K-pop’s songwriting credits, it could be hard to uncover the next generation of Korean talent.
10. MELANIE FONTANA
Judging by my ratings for the songs below, it was clear that Melanie Fontana’s work was very hit or miss in 2020. But, her name was omnipresent in K-pop, and attached to a few of the year’s best pop songs.
Twice – I Can’t Stop Me
TXT – Wishlist, Can’t You See Me, Puma, Way Home
BTS – On, Stay Gold
CLC – Helicopter
Everglow – No Good Reason
ENHYPEN – Given-Taken
Blackswan – Tonight
IU – Into The I-LAND
Secret Number – Who Dis?
As the core architects of Stray Kids’ sound, 3Racha get most of the credit for the groups’ 2020 highlights — as well as some of the blame for their not-so-great material. But, there are few idol producers with as unique a voice as them, and this was another strong year for their music.
(BLSSD’s former duo, RPHABET, pictured above)
I have my personal issues with a few of BLSSD’s musical preferences (he doesn’t really do “upbeat,” for instance…), but there’s no denying his talent. His productions this year were inventive, polished and meticulous.
The Bias List Producer Spotlight (Rphabet)
An up-and-coming team, Papermaker makes it onto this list thanks to their work with rookies GHOST9. I don’t think they’ve yet unlocked their full potential, but it feels like there’s a lot to look forward to when it comes to their adventurous sound.
E.one have long been a staple on this countdown, and continue to be my girl group producers of choice. Their synth-heavy sound is instantly recognizable, and continued to flourish in 2020. They still didn’t get to take the reins of a title track (what’s up with that, K-pop industry?), but their b-sides certainly impressed.
5. COACH & SENDO
Coach & Sendo have been on my radar for awhile, but 2020 brought a couple of real classics to their discography. They seem to be developing a penchant for playful, tempo-shifting funk pop, and I hope that continues to flourish in the new year.
The Boyz – The Stealer
P1Harmony – Nemonade
LOONA – Oh (Yes I Am)
Pentagon – Asteroid
Astro – When You Call My Name
4. RYAN S. JHUN
Ryan S. Jhun is one of those names you see attached to so many K-pop tracks. Given this, I’m not sure that his music has an easily identifiable sound. But, just look at all the big-name tracks he was a part of this year! He scores tons of points for his work with Oh My Girl and WayV alone.
Oh My Girl – Dolphin
YooA – Bon Voyage, Far, Abracadabra
WayV – Electric Hearts, After Midnight
SuperM – 100
VAV – Made For Two
NCT 127 – Punch
Taemin – Just Me And You
VERIVERY – My Face
Victon – Nightmare
IZ*ONE – Eyes
3. HWANG HYUN (MONOTREE)
Monotree’s Hwang Hyun has been a personal favorite for years, and he started to really break out this year. Led by his work with ONF (and that fantastic Road To Kingdom remix), his name became synonymous with big, inventive synth pop.
Edenary continued to be one of the industry’s most dynamic teams of creators. I’m not sure that their work had quite as much consistency as in 2019, but they still feel like a vital force in this generation of K-pop. I mean, just look at the triple whammy of Answer, Scream and OMG! That’s enough to celebrate them for weeks on end.
ATEEZ – Answer, Horizon, Precious, Inception, Thanxx, Fever, Good Lil’ Boy
Dreamcatcher – Scream, Black Or White, Tension, Sahara, In The Frozen, Boca, Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind
Golden Child – OMG
Siyeon – Paradise
Younha – Winter Flower (ft. RM)
BTOB 4U – Show Your Love
Frants scores the top spot on this countdown for the first time. The industry’s retro trend feels like a match made in heaven with his strengths as a songwriter. After all, he’s been tackling this sound for years with the likes of Sunmi and Wonder Girls. I’m so happy that 2020 brought his style to a wider audience. He’s responsible for multiple songs in multiple top tens on my countdowns, as well as some truly exciting b-sides.