Behind the Scenes in K-pop: Interview with JYP lyricist Jennifer Kim
A while ago we brought you an interview with a producer for SM Entertainment as part of our efforts to showcase the work of the creative people who work behind the scenes in K-pop and who often receive little recognition from international fans. Recently we were privileged enough to do an interview with another experienced member of the K-pop industry, Jennifer Kim in order to give you another take on what it is like to work in the Korean pop industry.
Jennifer Kim (often credited as Kim Eunsoo) is a lyricist under JYP Publishing. She has worked for JYP for over 3 years and during that time she has written lyrics for most of their biggest artists including Wonder Girls, 2PM, Miss A, Jo Kwon, Jang Wooyoung and 15& as well as successful non-JYP acts including IU, f(x) and ZE:A. In the interview she discusses her thoughts and experiences including what it is like working for JYP, the role of English lyrics in K-pop, the songwriting process and artists that she would like to work with in future.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work within the K-pop industry?
Hi, it is great to have this talk with you! My name is Jennifer Eunsoo Kim and I’m a lyricist at JYP Publishing d.b.a. A-Soul Publishing. I live in the United States and you can find me on Twitter.
You’ve worked with a variety of different composers, do you have a particular process or does it depend on the composer? Do they send you the finished song to write lyrics for or is it more collaborative?
I cannot say that I follow a particular process but usually I receive finished songs from the composers. Then I write the lyrics and send it back to them Sometimes, I make changes later as I communicate with the composers or other creative staff involved. However, writing the lyrics first happens occasionally, too. One of the examples is IU’s I Really Don’t Like Her (그 애 참 싫다 ). The composer, Eunjee Sim, was inspired to compose the song after reading the lyrics. So producing a finished song with the lyrics can be done either way. Since I’m located in the States, I try my best to communicate efficiently with the composers. The time difference never seems to be the problem because most of the composers work through the night.
You mainly work on songs for JYP artists but you have also worked on songs for artists from other labels. How does that work? Are the songs sold on to other companies?
The process is not too different when writing for artists from other labels. The songwriters at JYP Publishing are not restricted to write only for JYP artists. Therefore, I write for artists outside of JYP Entertainment as I get requests from composers or other companies.
I do consider the artist’s image, age and style before I jump into writing lyrics. Surprisingly, writing from a male-perspective has never been difficult. I tend to create characters and their stories for each song, so I often view my writing as a part of a bigger stories rather a separate individual song. I debuted with 2PM’s I Was Crazy About You (너에게 미쳤었다) and I have loved writing for male artists ever since.
As someone who is fluent in both Korean and English have you noticed an improvement in the quality of English lyrics used in K-pop songs? Do you think companies put more focus on accuracy in the English in songs nowadays?
Yes I do notice the difference. I can’t speak for the other companies on whether they make more efforts to achieve better accuracy in the English lyrics. However, I do think that part of the improvements comes from the wide collaboration with many English-speaking songwriters all over the world. I believe that K-Pop is no longer a genre just for Korean audience. Many international songwriters/producers are tapping into the K-Pop industry hoping to produce music for K-Pop listeners all over the world.
You’ve worked on a variety of different types of songs. Do you have one that you are most proud of?
Of course I am proud of every single song that I’ve written. It’s like asking who is your favorite child. Haha. But if I have to choose one, I would pick 15&’s I Dream. I feel like I Dream was an attempt to go completely outside of the box of what you can expect from a typical K-Pop song. The song is about the two very talented young girls’ dream to sing for the people and their promise to remember the feelings that they had as they embark on their journey as artists. There are many catchy songs out there singing about different things but I thought there would be no better time to capture 15&’s innocent attitude towards the music than to sing about their dreams as their first song. I hope that “I Dream” will encourage the listeners to always think back and remember their dreams no matter how old they get.
JYP Entertainment has a reputation for looking after its artists and trainees well and trying to provide them with a rounded education. Does the company have a similar attitude with its creative staff? Do you enjoy working for JYP?
Yes, there is a similar attitude with the creative staff. The atmosphere encourages the learning process of songwriters. JY himself welcomes any questions and he often gives us advice on various things. The feedback from the A&Rs is frequent and very helpful, too. Also, we have what’s called “Song Camp” where the songwriters get together with JY to discuss their projects and to share thoughts on each other’s work. Personally, I graduated from law school while being a lyricist at JYP Publishing. Before I joined JYP, I informed the company of my intention to attend law school for the next three years. I was very impressed that they were not hesitant at all to sign me even after learning such fact. They believed in my potential as a lyrist while respecting my personal choice to pursue a degree in a totally separate field. So I’m very thankful for that. I have been very much enjoying working for JYP and I am looking forward to growing more as a lyricist and a writer.
This is a hard question since I would like to work with them all! But if I have to choose, I’d go with JJ Project. I was fortunate enough to write for most of the artists from JYP but had not had a chance to write for JJ Project yet. I think it would be so much fun to write stuff for them since they are so talented and full of potential for being the next hot K-pop group!
We want to thank Jennifer again for taking the time to talk to us. If you want to know more about her and what she is up to, you can follow her on Twitter. Let us know your thoughts on the interview in the comments and we may even be able to pass them on to her!
Make sure to check out our Behind the Scenes in K-pop series to read more articles about and interviews with the people that make K-pop happen.