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The Great BIAS LIST Debate: Single Producer vs. Revolving Producers

The Great Bias List DebateAfter years of writing about K-pop, certain age-old questions tend to pop up. I spend way too much energy thinking about them, but I guess that comes with the gig!

But, the time has come to tackle some of these questions head-on in a new Bias List feature.

Yes, we’re going to have a good old-fashioned debate! I’ll lay out a question, do my best to advocate for both sides, and let you all vote and discuss. None of these quandaries have easy (or correct) answers, but that’s what makes them so much fun to think about.


Debate: Single Producer vs. Revolving Producers

When it comes to music, you know I’m all about the producers. I mean, they’re the ones who actually compose and create the songs! These days, it’s common for idol acts to hire a vast array of producers rather than stick with one small team. But, it wasn’t always this way. Because of this shift, I’m curious how we all feel about this question:

Would you rather have idol groups stick with a single producer (or production team) across their entire discography, or would you prefer that they switch producers often?

Leave your thoughts in the comments and remember to vote in the poll. Let’s keep it civil and have a healthy debate!


In defense of a single producer:

Pairing a single producer (or production team) with an idol group is like forming a band who write all their own music. They can craft a fresh, diverse discography while couching it within an established brand that pulls everything together. The group’s music speaks with one unified voice. Both the idols and the producer can grow in tandem, pushing and evolving their sound while maintaining the elements that make them compelling.

This partnership brings a sense of trust, as the producer learns how best to use the group’s skillset. They’re able to accommodate trends in a way that feels natural. There’s a reason many of history’s most iconic pop music runs are largely crafted by a small group of collaborators. It’s all about cohesion.


In defense of revolving producers:

Variety is the spice of life, and K-pop is nothing without its ever-changing soundscape. The worst thing an idol group could do is stagnate and watch younger, edgier acts pass them by. With so many comebacks stuffed into each year, opportunity abounds for experimentation. Working with different producers for each release allows groups to explore their strengths (and weaknesses), showcasing a multitude of skills.

With so many large-configuration acts, varying concepts and ideas are essential in highlighting the full character of group. Plus, more styles/genres means more chances to appeal to a wide spectrum of fans. Single-producer groups might find their dedicated niche, but they run the risk of leaving everyone else out. Revolving producers offers something for everyone.


Poll

29 thoughts on “The Great BIAS LIST Debate: Single Producer vs. Revolving Producers

  1. I think b-sides are better for revolving producers and genre experimentation. Single producers all the way for title tracks (unless said producers are terrible I guess… and it makes sense to keep trying stuff until you strike gold, but still, I think consistency will win out in the end.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you. I think it would be fun to have a different producer every once in a while to surprise listeners. However, the sweetune kara partnership is the reason I know what a kara song sounds like. Even though I’m not a huge fan of most of Blackpink’s singles, teddy has made it so that we know what a blackpink song should sound like same thing with onf and b1a4

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  2. I think the title tracks should have a single production team, while the bsides should have revolving producers. The title track is usually the most important song in an album, so having the same team would help a group retain their personal sound and color. This would leave room for experimentation with the bsides, where a multitude of producers can work together to further diversify a discography. Involving multiple producers would help a group’s music become more dynamic and not become boring.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Objectively speaking, neither approach doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other. ONF with the legendary Hwangbeoji still smashing out songs like no tomorrow. And any SM group I suppose. I do know they tend to favor foreign producers for a few years (LDN Noise, Thomas Troelsen, Moonshine) but it’s hard to say that any of them have a dedicated producer.

    Both have their merits. Ultimately I want the group to still feel as fresh as they were when they first debuted. Ideally, groups would work with the same producer for at least 3 consecutive releases before moving on to the next. Sometimes, when a group continuously works with the same people their sound starts to stagnate to the point where I can predict what their songs are going to sound like. That’s where you get people saying all their songs sound the same. This is something that groups should absolutely avoid. The sound that they debuted with shouldn’t be the same sound they have in their 7th year. This is where new producers come into play. They inject new life into the group by bringing their own sounds.

    A lot of groups seem to be aware of this. I often find groups switching producers after a few years. INFINITE with SWEETUNE until 2013 moving on to Rphabet. SISTAR: Brave Brothers > Duble Sidekick/Black Eyed Pilseung. There needs to be a balance between both approaches. When a producer can no longer produce the music necessary for the group to stay relevant in the industry then it’s time to change.

    I’m no expert on the Kpop scene nor do I work in this area of profession. This is all strictly from a consumer perspective so there is a chance I get something wrong. Please feel free to point it out.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think the smartest strategy would be working with different producers until striking gold, and then sticking with that last producer/producer team. Kind of like what 9Muses did with Sweetune or AOA with Brave Bros.

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  5. Another debate! Sweet.

    Let’s be honest, there’s a particular sound you want your favourite artists to go with even if you are open to the idea of them changing things up. If that’s the case, then there’s that unsettling feeling that things could go wrong. (Or at least… that’s how I feel).

    I think one of the main reasons why you follow your favourite kpop artist is for the music, and for that consistency is important.

    Maybe not necessarily consistent in sound but at least have a similar approach to something new. Concept doesn’t matter because whilst it does affect what the sound is, ultimately it’s the music that will make or break a group’s era. This is applicable for both self-composed artists (Sunmi, pretty much any k-band, Pentagon, B1A4, Stray Kids, and more), and a single or a group of fixed composers (ONF with Monotree, Dreamcatcher with Ollounder and Leez, ATEEZ with Team Edenary, GHOST9 with PaperMaker)

    Let me provide an example…
    Pentagon comes to mind when Hui, the man behind all the title tracks, has been composing Pentagon’s title tracks since “Like This” (please go check that song out. That song deserves way more love). And whilst he does work with a different composers across different comebacks, they are still fixed in a way since he has worked with them in the last 2 years (just alternating). There’s experimentation in concept and even the sound genre, but the musical approach to Pentagon’s title tracks are similar (at least for the ‘Hui’ tracks). For instance… conceptually “Dr Bebe” takes influences from VIXX and Cross Gene, and sound wise its no “Shine” or “Naughty Boy” of course. But approach wise it still feels like a ‘Hui’ track. He still remembers to have some melody in the song like in the bridge with the high notes. Then you get “Sha La La”, a dance track that’s not dark and that also has a high note moment.

    Even if you keep switching composers, even for a similar sound and concept, approach-wise it can be off putting or it can be for the better.

    For example, DONGKIZ has worked with a producer known as AKB from pre-debut (“Nom”) till “Beautiful”. Then suddenly when Dongkiz released “Universe” composed by Myo and Wooziq (AKA same composers for Golden Child’s “Genie”!). Even if sound wise it’s upbeat like many of Dongkiz’s past tracks, you can tell that that track is missing missing? Then Dongkiz released the polarising “Crazy Night” who are produced by Cray Bin; another producer. Again, another conceptually similar song, and arguably similar in sound. But approach-wise, it’s so different from AKB’s style.

    I hope AKB comes back to produce songs for Dongkiz… I miss their musical touches.

    So for me, fixed composer(s) for the win.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Both you and SOULE’s comments here are some of my favorite comments in this site. It exactly encapsulates what I am feeling and It’s super detailed and insightful!

      Like

      • Aww thank you Yan Zaman!
        I tend to get carried away with whatever I write (as you can tell from when I share my argument here. That might be my longest comment ever on TheBiasList.), so I appreciate you and the others reading through my word vomit all the way through!
        These debates have given me so much insight on both sides of a topic that we all share a mutual love for. It’s truly fascinating 🙂

        [I would have liked the comment so I wouldn’t clog the thread but alas, my Twitter account doesn’t allow me to do that. So instead, have another paragraph to show my gratitude].

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    • I was about to try and write a comment regarding this debate but you’ve articulated all my thoughts so well, this is exactly what I think as well! I think having a fixed (set of) composers doesn’t take away from the possibilities of variety and experimentation on offer – there’s certainly a signature group sound tying the artist’s discography together in the end, but there are plenty of groups whose discography feels fairly diverse and varied to me even if they’ve primarily been working with a similar set of producers all this while.

      Additionally, there’s something to be said about how producers who’ve been working with a group for a long time know the ins and outs of the members’ strengths as well I think. Another example I might add in this regard is Seventeen, and the way some members other than Woozi (who’s been involved in their production since debut) have been taking in hand more opportunities to be involved in production as well as to sing than at debut – based on their improvement over the years as well as their input in the kind of parts they’d want to sing. For example, DK has mentioned about finding songs like Kidult very hard to sing, with all the ad-libs that he wouldn’t have been ready for if the song had been composed at debut – but a song like Kidult was made possible years later, with Woozi and Bumzu/Prismfilter encouraging him and taking into account his improvement in singing and self-confidence. Not saying this would have been absolutely impossible with a revolving bunch of producers, but having that level of familiarity with people you’ve been working with for ages would really help in making those natural changes in a group’s evolving discography I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh thank you!
        I’m relieved to know others share similar sentiments concerning this topic.

        Your example of Seventeen with their (emotional and gorgeous) bside “Kidult” is interesting, like how DK shared his thoughts of how his vocal adilibs wouldn’t be as impactful if that song was released back in their rookie years.
        As to why you brought it up, I agree! You gave a very good point that makes fixed producers more advantageous: the familiarity between an artist and the producers. It’s really heartwarming to know producers know a group’s strength rather than make them try something that, at least at the time the song is made, the artist cannot do.
        Like ITZY’s Lia who, people have pointed out, sounded much more comfortable in singing her lines of “M.A.F.I.A” compared to ITZY’s older title tracks where she was forced in a higher range (seemingly less comfortable for Lia to sing in).

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        • Ooh the Lia example makes a lot of sense! Now that it’s been pointed out I definitely agree, it’s interesting to see that she’s getting parts that she hopefully continues to be more comfortable with.

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    • Wholeheartedly agree. When I like a group, I want to hear their unique sound, not whatever sound is currently trendy. If I wanted a song that sounded nothing like their previous works, wouldn’t I just go search for a different artist entirely?

      To me, there’s just nothing satisfying about rolling the dice on whether or not your favorite group decided to turn into a completely different group each comeback. That being said, having a consistent production team doesn’t mean you can’t branch out and evolve your sound. My issue is that being consistently inconsistent is not creating emotional investment from me, and it’s certainly not going to pry open my wallet any time soon.

      The most infamous producer switch to me has to be Loona. Monotree built a lush and dreamy sound for them for years, which was abruptly tossed out for abrasive and synthetic production. The kicker? I actually don’t mind So What now. It’s got some cool textures and isn’t over-produced like some kpop. Yet, when it came out, I almost felt… betrayed? It didn’t shoot my dog or anything, but there was a specific product that only Loona were offering for years, and one day they suddenly decided that they didn’t feel like selling it anymore. It was really disappointing to me.

      Twice, on the other hand, had a much more consistent evolution of their sound. It’s been a long and gradual change from cutesy to mature. However, I do believe that they frequently switch producers, so maybe this argument doesn’t even apply? Perhaps it’s on the company more than the producers, though I doubt I’ll ever receive an answer for that, haha.

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      • Yeah, I agree with your first paragraph, especially your last sentence.

        I think we can be more forgiving to our favourite artists for the sudden switch of sound if we are familiar with the producers (so not changing composers) and thus we are more familiar with their approach. I mean, who knew ONF’s “Ugly Dance” that is hip-hop mixed in with classical instruments (one of Hwang Hyun’s signature styles) work? For the genre it was built upon (Hip-hop!), it’s very unique.
        But if the producers changes, then there’s always that fear (especially if they are completely changing the sound; a 180).

        I’ve seen a few split opinions when it comes to Loona’s music. Granted, I do not follow Loona so I can’t say what the fandom thinks, but from what I can tell people I’ve seen prefer their pre-debut and even their rookie year songs (or at least before “So What” came out). So you feeling betrayed about the sudden switch in music is justified, June.

        I’m not familiar with girl groups as much as boy groups, so you sharing your thoughts from a girl group music perspective is very much needed and also very interesting. So, thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

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  6. this is one of those debates where i have a really mixed opinion on. that said, i think i prefer a single producer rather than a revolving door of them, because i can distinguish the group’s sound better.

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  7. I think anyone who was around during 2nd & 3rd gen during the days of Sweetune & Brave Bros will most likely go with the single producer option. I think of these examples, as well as Seventeen, ONF (line everyone has brought up lol) ATEEZ & Dreamcatcher etc. I’m usually of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp, especially with groups nowadays flip flopping around different producers and having jarring sound changes that don’t always suit the group. There are always cases like GFriend where it does cause a lot of their songs to sound the same, but on the whole I’m 100% on single producer. God I miss Sweetune so much 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think almost everyone would agree in ONF’s case, out of all of the current-gen groups, their sound is the one which feels like it’s constantly growing and their evolution feels absolutely natural!

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  8. While I believe producers are extremely important in kpop, especially when it comes to a successful singles run, it’s the performers that make it work. Would we be all over ONF/Infinite/whoever else if it wasn’t for the artists that sing it? I’m pretty sure I read interviews with the producers stating that it was all possible because it was the ‘X’ group.

    Like, imagine, Rising Sun by anyone else than DBSK/TVXQ.

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  9. In the 2000’s, before I got into Kpop, I was fan of Girls Aloud. Xenomania produced every single track on all but one of their albums. And the music always felt fresh. So I don’t think sticking with one producer or music house has to be musically restrictive, as long as the producer has the breadth of musical knowledge.

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    • Girls Aloud + Xenomania = some of the most epic pop music ever recorded.

      In my dream of dreams, I imagine Xenomania producing for K-pop. It would be so freaking incredible.

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      • Xenomania gives me one of my favorite The Saturdays’ songs of all time which is All Fired Up. I wonder why Kpop didn’t make a full straight-up dance song just like that. The lyrics are cringe but everything about that song is fire.

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  10. I think every group should start with a single producer to establish a sound that other producers can refer to. This way there will be an evolution in the sound. Dreamcatcher has been with lEEZ and ollounder and even though the music is always solid, dreamcatcher hasn’t evolved much dive 2017. I’m not nearly as excited by them as I used to be even though I still like the music.

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  11. Once upon a time I’d have gone with the single producer choice unconditionally, but after much “research” (if you can call that to listening to hundreds upon hundreds of songs on Spotify xD) and thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no inherent advantage to either approach.

    Seeing my past and present favorite groups, I seem to be much more likely to stick with a group because I like something like the members’ vocal color than a particular sound that I feel is “theirs”, even to the point of improving (for me) what I’d otherwise feel were rather lackadaisical songs. See cases like Verivery or CIX, where the groups have undergone a thorough change in sound from debut to the present. And in fact, I think having a single production team/being self-produced can even turn out to be something of a liability in that the songs often wind up sounding just too much the same after a while, as I think is the case with Stray Kids, Seventeen and, honestly, Sweetune-era Infinite. (The notable exception, of course, being The Chaser.)

    1- (Which is not to say the songs are necessarily bad)
    2- (Although… is The Chaser truly different or is it simply the case that all this exposure to Nick ended up coloring our perception of that song?🤔)

    (JK, Nick. Don’t hit me)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wait, my argument got derailed. What I meant to say is that:

      a) There a other things that make a group attractive beyond a consistent sound and

      b) A group can develop an unique and consistent sound, even with different producers (i.e. EXO, NCT 127) while others change it, often radically, with the same one (Boyfriend, Seventeen, Pentagon)

      So, yeah, as Namjoon’d say.

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  12. I’ve been thinking about this all week and really enjoying reading the thoughtful answers. I think for me, I’m happy with the current mix of single vs. revolving producers (although if the question had included “song camp” production I’d absolutely put that in last place). I guess my pragmatic position is that pop music is an industry selling a product, and in kpop, the product isn’t just the song – it’s the performances, the personalities, and the looks. What sells is what works, and so long as there’s enough content that I enjoy, I’m not going to be overly concerned about the rest of it.

    My two favorite groups are Stray Kids, who initially appealed to me because of their rap/production lines, and A.C.E, who stood out because of their performance and dance skills. Over time I’ve collected other favorites for different reasons: GHOST9 for their consistently great EPs and creative choreography, VICTON and ONEUS because I particularly like their mix of rappers and vocalists, plus I find VICTON’s members especially enjoyable to look at, while ONEUS’ choreos tend to be especially creative and RBW groups (and their fans) tend to come across as relatively laid back and friendly, which makes their variety content appealing to me.

    Other than that, it’s pretty rare to find a group who I’m not perfectly happy to watch/listen to if they put out a song that’s to my style. The idol system generally ensures that any group that debuts has at least a baseline level of skill, so if anything, the production tends to be the weak link – most groups at the level of appearing on music shows can execute a good song well, but fewer can elevate a weak song.

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    • I do occasionally wonder what will happen if/when the trends I enjoy are replaced by ones I don’t like as much, but worst case scenario is I drift away from kpop and get into something else, which, you know, happens in life. Eurovision is my current fall-back plan in the event that musical shifts or scandal makes kpop unpalatable, but who knows what will attract my attention in the future. 20 years ago I was writing novels and fan-fiction. 15 years ago I was leading 40-person raids in World of Warcraft. 10 years ago I was really into bar trivia and escape rooms. In 2018-19 I ran four half-marathons and got my deadlift up to 205 pounds. Life is full of things to do and enjoy.

      Like

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