Sweden’s Songwriters Look to K-Pop

In interviews, Berg and Carlebecker offered multiple theories to explain why Swedes produce such good K-pop tracks, including the country’s strong songwriting tradition and comprehensive music education system. Sweden is cold, Berg noted, which meant that there was often “nothing better to do” than stay in and work on music.

For some Koreans, the reason is actually quite simple: Swedes write melodies that are so catchy, fans want to sing them at packed stadium shows and at their local karaoke bars.

“Swedes seem to have an emotional understanding of us Koreans,” Michelle Cho, a Korean songwriter who also scouts foreign songwriters for Korean record labels, said in a telephone interview. “They write melodies that seem to really hit our emotions.”

Whatever the reason, as K-pop booms, competition among songwriters around the world is becoming fierce. Evers, of Moonshine, said that a few years ago, some songwriters in Sweden used to look down on his work as “a bit lame,” as though he’d failed to land gigs with American or European musicians and now had to ply his trade in Asia. Now, Evers said, those same people were coming up to him in bars saying, “We should write K-pop sometime!”

Thanks to his success, he added, he was starting to get a tiny insight into the life of a K-pop idol. K-pop fans regularly contacted Moonshine on social media to praise the duo for its work, Evers said, and a popular K-pop YouTube channel has interviewed him.

Swedish K-pop writers are getting noticed in Sweden, too. In November, Carlebecker was named “international success of the year” at Sweden’s annual songwriting awards, beating Max Martin (and Moonshine). Articles about the songwriters have appeared in the country’s major newspapers, and Berg and Carlebecker have been interviewed for TV news.

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