5 International Collabs Bringing K-Pop West

5 International Collabs Bringing K-Pop West

by Emlyn Travis

For our new digital cover series Takeover, we chose five of our favorite women who're making a significant impact on the music industry right now. Tiffany Young, the breakout singer of K-pop group Girls Generation, is carving out a name for herself stateside. Today, she'll be taking over PAPER with guest edited pieces and answering fans' questions on our Instagram.

K-Pop fans have been blessed by an onslaught of incredible, international collaborations between their favorite groups and popular US and UK artists this month. From syrupy duets to sizzling EDM, October has been packed with standout singles by John Legend and Wendy, Steve Aoki and BTS, Dua Lipa and Blackpink, Marteen and NCT 127, and PREP, So!YoOn! and Shownu. Not only are these collabs the perfect way to delve into the K-Pop genre for those who have been hesitant to test the musical waters, but their chart success also hints at a more globalized future of music. There is no better time to get into K-Pop; just don't blame us when you become obsessed.

"Waste It On Me" (Feat. BTS) by Steve Aoki

BTS and Steve Aoki shook the entire world this week with the announcement and quick turnaround release of their latest collaboration, the youthful stadium anthem "Waste It On Me." This is BTS' third time working alongside the EDM star, following the 2017 remix of the fiery diss track "Mic Drop" and heartbreaking ballad "The Truth Untold." However, "Waste It On Me" breaks new ground for BTS as their first single recorded entirely in English. Though the language may have shifted slightly, the track still preserves BTS' charm, including smooth rapping, a solid hook, and sweet, emotional lyrics. With blaring horns and synths that culminate into a high-energy EDM drop in the chorus, "Waste It On Me" is fun, contemporary, and shows just how perfectly BTS has oriented themselves as artists to steal the hearts of listeners around the world.

"Written in the Stars" by John Legend and Wendy

Ditch the hot chocolate and mittens because Wendy, of the popular girl group Red Velvet, and John Legend's duet "Written in the Stars" will give you with enough butterflies to stay warm all winter. The single is part of SM Entertainment's Station Young, a musical platform for the company's artists to experiment with new genres, with "Written in the Stars" being the season's first international collab. Backed by soft, acoustic instrumentation, the duo's vocals take center stage as they depict a love so overwhelming it feels like destiny. Dreamy from start to finish, the song doesn't pull out any huge show-stopping moments, but doesn't need to; its strength lies in Wendy and Legend's emotional inflections, cozy atmosphere, and glittering harmonies.

"What We Talkin' Bout" (Feat. Marteen) by NCT 127

NCT 127 continue to prove that they are the biggest hit on the global stage with their collaboration with R&B soloist Marteen. As Apple Music's Up Next artist of the month, the 10-membered unit dropped an EP filled with English versions of fan favorites, remixes, and "What We Talkin' Bout," the group's long-awaited collaboration with Marteen. Almost entirely in English — bar a few bits of Taeyong's rap — "What We Talkin' Bout" is a slow-grooving, sensual R&B track with a relaxed tempo and heavy synths. The song's lyrics are unabashedly flirty, with lines like, "I know that you're classy baby, oh. I know that you're nasty baby." K-Pop often gets dismissed as a genre composed of bubblegum pop, so it's refreshing to hear a song like "What We Talkin' Bout" that gives NCT 127 the freedom to experiment musically and simultaneously disprove everyone's perceptions of them. Marteen's vocals blend well with the group's harmonies too — perhaps there's a spot in NCT for him?

"Kiss and Make Up" by Dua Lipa and Blackpink

A dominating electro-pop fever dream is the best way to describe "Kiss and Make Up," the bombastic dance single from pop icon Dua Lipa and K-Pop's coolest girl gang Blackpink. Performed both in Korean and English, the languages weave together a storyline about using physical affection to solve a spat between lovers: "Touch me like you touch nobody/ Put your hands all up on me/ Tired of hearing sorry/ Kiss and make, kiss, kiss and make up." With lyrics that blur between seductive and sensitive, "Kiss and Make Up" fits seamlessly within both Dua Lipa and Blackpink's discographies, which are full of badass, female empowering anthems. With the addition of a bouncing backbeat, rhythmic chorus, and strong vocals, "Kiss and Make Up" is undeniably addictive.

"Don't Look Back" (Feat. Shownu and So!YoON!) by PREP

In the midst of comeback promotions for Monsta X's latest single "Shoot Out," the group's leader Shownu showed off his language chops as a featured artist on London band PREP's latest single, "Don't Look Back." A three-way collaboration 5,500 miles in the making, the track also features backing vocals and lead guitar performed by popular Korean indie band So!YoON! as well. This isn't PREP's first K-Pop collaboration — this summer, they released the funky, electronic single "Cold Fire" featuring Korean hip-hop artist DEAN. Written and produced by PREP, "Don't Look Back" is a mellow R&B single that chronicles the end of a relationship and the feelings of jealousy associated with it. Shownu, a fan of PREP, was the first to reach out to collaborate together; a wise choice, as his soft voice is a perfect fit for the song's dreamy, coastal vibe.

Photo via Instagram