322 COMMENTS

Ok, so this isn’t something that we’re used to doing, but we felt compelled to do a short video about this. Yesterday, when we did our review of f(x)’s “Hot Summer” we stated, in the video, that we’d discuss this issue at another time. This is the other time. Here’s what we think about SM Entertainment buying other songs and repackaging them as their own.

We’ve been thinking about this whole SM Entertainment buying other people’s songs bit for a while, and we don’t think it’s simple enough for us to pick a side so quickly, because there seems to be a lot of issues in play. SM hasn’t done anything illegal. They bought the rights to all of their songs. And so, we think that it’s not fair that, in the comments that we’ve been reading on YouTube and other sites, that people think of SM as some monsters. They’re an entertainment company, and they’re doing their best to get their Kpop artists to sing and dance to the best songs possible. They’re not breaking any laws or stealing any songs. They’re doing everything legally as far as we know. So let’s throw the plagiarism claims out the window.

The question that some people are asking is then why don’t they write their own songs, or hire songwriters? You don’t hear this from YG Entertainment, or from JYP or Cube Entertainment, do you? If it does happen, it’s not quite as often as you hear with SM. Hot Summer was by Monrose. Danger was by Kristine Elezaj. SNSD’s Run Devil Run was originally sung as a tester by KE$HA.

Yes, we know those last two were demos. They weren’t fully released songs and weren’t claimed by either KE$HA or Kristine Elezaj.

But what does that mean, fully released? Are they not out there on the internet? Are people not listening to them? Just because they didn’t go through the full process of being super produced and released to the masses in album format and sung in their concerts, that doesn’t negate the fact that these are still songs sung by other people before they were sung by SM artists. That’s what we find a bit awkward. Is it just us, or aren’t songs supposed to represent how a musician feels? Like, these are my thoughts and emotions, and I’m going to express them in song. If you find out that the artist bought that song from someone else, it takes away from the feeling of sincerity, or genuineness. Or is this just naive of us?

Here is where we have to raise a sad point: SM is an entertainment company, not a traditional music artist company. There’s a difference. They’re a multinational million dollar company that has a huge staff of people on hand, all working closely with kpop idols to entertain the hell out of you. If you’re looking for a band that got together and started singing songs in their basement, then evolved into a group that makes groundbreaking music as an artform, then you’re looking into the wrong genre with Kpop. But if you want to be entertained, if you want to dance and sing along, then SM’s doing a great job. They’re the Hollywood of Asian music. And don’t for one second think the process is that much different in American or European pop.

That might have sounded terrible, and so we want to add something to it: thanks to Kpop, our idea of music artistry is evolving. Songs aren’t made from the ground up by one artist or a small band when it comes to Kpop, but there is a different level of artistry in play here. The dancing is definitely a part of the artform. The performances are definitely a part of the art form. Live music is really a forgotten art amongst some groups: we’ve been to concerts before from artists whose songs we loved, but whose on-stage performances were abysmal. Shouldn’t that matter? Shouldn’t that count? Good luck finding people that can sing and dance as well as SHINee, and – on top of that – sing WHILE dancing so well. The hours kpop artists put into their performances is staggering, and to dismiss them altogether because they didn’t write the words to their song is kinda unfair.

So let’s toss this argument out with the plagiarism argument: Kpop artists are immensely talented people, and though they may not fit the traditional idea of musicians, they’re taking music artistry to a different level, and focusing on different aspects of music than what we’re traditionally used to.

Long story short, we can’t say that SM is doing anything wrong, but we can’t say that we fully agree with it, either. We wish they made their own music instead, and – from the looks of it from all the raging YouTube comments – it seems like a lot of people agree with us here. And this seems like an obvious point: nobody would complain if SM made wholly original songs, while a lot of people disagree with SM buying other people’s songs. SM has the money for it: pony up and start making original songs already!

This by no means was meant to be a factual scientific analysis of Kpop and of SM’s song buying tendencies. We’re just expressing our opinions here on what we’ve seen. If you’ve got something you’d like to add to the discussion, we encourage you to do so. On a related note, feel free to know that if you leave any belligerent comments, we retain the right to delete them in hopes of keeping a civil conversation going.

ToFebruary
  1. If you really want to look at things from a traditional standpoint, composers and performers have been separate roles for a long time. I’m going to be limiting this to classical music for now. Because I can. Yes I know this is Eurocentric. Deal with it. (I’m SORRY!!! >.<)

    A composer of a symphony probably doesn't know how to play every instrument, but at least has an idea of what he or she wants each section to do for a piece of music. Granted, composers needed to know how to play some instruments to an extent, to help them flesh out their ideas into real music, but the technique and flare to bring it to life is mostly on the performer. This isn't just limited to the kinds of music requiring multiple instruments, but the kinds of music where only one instrument is needed or focused on. (Sonatas, concertos, etc.) Composing and performing are just separate art forms, and while we grew up hearing about the greats, like Beethoven and Mozart, most of us aren't provided with the context that not only is it impressive that they are such talented performers, but that being so amazing both as a composer AND a performer is a rare thing. It takes a lot just to get one right! That's where we get stories like how Beethoven dismissed the cellists complaints of there being too many notes, ("There are NOT too many notes, THEIR FINGERS AREN'T FAST ENOUGH!!!"), and Tchaikovsky fighting with his violinist friend about his violin concertos being too hard. And let's not forget that one symphony by Brahmas which has NEVER been played as quickly as the composer has indicated it should be. Regardless, performers and the music would feed off of each other, and the greater the soul and talent, the greater the effect. Just like an amazing actor in a great role. So from this perspective, SM buying other peoples songs is fine. Buying songs could be a way of supporting the music community, allowing people to write songs for a living.

    Then why does it feel so greasy and grotesquely commercial when SM does it? Well, a few hundred years after Mozart's smarmy smirk, music that are much simpler and shorter popularized. Part of its appeal is its accessibility not only to listeners, but also people who aspire to become song writers. (And before ninjas are sent after me, no, I'm not saying Classical music is BETTER. There are just less barriers to becoming a classical composer verses a songwriter, as we understand it today.) Throughout this process, people became more and more concerned with the message, or the concept in art, rather than the technique or craftsmanship. This isn't just in music, but in architecture and art, and a whole slew of other things. How many writers today not only tell a good story, but is a wordsman, too? A lot of this has to do with wanting art to evoke FEELING. In music, this often translated to a 'heart-to-heart' format, where listeners revel in how raw or sincere the song sounds. When things click, audiences often feel a connection with the song, and through it, the artists themselves. Part of entertainment industries' technique of cashing in on this is creating and further encouraging a kind of virtual-personal link between the idols they're pushing out and the audience. (Which, in turn, helps create psychopaths. Seriously, isn't it better to help these people get their heads checked, rather than ban idols from dating?)

    In the context that music today is about a heart felt connection between the artist and the audience and keeping in mind SM's practices (in particular, the lack of control most of their artists have over their music, dress, hair, and even their pubic persona), AND the vast amount of resources at their disposal, yeah, they should a) hire writers, and b) help their musicians develop as creators, too. SM buying songs isn't problematic in and of itself, but coupled with the whole structure that they created for themselves, it just makes the connection audiences may feel with these artist feel fake and cheap. Like instead of having connected with real people, they've fallen prey to the trap of a capitalist fart machine.

    On the other hand, if the song writers were part of the production process, similar to the way Beethoven was part of the rehearsal process, it would feel much more like a collaboration, and less plastic auto-tune. Or at least let the artists do their own thing with the song – let them tell the story in their own way.

  2. The writer, be it the artist or not, is the one who is composing the message in the language of music. If you like it, you listen to it. If you don’t, you don’t. If an artist forms an emotional connection to the piece they are performing, especially if the producer is good enough to get into what the artist is doing and craft the arrangement around them, it becomes there’s. It really doesn’t matter from and end-of-the-process vantage point who actually wrote the song. What matters is the delivery and the emotional impact it has on the listener.
    IMHO the only one who truly owns a song is the person who writes it. Everyone else, artists and fans alike, are simply adopting it and making it a small part of the soundtrack of their careers or lives.
    …and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all ;)

  3. People are actually complaining and calling them plagiarists? They bought the legal rights to these songs. Songwriters wrote them, and shopped them around to North American artists first. Those artists recorded demos (to see if the songs would sound good sung by them), that the labels could listen to and judge. Obviously those artists never released the songs. And the artists didn’t write them, either, so they have no say on whether or not someone else sings them. Most pop artists don’t write their own stuff. That applies to North American ones and K-Pop ones. Some do, but the majority don’t. Or they co-write them at most. It’s nothing new, and should not be surprising. SM Entertainment has done nothing wrong. At all. They are within the legal rights, have not violated anything, etc. The only thing that surprised me was that they are a Korean music entertainment company purchasing songs originally meant for North American audiences. I knew songs got shopped around different labels and artists here in North American, but wasn’t aware that Asian markets were also purchasing them.

  4. Sassychan808

    Singer/songwriters are rare hence the increased cred. Everyone else hires songwriters to collab with, buys ‘beats’ and ‘hooks’ to construct a song around or out and out buys the rights to completed songs.

  5. I’m honestly kind of grateful that SOMEONE’s using these “testers.” For example, I really, really like “Run, Devil, Run.” If SM hadn’t bought it and had SNSD record it, I never would have heard it, and it’s one of my favorite songs! I find myself slipping into singing it all the time (which is awkward, seeing as I don’t speak Korean, so a lot of the lyrics are just “ha somethin’ somethin’ somethin’ somethin’ ha sa).

  6. Magicimpact

    How am I just seeing this now

  7. Don’t forget SJ’s Boom Boom is from Ray Lavender’s Reverse.

  8. I honestly don’t care if their bougth their songs or they hired a songwriter to write them. It would be different if the bands actually wrote the songs. Otherwise it’s the same thing.
    And I don’t think that SM is bying songs because they find it easier. Most of the song they bought are not singles or hits, they are demos or songs not fully known. Maybe it lessens the time ones spent on creating it, but in that I don’t see wrong either.
    All in all if Kpop idols were writing songs in general than I would say SM is lazy and no good. But as we know idols writing songs are not that often, I can only think of GD, maybe Boa(?). So it doesn’t matter, one way or another the groups don’t sing their own song.

  9. it’s simple…buying songs from others and make it on your own…two big different things…in this case YG Ent and JYP Ent and maybe CUBE Ent are more better..:-)

  10. saranguyen33

    I WANT YOUR T-SHIRT!!!!!!!!

  11. http://youtu.be/5oFLW9hmW0Q here the song that you say its a demo. civil conversation you say?  well i know better.  like Kasha  you say no other but 1:57 exists well 3:38 exists.  

  12. http://vimeo.com/1783813 LINK to Original vedio released BY Kristine elezaj team BUZZ music video. how do they get unknow test from buzz or is that Korean saying demo is a lie.

  13. LINK to Original vedio released BY Kristine elezaj team BUZZ music video. how do they get unknow test from buzz or is that Korean saying demo is a lie.

  14. sme did buy song from Kristine. its there job to makeit their own??? Who add UNKOWN TEST to title when the Original has buzz/music on it http://vimeo.com/1783813 Kristine elezaj BUZZ vedio RAZOR known test/ ( ripping a girl shame on you fx SME).

  15. http://vimeo.com/1783813 Kristine elezaj BUZZ vedio RAZOR known test/ ( copy nation ripping a girl shame on you fx SME).

  16. http://vimeo.com/1783813 Kristine elezaj BUZZ vedio RAZOR known test/ ( ripping a girl shame on you fx SME). who posted unknown test??

  17. Watch KRISTINE ELEZAJ BUZZ/MUSIC VIDEO DIR JOE CAP LOST NOT FOUND PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo!http://vimeo.com/1783813

  18. Watch KRISTINE ELEZAJ BUZZ/MUSIC VIDEO DIR JOE CAP LOST NOT FOUND PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo!http://vimeo.com/1783813 the Original vedio Razor as it was released > where does unknow test come from?

  19. lolmayonnaise

    SM does actually have resident writers like Kenzie and Kangta, who write some damn good stuff

  20. Well, I listen to the music not to feel artistry or whatever but to entertaing myself. So I don’t really care who sings whose song as long as it is legal.

  21. WOW NO post ? i will up date now to May 15 chat soon 

  22. hi i dont see my comment ?  so you dont want me to post  the truth about razor as i see it 
    Ok i will UP loud full song that all the artical  say those not existist>  and you know it those how will K-pop fans fill about all the artictcal miss informing fans lying to fans labeling them >
    hens lying nation, copy nation  as well    song that does not exist will up loud on may 16. SMe

  23. wow where my post? calm down. DC gallery I think is a Korean internet forum. And what the sentence is saying is that DC contacted Kristine’s fans to see if they believe if Alex Cantrall really sold the song to SM & I guess they confirmed it to be true. the people who started up this controversy was korean netizen anyways I think. Geez, go fucking google this yourself if you’re so curious. All i wrote was “if they bought the rights at least they didn’t plagiarize it” I wrote IF. I was trying to be optimistic. geezxtinaaasaur 

  24. wow where did my last comment GO?    chi OH i posted an answer on face book with a pic of CD with full version of Razor 

  25. wow where did my last comment GO?    chi OH i posted an answer on face book with a pic of CD with full version of Razor 

  26. why was my last momment removed ?     you know that Kristine elezaj was ripped off by SM 
    who Dc gallery  ???      

  27. I guss it its all true then if DC Gallery states so WHO is DC gallery??? your stated that == ” The DC Gallery representatives also contacted the fans of Kristine Elezaj, who also confirmed the previously stated points to be true. ” WHAT ? they contacted the FANS to confirm WHAT are you thinking . – ___ -zeff59 in reply to xtinaaasaur

  28. is this the song you are taking about eat my kichee  KRISTINE ELEZAJ BUZZ/MUSIC VIDEO DIR JOE…

  29. That is an awesome t-shirt!

  30. As someone from the UK, I remember watching Super Junior ’05 – Twins and thought, this song is not original and was originally released by a group Triple 8 in 2003. ELFS were bashing the original of the song and were denying that SuJu would ever copy a song. I think netizens in general are quick to bash anyone other than Kpop artists when sampling or covering their kpop artist’s songs then to ever acknowledge that their groups do the same.  

  31. Anonymous

    So let’s throw the plagiarism claims out the window. YOU say why? YOU know somtihing tell US.   I found that 99.9 % of all roomers are TRUE why is this diffrent?   just one point
    “Danger was by Kristine Elezaj. SNSD’s Run Devil Run was originally sung as a tester by KE$HA.”   note how you state about Kasha R D R was Original TESTER.   but you say danger BY  Kristine Elezaj U don’t say its a demo or a tester ?why not label as well?    as all lies they breack down  ITS RAZOR by Kristine you miss leading the the fans.  and helping cover Sm’s under handednes what do you say.   i hope i have been civil thank you wait for comen back thx. z

    • Some artists release songs, but those songs weren’t written by them, so legally other artists can cover those same songs years later in the future (so long as the songwriter and label allows it). So it doesn’t HAVE to be called a demo or tester in order for it to be given to another artist later down the road. You are the one not making any sense! For example, JoJo released a song called “A Note to God”. But she did not write it. So another artist, Charice Pempengco, released her own version of the exact same song a few years later. There were no legal issues because the actual songwriters and music labels had no legal issues and allowed it.

  32. Anonymous

    so now you say ”
    Yes, we know those last two were demos. who are speeck of who WE? YOU and ___. They weren’t fully released songs  ( ok how released are they ?  )and weren’t claimed by either KE$HA or Kristine Elezaj. (sorry cant speeck for Kasha But Kristine song is not a demo )  they weren’t t fully releast? but it is released as you side razor was released in 2009 under name Kristineelezaj buzz video.  not as Kristine elezaj unknown test as SM /fx posted right.??  did alex tell Sm that kristine paid HIM as you seem to know about the song razor?  pleas tell us  i wait for response thank you.  

    Dont miss repsent that issue its NOT about asian artists they are amazing.  and hard working  its about SM ripping  off Kristine its not about Kasha run devil run  or any other song its only about RAZOR = alex and Sm riping off>…..  your PR work is noted.  and dee faming the Korean people.  

  33. Anonymous

    According to a DC Gallery, “Pinocchio” was neither a remake nor a plagiarized song. Through their research, they’ve discovered that:

    1. Kristine Elezaj recorded what would’ve been her title song as a demo. its is her song

    2. Kristine Elezaj is an Albanian woman who is currently working as a solo singer in America.
    Not true she was born in US and  is NOT an Albanian.   SM lies.

    3. To promote her debut, the debut song “Razor” was used as the background music for that promotional video. 
    Yes, it was SM Hans released to the world.  But as you state if a demo it’s no finished Hans Alex never finished the song for her.  Hans never filled his contract. Hans alex illegal sold and sm. bought song knowing facts illegally released song.
     Without Kristine  Elezaj pro-mission.
     
    4. The video shows the dance practices and photoshoot session, which happened before her debut. 
    An  Are we blind SM.   SM did the song add its self to Kristineelezaj buzz video or did Kristine add it intentionally add it? 

    5. The video title included “Unknown Test,” which literally means “Unrevealed/Unpublicized Test” 
    not true  Sm copied video illegally and add-it wordage. is that not miss leading to the fans?Or  lying. 
    ah #5 is the true lie  look up “Kristine elezaj BUZZ video” you will see there how SM is using PR >   unknown test it’s not on the video.    control what fans see and here SM addis unknown test knowing it’s her song but they had to have it  shame on them.  shame on all that support lies and ripping off of indie artist.   

    SUPPORT Kristine Elezaj Music do the right thing as all would want to be done for them.

    SM ENT RIPPED HER OFF SHAME ON THEM SHAME ON ON ALL THAT SUPPORT LIES.

  34. Anonymous

    According to a DC Gallery, “Pinocchio” was neither a remake nor a plagiarized song. Through their research, they’ve discovered that:1. Kristine Elezaj recorded what would’ve been her title song as a demo.2. Kristine Elezaj is an Albanian woman who is currently working as a solo singer in America.3. To promote her debut, the debut song “Razor” was used as the background music for that promotional video.4. The video shows the dance practices and photoshoot session, which happened before her debut.5. The video title included “Unknown Test,” which literally means “Unrevealed/Unpublicized Test”lies 

  35. Anonymous

    Just as matter of fact Razor by Kristine elezaj was not a demo .   SM new it was Kristine song a indie artist.  Sm help alex rip her off having the Pr machine as we see above by your statement shame on you.    I have ask numbers time who is DC Gallery do you know?
    Dc gallery have all info on Kristine history link. 
    F(X) Song Pinocchio Plagiarism Kristine Elezaj “Razor”?they State she is Albania wrong
    they state razor is demo wrong 
    They state management chose but daunt state Kristine chose because they can’t  alex and fink helped to rip her off>  who is mrs Fink  SM knows.

  36. It is not such a big deal when artist’s don’t write their own music, but it bothers me a lot.  I may be a bit biased because I have grown up with musicians, but I stand by my opinion that while a LOT of K-pop artists have incredible voices as well as other phenomenal musical talents, creativity, originality, and writing are all part of being a musician.  Otherwise, in my opinion, all they are are cover artists relying on looks more than anything.  :/

    As far as live performances go, SM Entertainment artists have room to improve by a long shot.  Plenty of musicians do spectacular live performances, including singing and dancing, playing instruments while moving around, etc.  That is part of the raw talent that makes a musician a musician:  being able to do in person and reality what we see after editing and electronic aid.  Maybe I seem harsh, but I believe there is no excuse for a musician’s live performance to be a let down.

    • I agree, they are not musicians. Musicians can play instruments, and they write and perform their own songs. K-pop artists are dancers and singers who sing songs that are simply given to them. Same goes for many of North America’s pop stars; Rihanna, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, etc. With the exception of some, like Gaga, who do write their own stuff and can play piano, guitar, etc. I don’t consider those people artists/musicians. They are singers and performers. I think there are a lot of people who get the two confused. I also do not ever understand the term “boy band”. A band is a group of musicians who write their own music, and play instruments. Boy Bands do not do any of that. They dance and sing, and have their songs written for them. Boy Group is more accurate.

  37. This bothers me if a music group can’t write and produce their own music and forever taking other people ideas.  Its ok to share creativity but when music artist and companies do that, all the music starts sounding the same. Its annoying when that happens.

  38. Anonymous

    Just to remind folks, SM does have songwriters on staff like Yu Yung-jin and Kenzie. If SM buys a track from outside, it’s more likely to become a single or anchor song, mostly for economic reasons. However, in almost all cases most of the English lyrics get chucked and someone at SM writes new ones, sometimes keeping the song title in them, but not always: “Genie” was a complete lyrical rewrite. Sometimes, an anchor song is still completely done in house: “Oh!” and “Ring Ding Dong” come to mind, and I don’t think Super Junior has used overseas tracks since “TWINS (Knock-out)”; certainly “Miina (Bonamana)” was done in-house. Martina also makes a salient point: for decades in America, pop singers sang other people’s songs; this was something the Brill Building in Manhattan, NYC was famous for in the ’50s and ’60s, and Tin Pan Alley before that (Elvis generally sang other people’s songs, starting with Lieber and Stoller, and working with Mac Davis towards the end); the performers made it their own (again, Elvis, but also Frank Sinatra doing Cole Porter’s “Under My Skin” to name just one example). SM is doing something similar here: taking outside-written music and integrating into an entire package that simple couldn’t come from anywhere else or be done by anyone else, and making it work like nobody’s business. It’s simply what they do.

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