196 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. 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.

  4. 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..:-)

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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 

  8. 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

  9. 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 

  10. 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.

  11. SM also bought ‘Holla’ which was produced by J.Cates (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt1yx4ou-7Q) and remade it into SHINee’s ‘Hello’

  12. I really love your T-shirt here Simon!!
    It was the only thing that I could focus…  R Square Pie

  13. I really love your T-shirt here Simon!!
    It was the only thing that I could focus…  R Square Pie

  14. I really love your T-shirt here Simon!!
    It was the only thing that I could focus…  R Square Pie

  15. shinee’s juliette is corbin bleu’s deal with it.
    shinee’s forever or never is cinema bizarre’s forever or never.
    dbsk’s mirotic is under your skin by some european artist.

  16. I agree. Can I just point out that  SNSD’s Chocolate Love was originally Sweet Dreams My LA Ex by Rachel Stevens?

  17. I’m a blazing traditionalist, so i really prefer that artists make their own stuff, otherwise they shouldn’t really be called artists. So BigBang and JYP himself and the Brave Brothers, for example, I’d call artists. Not making your own songs sort of takes the heart out of the music and turns it into a business. However I should also accept the fact that music is an industry. So I wouldn’t really call the bands/groups from SM, artists, but I think they’re amazing performers/entertainers.

  18. I’m a blazing traditionalist, so i really prefer that artists make their own stuff, otherwise they shouldn’t really be called artists. So BigBang and JYP himself and the Brave Brothers, for example, I’d call artists. Not making your own songs sort of takes the heart out of the music and turns it into a business. However I should also accept the fact that music is an industry. So I wouldn’t really call the bands/groups from SM, artists, but I think they’re amazing performers/entertainers.

  19. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  20. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  21. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  22. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  23. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  24. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  25. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  26. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  27. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  28. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  29. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  30. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  31. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  32. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  33. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  34. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  35. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  36. personally, i don’t see what’s the big deal. ALL the points martina angel made are spot on, and the devil’s just speaking rubbish. composers making songs specifically for an artist? EXTREMELY RARE. songs are frequently revived, singers/bands doing covers ALL the time. composers sell there songs to the highest bidder, they have to eat too, you know.

    losing their sincerity? pffft.  all artists/singers need to make you believe that these songs ARE made especially for them, and that’s talent.  that’s why they do these for a living.

  37. There’s also “deal with it” by Corbin Bleu which became Juliette by ShinEE! xD Anyway, I like a lot kpop and all of those artists are surely talented but they’re quite like mannequins. For example SNSD acting all cute and everything, it’s of course ACTING! I saw them in the everyday life and the only one who’s been quite nice is Jessica. Sunny who tries to look cute on tv has been quite rude that time and Yoona has been even worse, she looked at the fans (there were only like 3 or 4) like she were looking at a bunch of monsters, I didn’t like this at all.
    LoL ok this has nothing to do with the topic! XD Sorry! I’d have prefered if they wrote their own lyrics but until it’s just entertainment then it’s ok, actually it’s really good! XD
    (sorry for my english o.o)

  38. Firstly I didn’t know that “Run devil run” and “Danger” were someone else songs O.o I only new about “Hot  Summer” because it was quite popular song in my country. I was dissappointed to hear it. SHINee song “Juliette” wasn’t their too. In my opinion k-pop bands don’t have to know how to write songs. There’s a lot of musicians who don’t know how to do this. But they should at least write lyrics or sth so that they could express themselves by it =) As you said other companies usually don’t do that kind of things… SM Entertaiment have all ability to create SHINee, F(x) etc. their unique style and oryginal music. I really like their songs, but I’m totally dissappointed because of the fact it’s other version of this song.

    • if it helps “Juliette” is written by Jonghyun(lyrics) while the music is from Corbin’s song  Deal with it(i don’t know if it was written by him or not but maybe not?)”

      Just wondering…are those original versions of songs written by the ones who sang them first??i mean if it was written by a composer and that composer sold it to SM…there’s not much of a difference really right??we just get two songs in two different languages.I don’t see any problem with that. 

  39. There was also a big thing back in 2008 when DBSK released “Mirotic”. It’s identical to a European (I believe she’s German) singer’s song. Sarah Conner – “Under My Skin”. Here’s a video of DBSK’s video with Sarah Conner’s vocals instead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuJG0dc61ag
    There was a huge internet debate going on about which one was plagiarized and all that jazz. Neither one of them were, they were both bought from the original composer and released, but it just shows SM has a long~ history of doing this. There is even a demo-type company/band called “Phrased Differently”. I know for sure that DBSK’s “Wrong Number” and Tohoshinki’s “Survivor” came from them.
    Now, I absolutely love DBSK, and I know that a lot of Tohoshinki’s songs were written by the members, so I’m not badmouthing SM.
    It’s just, from what I’ve noticed, I don’t think SM has been writing their own songs for quite some time.

    • It actually wasn’t a big debate in 2008 because it was already stated by the Danish song writer in Danish Elle that he sold the song to both TVXQ and Sarah Connor. TVXQ had the rights for Asia and Sarah got the rights for Europe. They recorded their song at the end of 2007 but Sarah released her version first. BTW, plagiarism only comes into play when the rights have not been bought and the original composer doesn’t get credit/paid for their intellectual property. That was not the case with this and hence people did not make a big deal about it.

    • Haha, I know they’re the same band. *ridiculously huge TVXQ fan* But I was separating them like that because a lot of Tohoshinki’s songs, as in their Japanese songs, were written by the members. But DBSK, aka their Korean songs, were not. That’s the only reason I made the distinction.

    • Yes, I’ve heard of that controversy, it was a really big thing back in 2008…and, by the way, DBSK and Tohoshinki are the same band o-o

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