K-pop-classical crossovers become ‘new normal’ in COVID-19 era

Classical music remains a stalwart but is considered old and hard to enjoy by many, whereas K-pop continues to build a reputation bigger than ever and is readily consumed.


As is the case with the majority of people in other sectors of the economy, musicians are also feeling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with concerts being canceled one after another. To break free from this situation, classical musicians and K-pop singers have teamed up to create something new in Korea to entertain music lovers grappling with boredom as attending live concerts has been put on hold.

In June, an experimental music partnership was forged by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) and SM Entertainment. They signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), June 12, pledging to create crossover works across the different music genres.

As a result, the two released orchestral versions of K-pop songs in July; starting with Red Velvet’s “Red Flavor” and Jonghyun’s “End of a Day.” The songs were arranged by Park In-young, one of the most famous film composers and arrangers, and released on multiple international music streaming services along with online music videos.

The reaction from fans was explosive. The orchestral version of “Red Flavor,” released July 17, attracted more than 1.25 million views on YouTube as of August. The orchestral version of “End of a Day,” released July 24, had more than 465,000 views the same period. An official of the orchestra said, “We now have more followers on our SNS channels than before, receiving positive and supportive comments from both existing SPO fans and international K-pop fans for our work.”


Of course, it is not the first time for artists from different genres to undertake collaborative work. Many classical instruments are already used in K-pop music and chamber orchestras such as Plus Chamber Group, and classical music YouTubers play K-pop songs on their channels. K-pop band Hoppipolla has classically trained cellist Hong Jin-ho as a member and actively introduces his “classical” sound into their songs. Seo Tai-ji, Tolga Kashif and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra held a large concert to play Seo’s hits in Seoul in 2008.

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But the effort is considered significant as it is rare for an orchestra and entertainment company to commit to such a large-scale business relationship.

On a related note, SM Entertainment launched the music label “SM Classics” in July, planning to release classical versions of songs from the company’s catalogue while sponsoring classical musicians and launching more crossover projects.

SM Classics executive adviser Moon Jung-jae said in an email interview that the collaboration and the launch of the label were aimed at diversifying the musical scene and thus expanding the industry.


“We expect that such collaborative work can create new fans and content as well as a new musical market. The merging of SM’s knowhow while developing K-pop culture and the SPO’s musical ability could create interesting crossover content. We, SM Classics, aim to provide music that both satisfies classical fans and fans of the music of SM Entertainment,” Moon said.

Other orchestras are also making collaborative moves with K-pop songs.

The KBS Symphony Orchestra also launched a YouTube channel recently, aiming to make their performances more accessible to non-classical music fans and expand the fan base of the orchestra, according to officials from KBS, a public broadcaster. It started with playing SSAK3’s “Beach Again,” one of the most popular K-pop songs of the summer, with its chamber orchestra. The orchestra is planning to continue to play popular songs in the future including trot songs.

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Critics say the crossover collaboration between classical music and K-pop is beneficial for both musical industries in terms of making orchestras more audience friendly and prompting people to consume original K-pop content.

“It is a win-win situation for both musical industries…The general public knows about classical music, but unless they are fans of classical music, it is not that popular. The orchestral interpretations of K-pop songs allows ordinary people to find the orchestras more accessible. Also, they offer a new way to enjoy K-pop songs while encouraging people to consume original content as well,” said Jung Min-jae, a music critic.

Jung said the project is in line with the trend of taking the so-called one-source multi-use strategy of content backed by the ambitions of entertainment companies to become bigger with many quality labels.

“So far, it has been common for one song to have one music video. But nowadays, a song has various related content; for example, there is behind-the-scenes footage shot when making a music video, fancam videos and dance covers by dance groups ― all from one K-pop song. Of course, I think the collaboration between classical music and K-pop may not be commonly found in the K-pop scene because making an orchestral version costs a lot of money and time. But it certainly aims to give people various options to enjoy K-pop and to lay the foundations for Korean entertainment companies, which are far smaller than international music companies, to become bigger.”

SOURCE: The Korea Times

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She is an operating manager of HaB Korea. Love Korea, Love travel :) HaB it your way!
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