From Red Velvet to BLACKPINK… K-pop + Classical music, the formula of success?

The collaboration between K-pop and classical music is recently drawing keen attention. 

K-pop leading artists, including Red Velvet and BLACKPINK, are gaining huge popularity with songs using classical music samples. Sometimes graceful, sometimes intense but the unique characteristics of classical music connected to the individuality of each team to create audiovisual harmonization. 

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Red Velvet’s song “Feel My Rhythm”, which was released in March, is considered a successful K-pop song composed with a classical sample and even got praised by officials in the music industry. “Fell My Rhythm” samples Bach’s “Air on the G String”, which is so familiar that even people who don’t know much about classical music can still recognize this soft violin sound once they hear it.

 “Air on the G String”, which is played using only the lowest G string of the violin, is an impressive arrangement with a heavy yet comfortable winding melody. It has been transformed into a more colorful song after meeting with K-pop. Delicate string sounds and intense trap beats were harmoniously mixed to create a fantastic and lively atmosphere. Above all, Red Velvet perfectly pulled off the concept with colorful costumes and the Spring vibe.

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After the success of Red Velvet, BLACKPINK also met classical music. The title track “Shut Down” from the group’s second full album “BORN PINK” sampled the masterpiece “La Campanella” by Italian composer-violinist Niccolò Paganini.

Paganini was nicknamed “Devil”. He was also said to have overcome human limitations with his brilliant technique and powerful performances and that he was given talents by selling his soul to the devil. “La Campanella”, which consists of initial techniques, combined with the confident and bold image of BLACKPINK. “La Campanella” after being harmonized with the original hip-hop beats and swag lyrics has shocked many music fans around the world.

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In fact, classical music has been sampled in productions of the K-pop music industry since a long time before. First of all, being free from copyright is an advantage. Copyright is maintained only for a certain period of time from when it was released until when the creator died, so classical can be seen as “free” because the copyright has virtually been canceled. Second, it uses the most familiar melodies, so music producers can approach the public without burden even if with a new song. It is also good to bring back the image of the existing classical music.

TVXQ’s “Tri-Angle” took samples from Mozart’s Symphony No.40. H.O.T’s “Hope” is known to have Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 “Ode to Joy” sample. Shinhwa’s “T.O.P” took advantage of the sound taken from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. In addition, Ivy’s “Sonata of Temptation” met with Beethoven’s “For Elise” and SeeYa’s song sampled Elgar’s “Salut d`Amour”. Many classical-inspired K-pop songs have been greatly loved by listeners.

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An official from the production team of a K-pop agency said, “Classical music sampling is a method that I have tried many times, and it became popular every time”, adding “When combining commonly known melodies, new songs tend to sound more familiar to public listeners. At the same time, new interpretations can be added to increase the fun of listening”. 

They also said, “These days, classical samples are reflected in a conceptual aspect better than how we did in the past. Thanks to this, some fans welcome the new music production as if it were a piece of art.”


In addition to classical music, various sampling attempts, such as old pop and Korean traditional music, are also popular However, some people also point out that excessive sampling should refrain. In fact, BLACKPINK receives mixed opinions as they sampled the whole song from beginning to end, rather than using only some parts of the original sample. Although it is a good try, some comment that it feels like what the producer did was add only BLACKPINK’s color to Paganini’s composition.

A K-pop official shared, “Just reflecting on the meaning of creative work, sampling should be done in a way that gives familiarity and freshness at the same time. If you are too overwhelmed by the sample and do not have a perception of creating a ‘new song’, you need to re-think whether it is an effective combination. This might become a problem that harms the group’s individuality.”


They continued, “In the case of IVE, the borrowed parts of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’. As a result, the girl group received positive responses for the way their song sampled only a small part, not the main chorus that was already familiar to the public, and naturally melted it into the group’s charm.”

Source: daum

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