Behind every successful artist is an equally exceptional team. In the case of BTS, the world-famous K-pop sensation, this couldn’t be truer. Among the many professionals who have contributed to their success, Nicole Kim (Kim Hyun-jung) shines the brightest. After a six-year stint on BTS’ team, she’s moving to Columbia Records, where she’ll serve as the Vice President of A&R (Artist & Repertoire).

All about Nicole Kim

Nicole has had prior A&R experience. From 2017 to 2022, she wore multiple hats at HYBE, including that of A&R head. In this capacity, Nicole was very much involved in BTS’ journey to global stardom. As head of A&R, she led a department that was responsible for collecting songs, leading discussions, planning concepts, and overseeing the production and release of new music. Her leadership saw BTS collaborating with Western acts like Coldplay and Halsey. Moreover, Nicole participated in creating hits like “Dynamite,” “Butter,” and “Permission to Dance.”

Before going to HYBE, Nicole honed her skills at Starship Entertainment and Sony Music Publishing Korea. Her move to an executive role at Columbia Records is a testament to her skills and the global music industry’s increasing fascination with K-pop.

At the Music & Entertainment Fair ‘MU:CON 2023’ in Seoul, Nicole talked to reporters about her experiences. Reflecting on her time with BTS, she emphasized the group’s dedication and talent. “They’re the hardest-working artists I’ve ever met. With outstanding producers like Bang Si-hyuk, the chairman of HYBE, well-matched staff, and supportive fans, everything came together as if the energy of the universe converged,” she said.

The essence of a good song

Having once dreamt of a singing career herself, Nicole has a profound understanding of the music industry’s intricacies. Although K-pop’s visual culture is a key aspect of the genre, she believes good music comes first. “Among the many departments in an entertainment company, I wanted to work in A&R. I still think it’s the most important because an artist’s main job is music production. I believe a well-structured discography leads to a good career.”

For Nicole, the essence of a “good song” lies in how it resonates with the artist and the audience. “From the perspective of popular music, a good song is one that lies at the intersection of the story the artist wants to express and what the fans want.” 

She also shed light on the creation of hits like “Dynamite” and “Permission to Dance,” emphasizing the importance of aligning a song’s message with an artist’s beliefs, identity, and values. “Dynamite” originally had explicit lyrics commonly used in foreign songs. It was revised many times to suit BTS. “Permission to Dance” was originally about a romantic relationship, but its message was changed to convey freedom and hope instead. “It was important to send a positive message as the pandemic was coming to an end,” she explained.

Nicole Kim looks to the future

Nicole believes that the secret sauce for global success is “originality.” She opined, “From the U.S. perspective, it’s more important for artists to express their own unique color rather than imitating American elements. You can introduce your music to people through a widely used language. But that doesn’t mean artists are abandoning their unique colors and roots. K-pop cannot be strictly defined by the Korean language or songs involving Korean composers.”

Drawing parallels between her own journey and BTS‘s ascent, she reminisced about the challenges she faced in her early days. She recalled, “Around 2017, when I first requested meetings with U.S. affiliates, there were times I couldn’t even get a response.” But given BTS‘s monumental success, the global music industry had to take notice.

Looking to the future, Nicole expressed her eagerness to explore content beyond K-pop, signaling yet another exciting chapter in her dynamic career. – K-Pop News Writer

Featured Image: After six years at HYBE, Nicole is transferring to Columbia Records, where she’ll be VP for A&R. Source: Instagram/@official_love_nicole.