Thursday, March 23, 2023

This Week In Music: K-Pop Guru Rob Grimaldi Talks BTS And ‘Butter’

Producer/songwriter Rob Grimaldi is the man of the moment in pop music.  

He was behind the board and one of the songwriters for BTS’s biggest and fastest-selling hit, Butter,” which holds the record for this year for the longest run at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and has had millions of streaming views.

But he’s also had the magic touch with female K-pop group Blackpink’s “Love to Hate Me” and Queen Naija’s hits “Butterflies” and “Mama’s Hand.” He’s also worked with Jimmie Allen, Tim McGraw, Noah Cyrus and had sync licensing placements with My Little Pony, Mcdonalds, Samsung, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, ESPN, Netflix, MTV, and more.

He answered a few questions from Deadline on his current success in K-pop and other genres.

DEADLINE: What were the challenges of working with a group whose English is limited? 

ROB GRIMALDI:  They’ve recorded all-English records before, and vocally performed “Butter” incredibly well. When writing an all-English single for a Korean group, our goal was to lyrically and musically align with their brand/image and strategically make sure each member had a moment to shine. We wanted to craft the perfect BTS record.

DEADLINE: You work in several genres. Do you do anything special to switch gears? 

RG: I’ve always been an eclectic music lover: from the significant band era of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman to Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Elton John, Tupac, Biggie, Usher, and current-day pop and country stars, to name a few.

Growing up listening to multiple genres played a significant role in the diversity of my work today. I’m a multi-instrumentalist producer/writer who’s hugely “song” focused, so it’s very natural for me to work on different style records. Switching gears consistently (often different genres daily!) has become seamless and refreshing – it prevents me from repeating ideas and forces me to think outside the box. A round of golf in between to clear the mind helps, too!

DEADLINE: What’s your ideal artist/producer relationship? 

RG: The ideal artist/producer relationship revolves around positive energy, work ethic, and trust. I always try to create a safe space for artists to be their authentic selves and share anything and everything. I believe the best records come from real-life experience, raw emotion, and honesty.

I’m so thankful for artists that put faith in me to help them find their sound, voice, and story. As a creator, I know how personal art can be, and involving another in that journey is unique. I love being part of the process: from identifying talent and hits at ground level to writing/producing the records to A&R’ing and finishing projects.

DEADLINE: Certain producers are identified with certain styles. Is there a Rob Grimaldi sound to your recordings? If yes, how did it develop? If not, why has it not? 

RG: My style is super diverse and distinct. I consider myself a chameleon in the studio, confidently working in different genres. A Rob Grimaldi track is musical, unique, sonically impressive, and filled with hooks. My goal is to keep the listener’s attention, achieved through creative programming techniques and scene changes. At the end of the day, the song is the most important thing. My production goal is always to enhance a great song, not to distract from it.

DEADLINE: Is the relationship of the listener to music different in the streaming age?  

RG: I think the streaming age is so exciting because it gives listeners a chance to discover new music (and new artists) daily. With the combination of streaming services and social media, listeners now play a major role in identifying and curating what’s hot and what’s not. As a writer/producer, I’m digging deep while creating to find “that thing” that will capture/hold a listener’s attention and separate us from the high volume of songs released every week.

DEADLINE: K-pop has been around for a while. What were the factors in its breakthrough beyond the obvious ability of BTS to break out? 

RG: I’ve always been a fan of the K-pop movement because I’m a fan of the music. I have so much respect for the production value and musicianship that goes into these records. The groups are incredibly cool because the songs have so many creative changes and flip to highlight each member. I’ve worked with BTS, Blackpink, Monsta X, TXT, and more- and have really enjoyed every experience. The K-pop fans are so dedicated and supportive of their favorite artists- it’s fun to watch and be a part of!

DEADLINE: You can pick any artist, living or dead, to work with on a song. Who do you choose and why? 

RG: Tough question! Frank Sinatra from the past and Bruno Mars in the present. Sinatra is an icon and one of my all-time favorites. Bruno is a superstar, and I love how he approaches his records. The musicality, the programming, the excellence of the vocal, the direction. It all works together so seamlessly and toes the line between classic and current. Hits!

DEADLINE: What is the influence of K-pop artists on other forms of music? 

RG: I think K-pop artists have a global presence and audience. Their work ethic is incredible, and I appreciate how much emphasis they put on performance and entertainment value. I love the music videos, the infusion of choreography, the diversity of the content – everything surrounding the records is done with great purpose. I think artists worldwide see this strategy/hustle, and I’m sure it influences their projects.


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