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‘Inner Child’: How the emotional stadium anthem came to life
Songwriters who worked on V’s solo track talk about transcultural writing, what it’s like to work with the biggest pop group in the worldBy Yim Hyun-su
Published : March 3, 2020 - 12:00
One week in, the septet’s latest album has broken multiple records, including the biggest first-week album sales of the year so far. It also helped the group achieve a fourth No. 1 hit in the US, making BTS the fastest band to do so since the Beatles in the late ’60s.
While fans celebrate, there is a small group of people for whom this record is even more dear to their hearts.
They are the five co-writers of the stadium anthem “Inner Child” alongside V, RM and Pdogg -- Ellis Miah, Ryan Lawrie (also known as Koolkid), Adien “ADN” Lewis and the duo of Matthew Thomson and Max Graham, who together make up Arcades.
We spoke to each and every one of the creatives behind the track about how it came into being and what it means to them.
Arcades on creating a stadium anthem
It’s the third BTS track for London-based production duo Arcades -- after “Mikrokosmos” and “Jamais Vu” -- and Matt Thomson and Max Graham are still more excited than ever.
“You spend your life trying to get attention from even the smallest bands and some of them are like ‘yeah, thanks but no thanks.’ And all of a sudden, you are thrust into being on an album. It’s just incredible.”
“It wasn’t quite as anthemic at first. As we started to build the track over time and work back and forth with Pdogg, we realized we need to make it bigger and bigger,” Graham explained.
“The first verse is very much just acoustic guitar. It feels like you’re close to the music, an intimate feel. As the song progresses and reaches the chorus, it’s suddenly a huge sound.
"I think a lot of that is thanks to live drums and held chords on guitar,” he added.
While the lyrics always come from BTS, the duo is well-versed in Taehyung’s music tastes and said Coldplay might be a good reference as the British band is known for playing huge stadiums with singalong moments.
To give the song the sense of largeness it needed, the duo took part in recording the gang chorus themselves.
“We know that Taehyung is a big Coldplay fan. … Winter Bear and all those types of songs show his love for the guitar-driven, folky, indie sound,” Graham said.
“I think quite a lot of people were surprised by this one because his songs, as much as they have that certain type of feeling, are generally intimate, and this time he’s gone on a big stadium grand scale,” Thomson said.
The duo first crossed paths with BTS when J-hope added the duo’s music to his Spotify playlist, helping raise the duo’s profile to the septet.
And there was James F. Reynolds, one of their managers and a mixing engineer who has done extensive work on BTS’ recordings.
Last year, the two saw BTS live at Wembley Stadium in London as 60,000 fans sang along to their song “Mikrokosmos” with a fireworks display.
Recalling that time, the two said they were looking forward to similar moments with “Inner Child.”
“I don’t think that’ll ever get old,” the duo said.
Having worked with the likes of Miley Cyrus, RuPaul and the Backstreet Boys, the LA-based singer-songwriter, DJ and producer worked on the melodies for “Inner Child.”
And even in just “the smallest way,” he says he’s proud to be part of the group’s making and breaking of history.
“The most extraordinary thing about it is that, I feel like, a lot of times we love to say, ‘Oh, music is universal.’ Usually when you hear that expression, what they mean is other countries listen to music in English even though they don’t understand.
While “Map of the Soul: 7” is undoubtedly a commercial success, Miah was touched by the love it’s spread, and especially by the #InnerChildChallenge -- fans posting pictures of their younger selves next to them now.
“At first, it was sort of just fun stuff -- people posting baby pictures and what they look like now. And then it took on this other thing and fans started sharing really heartfelt stuff -- things about depression, the difficulties of being gay or a person of color or growing up in a small town.
“And to turn out your phone and see the stream of purple hearts and well wishes -- I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Koolkid on writing a song between LA, London and Seoul
“We started the song in LA and went from there back to London and back to South Korea, where the boys would work on it, and then it would come back to us and we would put our touch on it. And it would go back -- it was like a jump over the sea,” Koolkid said of making “Inner Child.”
And the two tracks bear similarities.
“With ‘Mikrokosmos,’ it was very stadium sounding, atmospheric and heartfelt. And I feel like, with “Inner Child,” we really wanted to recreate that in a way and almost make you want to stand up, feel the music and be a part of it.”
At first, he didn’t know the track was going to be V’s solo track, but he couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
“When we were working with Big Hit and BTS, we thought it was going to be for the whole band because RM worked with us as well. And when we got it back, that’s only one of them singing and it was Taehyung.
“I love Taehyung and I love his own artist stuff and his incredible music ability so I was really pleased.”
Adien ‘ADN’ Lewis on lyrics of “Inner Child”
Songwriter and producer Adien ‘ADN’ Lewis has been a fan of BTS since he stumbled upon “Spring Day” and “Blood Sweat and Tears.”
“While Arcades and PDogg worked on the production, Elli, Koolkid and I were working on melodies, cadences and English lyrics, making demo tracks,” he said.
Lewis fell asleep while waiting for the track to be released on its release day. And when he woke up at 4 a.m. and the song was already out, he rushed to stream the track.
“I lay in bed with the lights off, completely pitch black, and listened to ‘Inner Child.’ I kind of teared up a little bit.”
For him, one particular lyric stood out: “I want to hug the many thorns in the budding rose.”
“It speaks to me because it’s basically saying the negatives and all the hardships in life are what make who you are today. It’s such an uplifting and heartwarming song.”
By Yim Hyun-su (email@example.com)
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