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[Herald Interview] Meet the couple behind BTS and TXT’s latest hits

Melanie Fontana and Lindgren during an interview with The Korea Herald (Screenshot captured from Zoom)
Melanie Fontana and Lindgren during an interview with The Korea Herald (Screenshot captured from Zoom)
LA-based songwriter Melanie Fontana and producer Michel “Lindgren” Schulz have long produced hit tracks for leading groups such as Girls’ Generation and f(x).

With their recent work with Big Hit Entertainment’s beloved bands BTS and TXT, the couple is further cementing their presence in K-pop and becoming a formidable duo.

Their history with the label started when Fontana wrote “Euphoria” with her friends DJ Swivel and Candace Sosa, without knowing it would end up in BTS’ hands months later.

When it did, member Jungkook performing it as a solo track, Big Hit’s A&R team reached out to Fontana through Instagram to suggest a further collaboration with the band. But in the flood of messages she was receiving from fans, she didn’t see that one.

“Sometimes my inbox gets full with messages from like BTS and TXT fans, I try to write back to everyone but it takes me a while. So at times messages sit for a while, and that message happened to sit for a couple of weeks,” she said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Fortunately, the label was adamant about working with her and got her email address after asking other A&R teams at different labels. When Fontana received their message, she was ecstatic and brought her partner and husband Lindgren to the team as well.

The result was “Boy With Luv,” which topped the Billboard charts and broke three Guinness World Records. The couple also went on to work on tracks for TXT, affectionately referred to as BTS’ brother band, including “Crown,” “Run Away” and “Can’t You See Me?”

“I feel so connected and in tune with the teams we work with in Korea. My style of writing feels understood,” she said.

“As an artist, for every few people who like the work, there’s always going to be some people that hate it too. And that’s fine. But in Korea, I feel like our work is being revered, and I really appreciate that.”

Lindgren echoed Fontana, saying some labels in the West had criticized him for combining different genres within a song, calling his work “too Frankenstein.” Korean labels and musicians, however, asked him to do more of what he was doing. “I felt very welcomed,” he said.

That said, the couple has had success in the West too, of course, having worked with stars like Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa and Britney Spears.

Fontana and Lindgren were also able to meet both BTS and TXT and recently worked with TXT in the recording studio for their latest album, “The Dream Chapter: Eternity.”

Lindgren felt an instant connection with the band who were genuinely excited to sing and perform. “There is no sense of ‘Oh rats, I’m in the studio and I got to work’ from them. It’s just yay all the time,” he said.

And when they first met BTS in New York City for the Saturday Night Live show, where Fontana sang backup behind the stage, the septet hugged them and thanked them for their work, a kind of hospitality that comes by rarely in the industry. 

Melanie Fontana with global sensation BTS (The Dream Adopters)
Melanie Fontana with global sensation BTS (The Dream Adopters)
“Everyone I worked with in the label is very mom-and-dad like. They have this ‘We’ll take care of you’ attitude,” Fontana said.

They particularly praised Bang Si-hyuk, the label’s chairman and chief producer, as the lyrical and conceptual mastermind behind the bands’ albums.

“He changed the way I think about music,” Lindgren said. “He has this ability to feed you information and his vision until you become his mouth, his brain.”

Bang told them to adopt a darker twist in “Eternity” compared with TXT’s two previous albums, “Star” and “Magic,” emphasizing change as the keyword. Young people around the same age as the bandmates go through profound life changes and grow as individuals, and in the process many of them lose connections with some friends and even family members.

With BTS’ latest album “Map of the Soul: 7,” the label also asked them to go a bit darker, to be more serious with more gravitas.

“The line ‘Bring the pain on’ was in the original briefing,” Lindgren said about the title track “On,” which the two participated in writing and composing.

“I believe in Mr. Bang’s mind, he was thinking: ‘Just bring it on, world. When we are together, we can take it. We’re all right. Bring the pain on.’ It was a ‘stand strong, I am strong’ moment for the guys, and a great juxtaposition from ‘Boy With Luv,’” said Fontana.

The excitement in their voices when talking about BTS and TXT as well as other Korean musicians they worked with including Hyolyn, Minzy and Everglow, make it obvious that they enjoy working with K-pop artists and labels.

“K-pop is one of the most dynamic, if not the most, song genres out there. And what I love about K-pop these days is that it borrows from all genres around the world and makes global hits. People who would’ve never even thought of Googling K-pop are now listening to it every single day,” said Fontana.

“No genre has transcended the boundaries like this since hip-hop,” said Lindgren. “And yet, we’re still not in a place where we flip through Top 40 radio stations, we get K-pop.”

What excites them is that they believe this is just the start of K-pop being globalized – the “Run D.M.C. stage of K-pop as he’d like to say,” Fontana said, smiling at Lindgren. “There are always going to be setbacks on the way up. The potential is there. We just have to build those steps.”

By Kwon Yae-rim (kyr@heraldcorp.com)
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