- Yonsei Alumna Makes K-Pop Waves as JYP Composer October 08, 2020
SIM Eun Jee (entering year of ’02, Composition), the JYP songwriter behind TWICE, SSAK3, SUZY hits
“Yes or Yes” by TWICE, “I Don’t Like Her” by IU, “Shouldn’t Have” by Baek A Yeon
These popular hits on many people's playlists are only a few of the numerous K-pop songs produced by composer and songwriter Sim Eun Jee (entering year of '02, Composition). In particular, the recent chart-topping song "Play That Summer" that was performed by Korean supergroup SSAK3 (consisting of TV personality Yoo Jae-suk and artists Rain and Lee Hyori) was written and composed by the Yonsei alumna.
Eun Jee believes that Yonsei University had influenced every crucial moment of her life. Her career as a composer at JYP Publishing within JYP Entertainment (hereinafter JYP); student club activities where the classical music major quenched her thirst for popular music, and her meeting her life partner all became a reality thanks to her alma mater.
The Yonsei Years as a Composition Major and Sonagi keyboardist
As a middle school student, Eun Jee had vague dreams of becoming a pianist, but the one who gave her a clear goal was her older cousin, who was majoring in Composition at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Inspired by his piano performance remaking a well-known song by changing the key freely, Eun Jee began devoting herself to studying music composition and fulfilled her dream by being accepted to Yonsei University as a Composition major.
"I loved classical music, but I also had a thirst for popular music. Then I joined our university's main rock band called Sonagi as its keyboardist. I knew how to play the piano, but playing in a band in harmony with other instruments was new. I learned a lot about popular music and band ensembles at Sonagi.'”
Eun Jee’s time spent at Sonagi instilled the dream to become a composer of popular music. After graduation, she had made up her mind. Eun Jee began making demo CDs and sending them to agencies. During this time, she covered living expenses by working as a tutor at a practical music academy.
“I was a fan of singer Park Jin-young since I was young, and I liked all the music he produced. I naturally applied only to JYP, but no matter how much I sent them my demo music, I didn’t hear any response. Looking back, it probably was because I sent my CDs to their Rookie Development Team, which mainly recruits new artists.”
First encounter with JYP at AKARAKA
An opportunity arose when Eun Jee’s frustration had reached its peak. While working on music with the band’s seniors, Eun Jee heard the news that Park Jin-young, a fellow Yonsei alumnus, will perform at Yonsei University’s main spring festival event AKARAKA. She could not miss this opportunity. After many twists and turns, Eun Jee ended up knocking on the door of Park’s waiting room with a heartfelt letter and demo CD in hand.
“He (Park Jin-young) first looked startled. He asked how I got in, so I told him that I was a junior majoring in composition at Yonsei, and that I brought him a demo CD because I really wanted to join JYP. He seemed both surprised and impressed.”
Two weeks later, a miracle happened - Park Jin-young himself called Eun Jee. She signed a contract with JYP after taking interview tests for several days at its office. Once again, her dream became a reality, only second to being accepted to Yonsei University years before.
The joy of creating music that you enjoy on an ordinary day
Since joining JYP, Eun Jee shadowed producer Park Jin-young to learn the basics one by one, such as recording and editing. Over time, she composed songs that became album titles or topped music charts, and her work was not limited to one specific genre or artist type. So how does she do it?
“What’s most important is that I try to create synergy between the artist and the song. Even if the song itself is good does not mean that it is a good fit for all artists. I research the artist's ideal vocal range and best performances and try to reflect these aspects when composing pieces. I think the song shines best when the artist shines the most.”
When asked to name her most memorable songs, Eun Jee always remembers to mention the corresponding artist. Every moment spent together while making lyrics or recording is reflected in her songs. Eun Jee tries to make each song special. She conveyed feelings of excitement in the debut song for the duo Fifteen And (15&) and added narration in a piece for Jo Kwon that only he could pull off. Above all, Eun Jee enjoys making popular music that relates to the public.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what popular music is, and have tried to define it in detail before. However, after making music for over ten years, I realized that popular music accompanies you throughout an ordinary day. In the end, I think that the music that I would easily listen to in everyday situations - riding the bus, waiting for someone, commuting to work, taking a shower - ultimately, is popular music.”
The Pop Music Composer’s Current Dream: To Create Music that Always Delivers
When asked what kind of composer she wishes to be remembered as, Eun Jee answered, “Sim Eun Jee, the composer whose music always delivers.” It has always been a top priority to focus on her current work rather than running after long-term goals or ambitious plans. The songwriter hopes to continue creating good songs and build trust with people through her music.
“Among people’s reaction to my music, my most rewarding is, ‘Sim Eun Jee’s music always delivers.’ It makes me think that I have gained their trust in my music. It would be wonderful if I could continue receiving that feedback.”
Eun Jee is always faithful to the present. Her attitude toward life reflects her time at Yonsei University and the people she met at her alma mater. It is not difficult to see what she values most from the story she shares today with her Yonsei juniors.
“Park Jin-young, who supported me when I was struggling at work, was a senior Yonsei alumnus. I met my husband, my lifelong partner, at the Sonagi band of Yonsei. I met all my friends – with whom I frequently meet, share my life, and travel together - at Yonsei University. I am truly grateful. I hope our current Yonsei students will value the people around you. The relationships that you treasure will surely be your strength throughout life.”