One fact about K-Pop that many fans may not be aware of is just how many non-Korean producers and songwriters are behind some of your favorite songs. As K-Pop grows in global popularity, more and more American musicians can be seen in the credits of idols’ albums.
Meet Rodney Jerkins, known professionally as Darkchild. The producer and songwriter has worked with some of the biggest names in music: from Beyoncé to Michael Jackson, The Spice Girls to Justin Bieber. He’s worked with a couple of Korean acts in the past, and his latest K-Pop track is NCT 127‘s “Favorite (Vampire)!”
Jerkins’ long career as a producer began with a “gospel rap” collaboration with his brother, Fred Jerkins III. After releasing that, he began working with artists like Mary J. Blige (“Share My World”) and Brandy (“The Boy Is Mine”).
Since then, he’s helped create dozens of the most popular songs in American music and is responsible for over 1 billion records sold. Jerkins has also received numerous Grammy nominations and wins throughout his career for his work on albums like Lady Gaga‘s The Fame Monster and songs like “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” by Whitney Houston. He won Record of the Year for his “Darkchild version” of Sam Smith‘s “Stay With Me.”
Jerkins’ first step into K-Pop was with former YG Entertainment artist Se7en. Jerkins worked with him in anticipation of his American debut and produced his song “Girls” (2009) featuring Lil’ Kim.
The next year, Jerkins worked with JYJ and explained in an interview that seeing the fandom’s love for JYJ helped inspire him to make music for them. When it comes to creating music, Jerkins focuses on finding a balance between creating something entertaining and something substantial.
When I make music, I really focus on trying to make great music. Music that people appreciate and love. Real melodies, real songs, real lyrics. Stuff that’s heartfelt and [meaningful] and still has the beats that make you wanna dance and make you wanna feel good.
– Rodney Jerkins
He complimented JYJ by saying they were “poised for success” and expressed that his studio is always open for them as he would love to work with them again. Jerkins also predicted a future working with more K-Pop artists.
I want to do more projects, period. I want to more projects in the Asian market, period. I just think good music should be heard all around the world and we should be able to combine the sound of what I bring to the table as well as the Asian market. I think when we fuse those sounds together, you create something new, something special, that the world’s never heard before. And that’s what I’m all about.
– Rodney Jerkins
Years later, Jerkins made a return to the K-Pop world with Baekyun‘s debut solo EP, City Lights (2019). Jerkins worked on the track “Diamond” and did the song’s arrangement. As a producer known for his spectacular work in R&B, it made perfect sense to collaborate with him for Baekhyun’s R&B-heavy debut.
Jerkins’ most recent work is the powerful, theatrical title track on NCT 127’s repackage album Favorite (2021)! The title track, “Favorite (Vampire)” was the work of Jerkins, Rodnae “Chikk” Bell, and SM Entertainment songwriter Kenzie.
“Favorite (Vampire)” was loved immediately upon release by fans, and the NCT 127 members themselves expressed that they all loved the song when they first heard it as well! Darkchild is definitely a name to keep an eye out for the next time someone drops their album credits; if you see his name, it’s a guaranteed hit.