BTS released their single “Black Swan” on Jan. 17 with an accompanying art film by MN Dance Company. The song reached No.1 on iTunes in the U.S., reached No.2 on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart, and topped the World Digital Song Sales chart.
The members of BTS are known for writing their own music with Big Hit Entertainment’s in-house production, but sometimes the label brings in songwriters from around the world to work on the group’s albums. Clyde Kelly is one of the newest songwriters discovered by Big Hit Entertainment, and he played a role in writing BTS’ single “Black Swan.”
Clyde Kelly grew up in North Carolina
Kelly grew up in Sanford, N.C. and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his undergraduate degree. He then went on to attend the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his MBA.
After earning his MBA, Kelly got a consulting job with the firm McKinsey & Company. He still works there full-time and considers music to be his side hustle. About 19 months ago, Kelly moved to Los Angeles with no connections to the music industry.
Instead, he released his own music independently, and his most recent album Side Hustle came out in July 2019. Before working with BTS and Big Hit Entertainment, Kelly achieved moderate success on his own. On Spotify, he achieved 3 million total streams and 20,000 monthly listeners.
“I usually work 70-80 hour weeks, so I didn’t have a lot of time for outreach to labels,” Kelly said.
While Kelly did not have a lot of time to network, he still worked hard to pray for and visualize his success.
“I really thank God for this first and foremost. But I also have to acknowledge the law of attraction, because I was focused on this. I was visualizing plaques. I was telling people that I would go platinum writing for a major artist, because I’m one of the best songwriters alive. I believed it was true before it was,” he said.
Big Hit Entertainment reached out to Clyde Kelly
In the fall of 2019, Kelly received a cold email from Big Hit Entertainment.
“I didn’t think it was real at first. I knew of BTS, but it seemed too good to be true. I still have no idea how they found me,” Kelly said.
While Kelly always had the goal to write a song for a major artist, writing for BTS was the first time he ever wrote a song for someone else.
“This is the first time I’ve written a song for someone other than myself,” he said. “I knew that writing for other artists was the most likely path for me to be successful in music. I don’t fit the stereotype of a rapper, and the lane I’m in is unproven in hip-hop.”
For the song, Kelly sent Big Hit Entertainment different melodies via email. The melodies were rewritten with Korean lyrics and were used in the second verse of “Black Swan.” While Kelly always believed an opportunity like this would come along, he also recognizes that he played a small part in a huge team effort. Along with Kelly, writers RM of BTS, August Rigo, Vince Nantes, and producer Pdogg worked to make “Black Swan” the hit it is today.
“I should add that I had a very small part in the masterpiece that Big Hit, Pdogg, and my co-writers RM, August, and Vince put together.”
How Clyde Kelly found out ‘Black Swan’ was the first single from BTS’ album
Kelly did not find out his work was part of the first single released from BTS’ upcoming album Map of the Soul: 7 until the song came out.
“I was flying back to LA on a Thursday night after a typical week travelling to my client’s offices. When I landed, it was after midnight, so the song was out. I started getting tagged in random people’s Instagram stories, and saw that not only did the song make the album, but it was chosen as the single. I’m pretty sure my life will always be divided into before and after that moment,” he said.
The response to the song was immediate, and Kelly credits BTS’ fans for how they have treated him since learning he had a hand in writing the song.
“I have to say that the BTS ARMY is the best group of fans I’ve ever seen. The comments are overwhelmingly positive. 99 percent of people writing me about the song are thanking me, and the other 1 percent is people who can’t believe I had a part in this. It’s understandable, because I still can’t believe it myself.”
What comes next?
BTS’ song “Black Swan” deals with the fear artists experience over one day losing their passion for their art. Through the lyrics, the members of BTS vow to continue with their music despite that fear.
When asked about the song’s message Kelly replied, “Honestly, it’s a terrifying thought, but it’s not something I’ve ever considered personally. I’ve always said I’ll make music until I die. The human response to music is automatic and ingrained, so it’s hard to imagine losing that passion when you have that innate connection to your art.”
While working with BTS and Big Hit Entertainment helped Kelly achieve some of his goals, he’s now created new goals to strive for.
“If anything, this has made me start to think of new goals, since ‘Black Swan’ checks some previous goals off my list. I hope this will earn my my first platinum record. I’m not interested in a Grammy, but I still want a No.1 hit! My new goals are about expanding my catalog, working with more artists, and continuing to build a great relationship with Big Hit.”