The K-pop sensation scored its first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Dynamite" this year. Now, BTS has four 2021 Billboard Music Award nominations: Top Duo/Group, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Social Artist and Top Selling Song for "Dynamite."
One of the songwriters behind BTS' first entirely English-language single is giving E! News an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the song blew up. David Stewart, who co-wrote and produced the track, says "the stars aligned" to make "Dynamite." Here's how.
The story starts in January 2020, when Stewart got his big break with the Jonas Brothers' hit "What a Man Gotta Do," which he co-produced with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and co-wrote with multiple artists, including Jessica Agombar. "That really opened up the door to people listening to me," Stewart says.
One of his managers, Columbia Records CEO and Chairman Ron Perry, "put feelers out" for the "Holy Grail" of all projects—BTS' first English spoken single—"which a lot of my peers were all trying to get," Stewart recalls.
While in L.A. for the Grammys last year, he took meetings with fellow music industry bigwigs, "and I knew then that they were looking for the song."
After the pandemic forced the world into lockdown, he and Agombar continued to work together over Zoom. The duo sent two or three songs to BTS' team, and Perry told them the band initially chose one of the songs—but it wasn't "Dynamite."
"So, I was like, 'Wow, this is insane.' I think I've got the BTS single," he recalls. Yet, two weeks passed before he got another phone call, informing him that they were actually taking "Dynamite" instead.
Stewart was told by his team, "We're going to shoot an insane video to it, and it's going to be a massive deal. I think it's going to be a number one record and everyone loves it. And now you've just got to go in and basically take this thing over the finishing line."
So what was it like to record the song and specifically tailor it for BTS? Stewart explains, "Because they're such an animated fun, almost like happy-go-lucky group, they brought this animation to it. That's what the song needed, because all the lyrics were fun. You know, sing song, ping pong, King Kong. You can't take yourself too seriously to sing those lyrics."
He says they went back and forth with BTS' camp a few times to change lyrics as needed, because some of the original lines weren't PG or made references that didn't land. "They wanted to make sure it was quite neutral and not offensive," he shares. "There was a couple of rap references that might've been a bit more just like in your face and a bit more like, you know, ballsy that wasn't quite right for them."
Ultimately, the music producer felt it was "incredible" that the superstars effortlessly sang it in English when only one member, RM, speaks the language fluently. "That in itself is insane," Stewart says.
Stewart adds that he used voice notes to give tips on enunciating certain words. "For example, [to give] more bite to a word, I would say, 'Smile when you sing that word,'" he explained. "I had to basically then say this to them on a voice note, which then would get translated into Korean for them."
He adds, "It was just one of those difficult things [because] obviously I couldn't be in the same room as them. So, I mean, hats off to them again. They got it."
The songwriter notes that during the "dark" times of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, a lot of music had very "emo feelings," but their hit single was the opposite, allowing people to "let go of your inhibitions."
Stewart continues, "The stars aligned and it came together... It was just like this magical moment."
"Dynamite" indeed exploded when their millions of fans heard it for the first time. Stewart woke up at 4:30 a.m. in London on Aug. 20, the day the video came out, reflecting, "That first day was so magic."
"I knew this was probably going to be the most important day of my life," he says. "To be quite frank, I just sat and I watched the video and I actually just sobbed. For me, this is 12 years in the making. The hours that I put in and like the real blood, sweat and tears and the sleeping on sofas and the traveling... Suddenly, you almost forget about them in that moment, because it's like, this is what we do it all for."
Tune in to the BBMAs on Sunday, May 23, on NBC to see if BTS wins the trophy for "Dynamite."