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K-Pop Double-Take: Rainstone Mashes Up Genres on 'Rainstorm' Featuring Brian McKnight [VIDEO]

By Harper Willis | December 04, 2014 09:36 PM EST


K-Pop Double-Take is a periodic review column highlighting recent releases that have yet to receive the attention we feel they deserve.

The fusion of different musical styles has resulted in some big triumphs (The Beatles), unfortunate mishaps (Kenny G) and everything in between. Artists and producers who foray into genre mashing walk a dangerous but potentially fruitful path.

South Korean K-pop producer Rainstone's recent collaboration with American R&B artist Brian McKnight, entitled "Rainstorm," released on Oct. 27, takes elements from R&B, dubstep, hip-hop and pop and fuses them together the create a track that is greater than the sum of it's parts.

Rainstone's own background includes training in a wide array of styles, from classical to jazz to rock to pop. He was a student at Berkley College of Music in Boston, and is no stranger to American popular music.

His understanding of how different styles of pop music--both South Korean and American--can work together is evident in the production choices he makes on "Rainstorm."

During the main hook, Rainstone lays McKnight's vocals over a cascade of futuristic synths and string pads typical of of K-Pop production. Underneath the modern production the track employs old school R&B-based harmonies (think Bill Withers), familiar turf for McKnight to sing melodies to. The result is a best-of-both-worlds scenario--you've got the featured artist singing both outside the box and inside his comfort zone.

Rainstone's current-sounding production makes McKnight's 90s style crooning feel less dated, while McKnight's earnest vocals lend some emotional gravitas to the slick production.

After each hook, "Rainstorm" transitions into Skrillex-inspired dubstep breakdowns, which constitute the verses. South Korean rappers San E and Verbal Jint are featured on the track and rap in both Korean and English.

The well-known curse of the producer is trying to sound like everything at once and winding up sounding like nothing. There are so many ideas in the production that it could have easily become a train wreck of unconnected riffs, licks and clichés.

Rainstone avoids that trap, largely because he understands what elements to borrow from what genre and when to use them.

Take, for example, the way the Rainstone uses extensive doubling of McKnight's vocal. It's a popular K-pop technique and McKnight doesn't employ it very much on his solo work. In this case the technique helped nudge McKnight's vocals towards K-pop without interfering with the actual vocal performances.

Another example of Rainstone borrowing from all the right places is how he uses R&B harmonies to generate a more interesting and catchy melodic hook, but simplifies the harmonies on the verses so the dubstep production and rapping can take a front seat.

Rainstone's collaboration with this popular American artist may have started out as a commercial decision, but I'm hoping the resulting work reaches out to the global community of music fans.

Watch the music video for the Rainstone and Brian McKnight collaboration "Rainstorm" RIGHT HERE

Harper Willis is a Brooklyn, New York-based producer and engineer. He has a passion for recording bands in crazy places, like ski mountains, motorcycle garages and swimming pools.  

Tagged :  Rainstone, Rainstorm, Brian McKnight


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