Interview: Songwriter Melanie Fontana on BTS’ Boy With Luv

It has been well-documented on this site that I am a big fan of BTS (see: this review of their latest album, Map of the Soul: Persona, or this ridiculous article where I dressed like the members for a week). Their latest single, “Boy With Luv” is not simply just an absolute banger, but the hard work of the members and the songwriters they collaborate with, like Melanie Fontana. Melanie is based in LA but has been writing for K-Pop stars like Everglow, BTS, and TXT. I got the chance to talk with her about “Boy With Luv,” working with BTS, and her songwriting process.

Her Campus: Congrats on the success of “Boy With Luv”! This isn't your first collaboration with BigHit Entertainment, you wrote “Euphoria” off the last BTS album and “Crown” for another BigHit group Tomorrow x Together --  how did you get involved with BigHit and BTS?

Melanie Fontana: I got involved with them in kind of the most millennial way possible. I had a friend who had a relationship with [BTS] and we wrote “Euphoria” together, and after that [BigHit’s] A&R was trying to find me to do some more with them, but she couldn’t find my email, so she went through a bunch of people and finally just DM’d me on Instagram. So we eventually connected, and I consider her to be a great friend and liaison and somebody who I really trust in the music industry. It blossomed into something really great.

HC: I was so excited when I found out that you wrote “Boy With Luv,” because growing up as a boyband fan I felt like I wasn’t aware of the contributions of women, and I felt like there weren’t very many women involved. But seeing how many women worked on the songs on “Persona” has been really exciting to me!

Melanie: It’s definitely a girl power album! [BTS’] A&Rs are female! What I love about BTS is that there’s just zero toxic masculinity. And they’re so very thankful for the people they work with -- yesterday RM was on a VLive, just talking about the album and breaking things down, and he just straight up shouted me out. I felt so honored, and it made me feel really good because there’s a lot of people out there who may or may not understand how songwriting works -- and not understand that as a songwriter, you can collaborate on a song and have not written any lyrics, or you could have written all of the lyrics and none of the melody, or some of both like I did, because obviously I can’t write in Korean. So some of the lyrics are mine and some of the lyrics are theirs. But there are people who try to delegitimize songwriters behind the scenes, so I feel like RM shouting me out was so important for people who don’t understand how songwriting works. It’s not just the band in a room, they reach out to people because they’re collaborative and open to ideas.

HC: I feel like people use the argument that “so many people worked on this” to dismiss pop records; that it makes them less “pure.” But I like the idea of collaboration and it’s valuable to be able to take others’ ideas and incorporate them…. You worked on Mikrokosmos as well right?

Melanie: I did! A lot of people worked on that song. It was a situation where they sent around some ideas and it was like best ideas win, and they kept a lot of people’s ideas and pasted them all together. Again, I was totally and completely flabbergasted they kept my parts and am thankful to be credited, because nothing makes me happier than writing for these guys, I can’t tell you! It’s so great to have a band that appreciates me, and thinks of me for music. In the American music industry you can write for an artist and just never meet them, they’ll never know your name, and you can walk up to them and say ‘hey, I wrote this song for you!’ and they’ll just look at you sideways -- but I’ve gotten very different reactions from BTS. It was a lot of ‘thank yous’ and a lot of hugs and a lot of ‘let’s do this again!’

HC: What was it like to perform on SNL with them?

Melanie: Performing on Saturday Night Live was essentially one of the greatest moments of my life. I grew up watching SNL, and it was one of those moments that made me go holy shit, I have done something right in life. I didn’t take the traditional path, I didn’t take the traditional college route that most of my friends did. They decided I’ll do the college thing first, and then I’ll hop into the arts, but I just dove headfirst in. People were like, good luck Mel, what are you going to do without a degree? Or, good luck moving to LA without knowing anyone! It felt very vindicating to be there after surviving all of the odds stacked against me. I was crying a lot, and then trying not to cry in front of them, the guys and the A&Rs, but in the end I just couldn’t help it, I was really emotional! I shed a tear after we got offstage, like this is amazing!

HC: You posted a very sweet picture with them too!

Melanie: They had reached out to say goodbye, so I waited until the show was over and as I entered the room they were like our songwriter’s here! Mel! It was a beautiful moment.

HC: It’s nice to hear that the biggest group in the world is so supportive of the people they work with.

Melanie: It’s quite strange because I haven’t come across too many people who are that way, they’re just so unique in so many different ways. First of all, their fashion is just always above and beyond the rest of the world. Their sound is just, they cannot and will not conform and I’m obsessed with that. Their whole look, including makeup and hair, is just so different from other boybands -- and they’re not even a boyband, they’re like an idol group. I throw the word boyband around because growing up in the states we call idol bands boybands, but technically NSYNC and Backstreet Boys were idol bands of their time. But they’re groundbreaking in terms of their sound, look, and their all around personalities, the difference between them and a lot of other groups is that you can tell they really love each other, they’re like brothers.