2018 Wharton MBA graduate Clyde Kelly told his team at McKinsey & Company that he needed to take some time off — he had been asked to co-write a song for global pop sensation BTS’s newest album.
Kelly said a representative from Big Hit Entertainment, the mastermind behind South Korean boyband BTS, cold emailed him in September 2019 asking if he would like to work on a song titled “Black Swan” for the label. Kelly soon learned the song would be on BTS’s upcoming album, “Map of the Soul: 7,” expected to be released on Feb. 21.
Kelly said he still does not know how BTS’s label company found him but described the email as “life-changing.”
“I have no idea why it happened to me,” he said.
Kelly started releasing music the summer before his first year at Wharton in 2016 and has continued to work on his music while working as a full-time associate at McKinsey & Company in Los Angeles.
Kelly added that he had never heard of Big Hit before but knew of BTS and respected their success. He said he was pleasantly surprised to find that BTS not only releases hits but incorporates positive messages about self-love and individuality into their songs.
“They do it in a way that is not corny somehow and that is part of the whole ethos of the label,” Kelly said. “Their slogan is ‘Music and artist for healing’ and they are really serious about that.
According to Kelly, Big Hit sent him the song's instrumentation in September, which he then used to help create the song’s melody.
“It was fun and easy to do this without having to worry about lyrics, because the lyrics don’t have to make sense,” Kelly said. “Some of my lyrics were gibberish, so I really just took it from free styling and just recorded myself and came up with whatever came to mind.”
He sent his first song to Bit Hit within a week of receiving the initial email and sent two more songs with new melody ideas at the label's request, Kelly added. Kelly said that Big Hit took parts of the melody he wrote in the latter two songs and rewrote them into Korean lyrics, which now make up the second verse of “Black Swan.”
While writing music and working at a consulting firm may not have a clear connection, Kelly said working full time as an analyst in turn creates more of a need for a creative outlet.
“Honestly, I think there is a really good yin and yang between the two,” Kelly said. “The more time I spend at work, the more I need a creative outlet, and if I didn’t have a job that was very numbers oriented, very left brain kind of thinking, then I don’t think I would have much drive to go do creative things in my free time.”
Kelly pointed to his time at Wharton as a key contributor to his success in the music industry. He said his Wharton degree has opened doors through classmate connections. He added that the free time during his two years pursuing an MBA degree allowed him to pursue his passion for music.
While he will continue his own career in rapping, Kelly hopes to write more music for global artists. Kelly said he is currently working on music for Big Hit’s other boy band, TXT.
“I definitely hope that [my music] evolves into me writing more for other people like this, because this is truly on a global scale which obviously my music has not reached the scale of BTS so it’s really exciting to work on something that’s like a huge team effort that goes so far," Kelly said.