|Lim Kim Courtesy of Universal Music Korea|
Singer Lim Kim back in stage with 'Generasian'
By Park Ji-won
Kim Ye-rim's career in the K-pop industry had gone smoothly thanks to her unique singing style. She started out in the music industry in 2011 when she was 17. She finished third in "Superstar K 3," one of the most popular audition shows in the country at the time. Through the show, she drew attention from multiple entertainment companies and signed a contract with Mystic Entertainment, a mid-sized entertainment firm that is now owned by K-pop megacompany SM Entertainment.
She formed the duo Togaewol with her high school friend, before later performing as a solo artist, releasing songs such as "All Right" and "Goodbye 20." Her songs were mainly about being a woman or being in love. She danced and sang on stage in short skirts, "playing" a 20-something girl as her company wanted.
Kim Ye-rim was considered a successful female artist under a famous label and company ― one of the rare successful solo female figures in the scene. However, Kim suddenly quit the firm in 2016 and disappeared from public view for four years.
She then returned to the music scene with the stage name Lim Kim and released a unprecedentedly revolutionary album "Generasian" last year.
Combining genres of electronic, hip hop, experimental, folk music, dance, and other oeuvres, she expressed anger in her lyrics. She explained she threw away her thoughts in the form of an album, breaking the stereotype of an Asian woman and urging people to overcome Orientalism and male dominance. Her Kill Bill-inspired song "Sal-Ki" abundantly uses the sounds of traditional instruments from Asian countries, but they don't represent any specific culture, and therefore satirically question the true definition of "Asia."
In her created world in the music video "Yellow" in particular, she is no longer docile but someone who cuts her neck chains and claims herself as a queen.
Some say her music is similar to M.I.A, but she wholeheartedly created her world in her own music, becoming popular among listeners especially young female figures in their teens and 20s.
More importantly, she created her music without the help from any agencies, playing multiple roles as a rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, visual artist and dancer among others.
Her album and song "Sal-ki" ended up winning two Korean Music Awards (KMAs) in March: Best Dance & Electronic Album and Best Song.
|Lim Kim Courtesy of Universal Music Korea|
To create her own style, she spent four years finding sounds and colleagues who could empathize with her ideas while cultivating new vocal styles ― contacting her present colleagues including musician No Identity, visual artist May Kim and music video director Christine Yuan.
The album creation came after experiencing frustration as an immigrant to the U.S. as a female Asian and a female artist under the K-pop machine, where she thought that she was not able to fully respond to the industry's requirements such as to become someone who was sexy, cute, submissive and slim.
"I constantly thought that I don't fit in the previous works. So, having that in mind for a certain amount of time, I decided to leave the company. I wanted to become a singer since I was a kid, but I debuted without having my own musical direction. I thought that it was a good opportunity for me to start doing what I wanted to do and be free."
"I felt other people's gaze in society as soon as I made my debut at 20 which I never felt before. Of course, people would be facing different situations, but I thought that there are many people who would feel similar to me. Society is changing, but still it is processing. What is important in the process is to speak up."
She pointed out that the K-pop industry wwas not embracing a new format of music, but was limiting rights and expressions of artists.
"It is a systematic problem of the K-pop scene trying new things in general. If somebody made some new music, there are not many platforms to present them. I met with a lot of industry officials and asked for an opinion about my album. I felt that there was no opportunity for music that was not on the music charts. K-pop managements offer an all-in-one platform. Some may think it is better in terms of doing less work, but at the same time, it takes away the creators' rights. There are pros and cons to the system."
After making a decision to make an independent album, the album's story was naturally focused on overturning the norms of Orientalism and female figures, which she had been thinking about for a long time.
As can be seen in the lyrics, she refuses to b an object as a sexual female figure and criticizes the view of seeing Asians as one while urging people to "yell out" and break male dominance, which is prevalent in Asian culture.
Another way she showed her determination was by crowd funding her album so as to be able to communicate more with her fans and find support for the challenging endeavor. This method was also new to the industry but she was able to amass 90 million won.
Kim wanted to show a successful example of making an unconventional album so that she can create the opportunity for others to follow, especially Asian women, in terms of speaking their opinion and creating something they want.
She hoped not only to empower listeners but also wanted to make some changes so that people can speak up and have more opportunity in society.
"If this album and my entire project were able to deliver courage to people, I would like to continue to communicate with people through various ways and foster their energy. I still have no specific format for this, but I am planning to create more opportunities to do so."