Since Kpop started to gain popularity in the west, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the industry. The treatment of trainees and idols, the control over personal lives and completely structured styling and musical formulas, the undervaluing of women, and the strict contracts. We’ve all heard the horror stories and seen the consequences in painful and tangible ways. There’s a fine balance in this hobby of ours between wanting to support the artists we love and wanting to change the infrastructure we barely understand and yet despise.
It should be made perfectly clear though, the recognition of the problems in this business didn’t take root when foreigners sat up and started to pay attention and changes didn’t start happening because we got mad and started tweeting angry messages at major labels. No, there have always been people working to make a change and fighting the good fight to produce the music they love in a sea of Kpop rigidity. One such artist has been featured on this site multiple times when she was in the early stages of her career and working to make her way as a strong solo artist in a world of cutesy girl groups – Lim Kim.
Love Game, Lim Kim
I’ve always been a fan of Lim Kim’s use of her rich, full voice and the way she’s stood out as a creative vocalist. As someone geographically far away and unable to get my hands on less mainstream content, I’ve been saddened by her absence in the last few years. So when in May of this year Sal Ki popped into my YouTube feed, I was giddy with excitement. She was BACK!
But it was different. Very different from what I’d been expecting. It’s hard and uncompromising and the visuals were antagonistic and aggressive. Her voice is there, the interesting use of her pipes as an instrument is absolutely accounted for. But it’s a completely different genre and sound – this isn’t a love song. Or rather, it IS a love song. It’s a love song from her to her about what she wants to be doing and her ability to just f’ing do it now that she’s left the Kpop industry.
Sal Ki, Lim Kim (the official MV appears to have been taken down so here’s the audio)
In keeping with my inability to not post new things on Thursday, Lim Kim released an EP called Generasian this fall that I am loving. It’s inspired by her desire to give Asian vocalists their fully deserved place on the pedestal of badass musical queens. The title track, Yellow, is a beautiful blending of traditional Asian instruments with some heavily western-influenced hip-hop lyrics. In many ways, it reminds me of Bang Yongguk’s Yamakazi in its multicultural take on what it means to be Asian and a probing look into some of the darker parts of this part of the world.
Set aside your pop expectations and take a listen to what one former Kpoper is doing now that she’s found a place that’s more comfortable for her in the musical world. Whether it’s for you or not, we should all celebrate somebody finding her path and fighting to stay on it.
Yellow, Lim Kim