Seoul — LeeHi is not your average Jane. In a showbiz industry filled with manufactured pop, the 25-year-old solo artist stands out from the crowd and it is refreshing. Last July the singer launched her single HOLO, her first track under the independent hip-hop record label AOMG, after leaving one of South Korea’s largest entertainment companies at the end of 2019. The single is a calming piano ballad with a rousing chorus, flaunting LeeHi’s natural vocal skills, and it is accompanied by a gentle, slice of life-style video featuring LeeHi as a guardian angel to a little girl.
There are no fancy sets, few costume changes, no hyper-slick choreography, and yet it has got netizens excited and become a cult favourite. Her next single For You is a duet with her good friend, South Korean R&B singer Crush, and it is an equally honest and wholesome track with a live recording in a studio all decked out for Christmas for a video. The song, which was released in December, is inspired by the warm carols throughout December. LeeHi said that she completed the song with the wish to sing one instead of listening to one. She added that it will sound warmer if one listens to it with their loved ones in the cold winter.
A decade after bursting on the scene as a baby-faced teen with remarkably soulful vocals and a dream to be a musician on the reality programme K-pop Star, LeeHi has clearly evolved. She tells FEMALE magazine that she is getting to know more clearly what she is good at and what she wants. She has been wondering about how she can show her true self through her music and, as a result, express more and more of her emotions.
LeeHi said that it helps that AOMG is less restrictive as a record label and working on an “artist-based” system that sees its musicians involved in every part of the production and promotion process. She said that, in the past, she sometimes felt like she was wearing someone else’s clothes and stood on the stage a little awkwardly, but now she thinks her music has become more like herself. On the image front, one gets the sense that inside LeeHi lies a passionate and poetic artiste who is unafraid to break the mould.
During the shoot with FEMALE, the singer actively weighed in on the styling and art direction. LeeHi cites Sabrina Claudio and Jorja Smith as musicians whose look she loves and even singles out the latter’s image in her video for the 2017 single Beautiful Little Fools. “She comes out in a lace dress with a shaved head, red lips and bold accessories, and I can’t help but love everything about the song,” says LeeHi. All these add to the anticipation of her upcoming album, which is set to release this year.
In her new album, she wants to portray a “more diverse image”, she reveals. (“Maybe you’ll see me in more exciting looks,” she teases.) And while her latest singles have been slow romantic crooners, she reminds us that the songs she is most confident of have a “rhythmic” side.
“Instead of focusing on being influential, I think I should work harder and continue to create music that is honest and allows me to reveal myself,” she says.
And then comes the kicker delivered with a cheeky grin: “If I try to unravel my own story more and more clearly, I believe that a more diverse genre of music will be loved within K-pop.” /TISG
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