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Lee Hi
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Last year a cute, goofy fifteen-year-old walked onto the Kpopstar audition floor, introduced herself, went into an adorably clumsy dance, and continued on (the judges grinning) with an unintentionally comic sexual strut. Then she opened her mouth to sing, and a million years of experience and pain came pouring out.

Her segment starts at 2:50.


She was even better a couple of months later, singing deep and dark on a ballad that Yang Hyun-suk had given her to take her out of her style and out of her comfort zone.


(For Eng Sub go here to 21:53, and then here for more of the judges' comments.)

In the competition itself, she was never quite as galvanizing, though was technically better as she showed her versatility, and none of the clumsy body motions. She was a crowd favorite and finished number 2, deserved to have won.

My fear is that K-pop won't quite know what to do with her, the combination of kid-like moxie and a true soul voice. Neither would America, at this point. I don't think Jazmine Sullivan and Beyoncé know what to do next either. Or Adele, though she's doing fine commercially. Might a good soul voice be a hindrance? Lee Hi is with YG Entertainment now, and has had two number ones in the last month, one as a guest on Epik High's "It's Cold," and now on her own for two weeks running with "1,2,3,4." They give her simple but not ridiculous enough dance moves. I'm glad she and they aren't content to have her just stand there and sing. The song is pretty good, nice bounce, well-paced, doesn't force things, and she owns the breaks. But I'm not feeling more; just a pretty good song and a good soul voice.



And here's Yang Hyun-suk seventeen years ago, showing he knows what he's about as a dancer (guy with the donkey-eared* hat; notice he takes his jacket off at 3:19, so he doesn't have to continue suffering from the ridiculously heavy winter wear they've got on under the lights, indoors):



*UPDATE: More like beagle ears than donkey ears, actually.
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This is really good! Curse you for making me watching a full hour of K-pop Star, though, I had stuff to do today. XD

I'm a bit horrified they started by telling her to lose weight -- that can't be good for the combination of voice and body type she has -- though not surprised.

Lots of extreme close ups of her eyes, that's what I'd do with her. Dances with big motions, since she's clumsy, and then stand still and zoom in.

I also think this is a really good article, I wasn't getting the appeal of Lee Hi!

Edited at 2012-11-17 08:38 pm (UTC)

As long as I'm couch-casting, I wonder a bit why she ended up at YGE, and not with JYP. He's the guy who writes the soul ballads.

She's probably more interested in swag than in ballads, and YG's supposed to be the swag label.

I like your idea of big motions. Clumsy or not, she should get to do the sexy strut. She should do a dance where she entices, teases, and taunts swaggering boys. But my guess is that that would be pushing the envelope in Korea, since she's only sixteen.

Here's her "1,2,3,4" debut, some strutting but no one with xy chromosomes until, placidly, at the end.



Edited at 2012-11-17 11:00 pm (UTC)

Welp, I guess none of us figured there would be a JYP ballad leftover on the fridge bottom shelf from the Park Bom solo project, so we are all wrong. XD

(This song is really boring btw)

It's really boring, and it would sound better if Bom was singing it! It's in her range.

YGEnt is also the label known for not forcing their stars to dance. Even JYP's ballad group dances well.

It's an old conundrum. Does an artist have a responsibility to perform music that uses all of their talents? Should someone with the ability to pull off amazing runs, high notes, or powerful belting have them in the majority of their songs?

On the one hand, I've snarked about how some Kpop has obligatory belting or obligatory raps, the need to display some skills locking artists into a formula, and there seems to be sentiment among the comments on TTS's Twinkle, or Xtina's contribution to Moves Like Jagger. Meanwhile, the perceived lack of vocal skill in Jpop has idols singing in genres they have no business singing in, bring a whole new timbre to and often fundamental twists on said genres. On the other hand, people have complained about the likes of T-ara and 4minute not properly showcasing the singing talent of the girls by sticking them with simple-melody and simple-rhythm hook songs, having them use less polished pop voices that, all the same, stand out from other groups for it.

Does Lee Hi have to sing songs and stick to genres that make the best use of a soulful voice? (As singles, of course. Album tracks are always open for everything)

I don't think "the combination of kid-like moxie and a true soul voice" is going to be a problem. There are plenty of 16-year-old idols that simply ignore their age conceptually, and tend to have less of a chance of a child star flameout for it. The Judy Garland approach played up her youth visually, and then let her voice inform the character of depth.
And then, of course, there's always the standard idol approach of simply splitting the contrast into on-stage and off. Leave the kid-like moxie for variety and reality tv, and continue to play up broken-heart/love veteran concepts in music. Dorky dancing can happen in both to keep winning fans over. Everyone loves a dorky dancer idol.

Maybe a true soul voice is a burden at this point, no matter who has it, or what else they have.

A true soul voice solo seems to be a burden. Being in a group seems to relieve a lot of expectations, to where f(x)'s Luna was doing the Coyote Ugly and Legally Blonde musicals, neither of which have music styles that her voice would seem to be suited to. They also have the liberty of playing their voices off of foils in their fellow members' voice, like how Jea's fire in Brown Eyed Girls' "Sixth Sense" is so effective because you have Miryo, Gain, and Narsha to contrast.
Would you consider 2NE1's Bom to have a true soul voice, or is it too congested?

Also, Asia has this shameless thing for sappy ballads. So in that sense, there will always be more of a place for a true soul voice in Asia than in the west, even if a shallow one.

I liked the entire top 3 on K-pop Star as you know. Their debuts have made me look forward to their careers even if the songs themselves haven't been earth-shattering.

That girl the winner Park JiMin got partnered with knows how to sing as well.



She even did "Men Are Boats Women Are Harbors" http://youtu.be/dser3MJrgBM?t=16m38s

Didn't know anything about Le Hi, but I have to say that Tablo/Epik High partnering with YG has been great so far. I love "It's Cold", it really condenses the essence of Tablo's Fever's End album from last year. Lee Hi definitely fits the song too, her voice is so soft and naive, she makes life seem as cold and cruel as Tablo and Mithra Jin portray it as. Also thanks for linking that great video, I don't know why it cuts out the raps in random spots but it totally captures the song.

I'm glad she signed with YG. Out of any label, they seem to offer acts the most control and fit them with songs and styles that suit them... you don't see YG acts doing their "cute" album or "retro" album. SM or JYP could really fuck that up for Lee Hi, play up her soul-diva styling for the debut and then do some stupid electropop song six months later with 5 filler songs tagged on. Lee Hi will probably make similar music throughout her tenure at YG, and if picking a Jasmine Sullivan song for her trial performance indicates anything, that'll sit well with her. I know that K-pop acts like to bounce styles around and do themes, but it gets tiring and tacky really quickly. YG seems to have more of a cohesive vision for the artists, building them to last, rather than playing to the moment. Excited to see where she goes.

Edited at 2012-11-19 08:30 am (UTC)

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