AF: 김예림 Lim Kim

After a 4-year hiatus, 김예림 Kim Yelim is back as officially Lim Kim. Well-known for her romantic R&B grooves and gentle acoustic voice, Lim re-enters the world as a fierce charismatic warrior dabbling in experimental mixing and rap.

I have been a fan of her since her 2011 SuperStar K days as 투개월 Togeworl (which is a combination of “two” and “month” in Korean) with 도대윤 Do Dae Yoon. I was immediately captured by her unique voice which melts words and melodies, and makes every cover so much better than the original. Below is one of them, a cover of The Classic’s 1995 classic:

이 밤 너에게 주고픈 노래 tonight, i want to dedicate this song to you
너만을 사랑하고 있다는 걸 because i love you only and dearly
들어줄 사람도 없이 빗속으로 오오 흩어 지내 with no one listening, into the rain, it scatters

너의 이름을 불러보지만 i try to call your name
닿을 수 없다는 걸 알고 있어 but i know i can’t hold you
긴 밤을 꼬박 세우고 빗속으로 staying up all night, into the rain
어느새 새벽이 오고 있어 dawn is already coming

After SuperStar K, Yelim signed a contract with Mystic Entertainment (where my favourite artist 윤종신 Yoon Jong Shin is the producer) in 2012. Her first EP [Her Voice] (2013) is a collection of sweet honest lyrics which has a sort of gentleness that eases your hearts. In “Rain”, Yelim talks to the waterdrops as if they are listening to her. Tons of songs about rain are out there, but I always find myself searching for Yelim’s “Rain” during the weather.

Rain 추억이 아직 없어요 rain, i don’t have any memories yet
난 고작 스무 살 여자뿐이어서 i’m only just a twenty year old girl
Rain 이어폰 속의 비 노래를 부르는 가수 rain, through my earphones, i hear her sing about you
그녀는 뭐 그리 슬픈지 왜 그리 울먹이는 건지 why does she sound so sad, why is she on the verge of tears

Rain 무감각한 날 용서해 rain, why do you forgive my numbness
슬픈 영화에 모두 울진 않아요 i don’t cry over all sad movies
Rain 기분에 따라 그대가 좋고 싫고 해요 rain, depending on the mood, i love or hate you

“잘 알지도 못하면서 You don’t even know” (2013) is one of my favourites. Calmly sharing emotions of hurt and sorrow, Yelim’s voice moves seamlessly through various pitches, but as whispers along the mellow melody. It’s no surprise that the song was composed by 정준일 Jung Joon-Il who is known for these melancholic songs.

알 수 없는 사람들과 with people i don’t know
다른 색의 표정과 말 different colours of expressions and words
넌 대체 내게 뭘 원하는데 what exactly do you want from me

조심스런 맘 졸이며 worrying with a tense heart
겨우 한걸음 내딛어 i barely make a step forward
이 세상이 난 너무 무서워 this world, i feel so afraid

날 미워하지 마 (내가 아닌 나를 나인 것처럼) don’t hate me (as if i am who i am even if i am not)
날 미워하지 마 (왜 내가 아닌 나를 나라고 믿어) don’t hate me (why would i trust myself when i am not myself)
날 미워하지 마 don’t hate me

A love letter to her anti-climatic big twenty, “Goodbye 20” shows Yelim’s bubbly playful side. Because I’m just a year younger than her, I remember when this came out, I laughed a lot and felt so endearingly to her grumpiness.

나만 이래? 다들 행복했니 is it just me? were you all happy?
How about your 20, Girl?
왜 이래? 다들 짜릿했니 why is it like this? were you all excited?
How about your 20, Girl?

숨 막히는 사랑 올 줄 알았어 i thought a breathless love would come
마치 내게 신세계 열릴 것처럼 as if a whole new world would open up, stupid
Just Petty days Just Bubble days Goodbye 20

[Simple Mind] EP (2015) shifted her style to more daring and experimental. Like a follow-up to her debut song “All Right“, “Awoo” reveals her hidden charisma and magic to mold her voice into genres. Knowing she probably had very little say to the concept, its music video is highly suggestive and caters the male gaze, but that is for another discussion.

잘 못 걸린 척 너에게 전화를 하고 as if by accident, i give you a call
너는 지금 뭐 해 자니 밖이야 what are you doing right now, are you outside
한 잔 두 잔 세 잔 술이 들어가고 one glass, two glass, three glass, alcohol kicks in
감춰둔 꼬리를 흔들 i sway my tail* that i’ve been hiding all along

*”swaying your tail” is a Korean saying to connote flirtation

Some of my favourite Kim Yelim’s songs are collaborations with other artists, including “Stay Ever” (2015) with rapper Verbal Jint. Co-written by 장재인 Jang Jane, the song delves into a woman’s psychology and portrays a sensual, romantic song which, with Yelim’s voice, its mood is heightened. This was her last song with Mystic before she went on a hiatus.

오늘따라 왠지 아쉬워 이대로 가기엔 today of all days, i feel kind of sad to leave like this
오늘따라 네가 편한 걸 이대로 가까이 today of all days, you feel so comfortable and i want to be closer

집 앞 골목에 차를 세우고 park your car by the alleyway
고민을 들어줘 and listen to my worries
날 대하는 네 방식 나의 맘을 녹여 the way you talk to me, melts my heart

For four years, her artistic spectrum grew and she shared with us her magic to mold her voice so gentle as if you’re floating on clouds, or so enigmatic that you are falling into her tricks. So when she came back this May with the new song “SAL-KI”, her stark transformation immediately took me back. She had played between genres before, but always within a particular image. This new Lim Kim is a total shift in genre and image, as well as her artistic philosophy.

In an interview, she talks about how she became a star so quickly because of SuperStar K, and felt pressured to constantly release songs (while abiding to the given concept) when she was part of the mainstream entertainment system. She had no time to really think about what she wanted to do with music.

The hiatus was her self-exploration time, and she eventually decided identity is what she desires to talk about, especially as an Asian woman who have been living in limbo between Korean and American culture since young. “SAL-KI” portrays that intermix with electronic and hip hop sounds clashing against traditional Korean instruments.


I need to change up this game
Don’t identify self in the male gaze

I’m raising my voice to be heard
Building my world

On me?
Take dirty hands off of me

She began a crowdfunding to support her new career as a fully independent artist. I find all of this incredible—how she can re-enter the music scene and reach out to her fans with such a big transformation, especially as an artist who has had a career like hers previously. A crowdfunding project would have been a difficult decision. She says that she hopes through this project and the music she’ll create, she can break stereotypes and provide a stronger voice for Asian women. With just one song, I’m not sure if her message is clear. She recently raised more than her goal, so we’re due to see her full EP and music videos soon, and we can decide then.

Her courage definitely deserves attention and I have become a bigger fan of her—as a person. As someone who still loves and regularly listens to her older songs, I’m not sure if I’ll ever really enjoy her new music. And that seems to be the reaction for other people. But, this is also just the beginning—a new start— so let us wait and see…!