Chances are, you probably haven’t been keeping up with the latest episodes of American Idol or The Voice have been. A shadow of what they used to be back in their hey-day, the classic American singing competition has recently fallen into a slump, perpetually competing with the likes of YouTube and other programs for consumer attention. That also spells out bad news for the winners–most of the time they get their coronation single, book a few gigs, and then drop off the face of the Earth. Who’s still watching them in 2018?
That’s not the case for East Asian countries, where singing competitions are just as popular as ever–maybe even more popular than Idol ever was back in the day. As I’m sitting here in Taiwan, my cousins’ eyes are glued to the television screen, listening to some no-name singer belt out their rendition of someone else’s popular song and streaming episode after episode on YouTube. There’s a certain amount of respect that people have for everyone on that stage on this side of the globe: anyone on the screen has the potential to become a major artist in the future. So what happens when you take the winner of one of these singing shows and cross it with one of the biggest music industries on the planet? The results are extraordinary.
“Remember”, Korean-American singer KATIE’s debut single, proves that though the singing competition format is dead in America, their East-Asian counterparts are definitely doing something right at picking out budding talent. The winner of the very blatantly-named South-Korean singing competition K-Pop Star 4 back in 2015, KATIE (Katie Kim 케이티 김) signed on to major entertainment label YG as a result of her win–undergoing three years of training under their management. But something there didn’t click with her, leading to the announcement of KATIE’s departure from YG without ever releasing anything under the prestigious label’s name a few years later.
Now the debut artist on the newly founded AXIS brand (think brand rather than label–something like 88Rising but in Korea), she’s finally ready to release her long-awaited album Log in October. But after all that downtime training between her win and her debut, she’s only gotten stronger as an artist: “Remember” is an explosive, gut-punch of a song.
Written in a song camp and inspired by R&B artists like H.E.R., NAO, and Sinead Harnett, “Remember” is an R&B song mixed with some classic elements of EDM production. Everything from the booming chorus (“We make love / Love memorable, memorable / We make love / Love not typical, typical”) to KATIE flawlessly hitting those meandering arpeggios (there’s a reason why she won!) makes “Remember” a wildly fun listen. Even more impressive are the jarring dolphin-sounding scales that hit you right before the chorus comes in–KATIE and her team could have played it safe by removing them altogether and creating a hit all the same, but it’s one of those defining characteristics that will give audiences a reason to remember this particular song years later. If Flume and Regina Spektor ever decided to collaborate, this is the type of song that they would create. And while “Remember” isn’t purely an EDM jam, I wouldn’t be surprised if DJs decided to remix it or collaborate with KATIE: she seems like she would fit right into that scene if she wanted to.
And perhaps she could, one day in the future. Concerned about being boxed-in based on what she looks like, KATIE explains in an interview with Billboard: “America’s my home, so I didn’t really want to be categorized as a K-pop artist. I just wanted to be an artist out there singing a song.”
“And I really wanted to show that there is no boundaries to music, as if [because] I look like an Asian person I would be just categorized as [a] ‘K-pop artist.’”
Although KATIE’s only released one song so far, there’s enough there to prove that she’s not the traditional cookie-cutter artist to emerge from the Korean pop music scene… and she’s definitely one of the most exciting ones yet.
Log is slated to come out October 10, 2018 on the AXIS label.