Lee Hi is a K-R&B Sensation

Lee Hi is a K-R&B Sensation

V's consulting creative Greg Foley caught up with the Korean sensation at SXSW, who gave us her top K-pop tracks.

V's consulting creative Greg Foley caught up with the Korean sensation at SXSW, who gave us her top K-pop tracks.


K-Pop is what you would call a silent sensation. It's not something you'll find on top Spotify playlists or your local radio station, but the amount of followers the genre and its acts have accumulated beyond Korea is astounding. Lee Hi took a different path than most in the industry, coming in as runner-up on the first season of K-Pop Star before developing her own distinct K-R&B sound with her debut album First Love, taking on influences not often heard in the K-Pop world. Given the popularity of R&B music in the U.S., it makes total sense for Hi to aim for stateside domination. And with her status as a beauty queen (she has previously collaborated with MAC), a new album in the works, and a feverish interest in the K-Pop world, it just might happen.

We caught up with Hi during SXSW to talk about her sound and how Korean music could become more mainstream in the U.S. The artist also shared a playlist of some of her favorite K-Pop jams.

The reception/popularity of K-Pop and K-R&B in the USA: How does it become bigger?

I think it’s so inspiring that so many people love K-R&B from different countries. Of course there are many styles in R&B, but one of the reasons people love K-R&B is that artists in Korea actually changed the R&B into their own unique style. The catchy hooks have also caught many audiences.

What inspires your sound and how does it differ from typical K-Pop/other artists?

I have listened to many different genres of music. Since I was little, I loved artists with their own unique style of music. I don't want to separate genres with other artists, but I want people to listen to my music and know, "Oh it’s Lee Hi". I want to think that those features are my strengths and differ from other artists.

Which musicians, or people in general, inspire you and your artistry?

From the top of my head, I could think of Anita Baker, Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu, Beyonce, Rihanna, D'Angelo. Many people inspire me, recently I've been listening to The Internet, Daniel Caesar, and H.E.R.

Do you feel the pressure of beauty standards in the US or Korea? How does beauty intersect with music?

Personally, I thought that music, fashion, and beauty were connected. Music is something that you listen to, but not just that, many people are able to see "colors" of the artists by attending concerts, watching music videos. Beauty, fashion, and music intersect with each other because I cloud share different features and the true colors of myself, not just music, but with fashion and beauty as well.

LEE HI’s Top 5 K-songs featured on COOL x Apple Music:

"NA B YA," PEEJAY & Zion T

"My Girl," NAUL

"Courtship," Sunwoo Jung A

"Found You," G.Soul

"X," Codekunst & LEE HI

Credits: Images courtesy of Lee Hi.


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