In Album Review, ESC Daily’s music expert Jill Guthrie talks you through released albums by Australian artists or other Eurovision related musicians. In today’s episode she of course talks about Dami Im, who will sing for Australia in Stockholm.
It was a pleasant surprise when Australia announced that they would participate in the 2015 song contest in Vienna, and even more pleasant when Guy Sebastian was chosen as their representative. In November, they perhaps surpassed the already jovial attitude with an even bigger announcement – they will participate again in the 2016 contest in Stockholm. And just this month, Korean-born Australian pop-goddess Dami Im was revealed as their voice for Europe.
Last year, Sebastian was the logical choice, being a world star who wanted to conquer Europe – but what does Dami Im have? She may not have the strong European connection; however, she won the fifth season of The X Factor Australia, which resulted in a recording contract with Sony Music Australia. And recently, her 2014 album ‘Heart Beats’ debuted at number seven on the ARIA Albums Chart, becoming Im’s second top-ten album, with two massive single hits in their own right. She’s a pretty big deal, more than some people seem to think.
Born in South Korea, Im found herself in Australia at the age of nine, where she established her love for music. With gospel as her foundation, the influence is evident in her powerful voice and the majority of her work. She names other influences on her talent to be K-pop and the power-pop of Beyoncé and Mariah Carey, but also the jazzy-folk of Norah Jones and the soulful singer-songwriter qualities of Britain’s Corinne Bailey Rae. Elements from each genre have found their way into Im’s music, shaping her into a force to be reckoned with.
She has also worked with mega Australian artists such as Kylie Minogue and Jessica Mauboy, who is quite well known to Eurovision, among others.
Still relatively new to the mainstream market, officially launching her career in 2010, Im has achieved a high status in her short rise to fame. Two of her greatest singles ‘Super Love’ and ‘Gladiator’ both debuted in the Australian ARIA Singles Chart at number 11.
‘Heart Beats’ is quite a personal collection of empowering ballads and up-tempo pop gems that show Im’s true colors as an artist, while simultaneously aiming to be a timeless album. The mixture of different musical abilities and qualities is nicely balanced across the track list. Her two biggest hits kick it off with sounds in comparison to the niche folktronica of Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ and the commanding vocals of the likes of Katy Perry.
The up-tempo synthpop of ‘Super Love’ marked her debut in South Korea, her country of origin, reaching top-twenty in the charts. It soon after went platinum and then became certified gold in Australia. Its companion release, ‘Gladiator’, employs the same soaring quality and reedy vocals that make them both highly anthemic. The same goes for the standout track ‘Speak Up’ that falls mid-album. The power behind Im’s voice in each track is nicely complemented by a melodic edge that carries through the rest of the collection.
Track ‘Living Dangerously’ quickly rises into the same sizable chorus-driven beats, while the lighthearted ‘Moment Just Like This’ and cover song ‘Beauty in the World’ (the original version is by Macy Gray) experiment with a soulful, upbeat melody that diffuse the weightiness of her words. There is a following selection of synth-ballads and dance styled cuts that add spontaneous transitions between the more serious atmospheres.
Like we find in ‘Without You’ and ‘Heart Beats Again’ – the true, visceral ballads of the collection. The melancholic tone her vocals carries the progression in the former, while the latter resembles the likes of Bridget Mendler’s ‘Summertime’, but more subdued with the same melancholy and candor of the previously mentioned. While each song may have its own qualities and strengths, one thing that remains ever present is the insane clarity and range of her vocal ability.
The personal reflection in Im’s work allows her music to be accessible to a wide audience, while at the same time bearing a massive radio quality. There are several true gems in her repertoire – such as ‘Alive’, which is not featured on this album, but came before – which establish her soaring talent. She may not be as well-known across Europe as other artists that were shortlisted for Eurovision, but already the impression she has made in her home country is impressive.