written by: drowningn00b
In my mind, there aren’t many ladies in the Korean hip-hop and R&B world. The queen of them for me is, obviously, Tasha/Yoon Mi Rae/T, whereas 2NE1’s CL and Brown Eyed Girls’ Miryo respectively reign in the idol sphere. When the R&B bubble burst in the mid- to late 2000’s, prominent ladies of R&B like Lim Yeong Hee and BMK fell out of favor into OST neverland and moved on to pop ballads. It’s a sad thing in music, since variety is sorely lacking within the wider-reaching echelons of the mainstream.
Admirably, Gilme has taken the reigns on this empty space and run with it, putting her talents, both as a rapper and a singer, to use with her debut rap single, “Love Is War”, and her vocal collaborations with Clover. For her latest single, “Me First”, Gilme focuses on her singing, which is surprisingly more impressive than her rapping skills.
“Me First” is an R&B mid-tempo track that harkens back to the mid 90’s, with a bounce to the beat similar to those produced in the now defunct Bad Boy label. The production has just the right amount of layering and instrumentation to keep from sucking, but not enough pizzazz to stand out. The piano loop and the synth on top are not original, and the emphasis the drum beats allows the song to brighten up some.
In a turn of deception, this production style works because it lays the burden of carrying the song on Gilme. When she first came on the scene, Gilme’s rapping was the focus, with a delivery so fast and hectic it lacked finesse or sense of rhythm, indicating how young she was in her rap game. In time, it got better and her singing efforts with Clover clearly helped, because Gilme is at the top of her game these days, vocally and stylistically, evident on “Me First”.
She isn’t like other R&B songbirds with little ability to be on center stage. Gilme’s voice has a nice range, going easily from her deeper registers to the high notes she hits in the climax. Not only that, Gilme’s phrasing is spot on, pulling off the sass and hurt with ease. And her rap piece is cool and collected, keeping the emotion alive without sounding like a noob on the mic. This is a great turn for Gilme, setting her place firmly in both R&B and hip-hop.
I have to admit, it takes guts to take this genre on. Nowadays, R&B is not profitable. Bobby Kim, bless him, infuses his R&B with heavy doses of pop elements, to the point where you can’t think of the genre in the same way, but have to deconstruct the contraction to rhythm and blues to see where he’s taking it. Even then, his latest record received only moderate success, reaching #7 on the Gaon physical charts list, then dropping down the list a week later.
In the press release for “Me First”, the blurb ended with the lines, “Amidst a somewhat gloomy reality in which it has become the rule of thumb that idol groups take over the charts, we have high hopes that there may be a fresh turn of events showing the diversity and potential of Korean music to the K-pop market.”
Stilted English aside, there was hope for Gilme to do well, especially now that “Inkigayo” dropped its competitive side. A month after its release, Gilme is not yet there commercially to set that prophecy alight. But she has put her talents as a rapper and singer on a higher level than before, so here’s to more from her in the future.