…but why hasn’t anyone else realized it?

Last month, I essentially threw a (hopefully somewhat eloquent) hissy fit, as is my wont, about my favorite underrated group in the world, 8eight. Who, I questioned, is behind the injustice that is 8eight’s total and complete lack of relevance?  In the absence of a definitive culprit, I cast at least part of the blame on 8eight’s inept management, Big Hit Entertainment. Well, funny story: one of my favorite underrated solo artists in the world, Lim Jeong Hee, is also with Big Hit. Here, please hold my laptop for a moment while I faint from shock.

Big Hit, what the hell?

I was actually quite pleased that a SB reader (holla, doan_linda!) asked us to write on Lim Jeong Hee, because I have been jamming to “Golden Lady” since it came out. I mean it; I drive my car around and pretend that I, like Lim Jeong Hee, bought both it and my house — and then I go home and beg my father for gas money. But the really sad thing is that I actually had no clue who she was until that single — and then found out that she has been releasing music since 2005.  Are you kidding me? Was I just asleep at the wheel, or was J.Lim just nowhere to be found?

At this point, I’m pretty sure that it isn’t a coincidence that Lim Jeong Hee suffers as does 8eight; Big Hit seems to have no idea whatsoever to do with talent, except to spectacularly waste it.  Let’s look at “Golden Lady,” which is, in my humble opinion, a fantastic song that is bursting with potential. But somehow, the accompanying music video manages to turn a song that makes a bold statement about gurrrl power (the real kind) into an utterly laughable crapfest that makes women look vain and, quite frankly, stupid.

Though it stars G.Na and features a rap by Hyuna (what the hell are the Cube ladies doing here?), it suffers from a played-out storyline and tacky-as-all-hell effects. I mean, I get it — she’s booting her useless boyfriend out of her house, but why, oh, why are those horrific sound effects there whenever she punches him (did SM Entertainment somehow have a hand in this)? And for the love of mercy, why is he flying through the air as though this were a Loony Tunes cartoon starring Wile E. Coyote? Headdesk. That’s pretty much all that’s left to do in this case.

But maybe I’m being too hard on Big Hit; in fact, I’d go as far as to say that almost nobody in the K-pop world — not management companies, not networks that broadcast music programs, nobody — knows what to do with talent. And let me be clear: when I say this, I do not mean that K-pop companies do not know how to make talentless or minimally talented people appear talented by playing to their strengths.  An example of this would be turning Hyuna into a rapper because she is a poor singer, or giving Yoona .5 lines in a song to draw attention away from the obvious fact that her face, and not her voice, were what got her on stage to begin with. What I mean is that entertainment companies do not exactly have a great track record when it comes to utilizing raw talent in a way that both effectively showcases capability and produces music and performances that are appealing to the public.

I question, though, whether or not this can be done when I think about what it is that attracts me to Lim Jeong Hee and her music. If I am being honest with myself, I have to admit that what I often enjoy watching on stage might be (okay, fine, is) different from what I enjoy listening to on my iPod.  Do I enjoy watching choreographed stages? Absolutely; it’s dynamic, fun, and sparkly — and generally, a lot more entertaining to watch than is someone just standing there holding a microphone.  And let’s face it — that’s pretty much what Lim Jeong Hee does when she performs. Would I rather listen to her voice live than listen to a live performance of KARA? No question.

But would I rather watch KARA twirl around on stage while chipmunking into microphones, or would I rather watch a Lim Jeong Hee performance done properly? As in, a completely live show during which the musicians in the band accompanying her actually play their instruments live and with feeling? As in, a performance imbued with the energy and awesomeness that we know that Lim Jeong Hee is capable of delivering, but is somewhat stifled by the realities of performing on nationally syndicated music programs that don’t often permit live instruments? Again — no question.

Which brings me to another question: is Lim Jeong Hee an idol? Would we call her that? If the answer is yes, then the style she’s rocking right now is doing her no favors, and she should probably ditch the piano (and about 40% of the cloth covering her body) and learn how to dance; if the answer is no, then why the hell is she being boxed in by a company that has no idea what to do with her and being made to perform alongside others whose level of musicianship or musicality is clearly not up to hers?

Lim Jeong Hee and 8eight are strange and sad cases in K-pop, and I think the problem lies in the fact that Big Hit is trying to turn people who aren’t idols into idols. Lim Jeong Hee herself didn’t exactly start out as an idol; she made a name for herself as a musician before she was picked up by the mainstream, winning a grand prize in a Seoul-wide music competition and being quite popular “on the street,” as it were. There’s no question that Lim Jeong Hee’s exposure as an artist would decrease in some way if she were no longer attached to a mainstream entertainment company (especially one that is actually a subsidiary of JYPE, but seems to be unable to work this to their advantage), but I wonder if such a break would ultimately be better for both the quality of material she is able to produce and for the Korean music scene as a whole. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on Korea’s indie scene (in fact, I know almost nothing about it), but I’d wager that it is is growing and will soon become a force that cannot be ignored as dissatisfaction with the idol industry grows simultaneously. It’d be great to see artists like Lim Jeong Hee have the opportunity to not only flourish within a musical environment that is far more conducive to their talent and musicality, but in the Korean music scene at large.

Well, I know we have at least one J.Lim fan out there — anyone else?  What would you like to see her do in the future?