Singer-songwriter Sam Kim may be more well-known for his R&B or acoustic releases, but he has never feared diving into new genres. This boldness pays off particularly well in “Smile”, a brand new dance track produced by Moroccan Dutch DJ and Record Producer R3HAB in which Sam fully showcases his versatility as a musician. His sultry voice plays well against addictive beats and a delightful soundscape, creating a masterpiece which he describes as “funkadellic”.
Sam shared with us that “Smile”, like most of his music, was a fun creation birthed from just his guitar before it was sent to R3HAB, who “worked his magic over it to completely transform it from the original.” The producer has previously worked on collaboration remixes with Western acts such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and The Chainsmokers, as well as with Korean acts like f(x)’s Amber and Luna, and most recently with Chungha. On how the track came to be produced by R3HAB, Sam explained: “My team showed me his music and I really liked it. I was curious what would come out if we worked together.”
In the spirit of experimentation, Sam and his producer also tried out different recording techniques while creating the track, resulting in this curious phenomenon: a certain laid-backness is maintained in his line delivery amidst the upbeat song. This subtle contrast keeps the song light in intensity and renders it extremely re-playable. “Usually, you record in the song’s original BPM (tempo), but for this song, my producer Simon Pétren and I thought it’d be interesting to record it in a slower BPM and speed it back up to the original. What you hear is that effect,” he divulged.
This track, along with other dance tracks from his repertoire like “The Juice” and “Dance,” are definitely steps out of his comfort zone genre-wise, but Sam always has a lot of fun writing and singing these songs. “It was really refreshing to step out of my bubble for a little bit and dive into unfamiliar grounds. I end up learning and growing the most in these situations,” he shared. While he will be putting off heavy metal for the time being, hip-hop is a genre that Sam would like to try next. “Though I don’t have the voice or delivery of a rapper, I really do enjoy listening to the stories of rappers with those qualities. Kendrick is my go-to.”
Apart from working on his own releases, Sam kept busy as a songwriter and producer, collaborating with artists all over the world. In 2021, he worked together with Shindrum and AkMu, as well as Indonesian singer-songwriter Raisa and Thai singer-actor Mew Suppasit, even while working on many other songs that were released in the year. There are still many inspiring artists remaining on his collaboration wishlist, however, and he looks forward to working together with BTS and BIBI in the future.
Beyond the many exciting collaborations Sam has participated in, he made waves globally with “Love Me Like That”, an OST from Nevertheless, that went viral when the drama aired. It’s not hard to see why–his lyrics spoke right into the delicate situations faced by the protagonists of the drama, while the soft instrumentals highlighted his husky voice. When asked about the song’s popularity, Sam admitted that he had doubts about it when he first wrote it. “I remember writing this song a few years back when I was going through a rough time and it’s probably why I never thought to give it a chance. When I saw how many people could relate to the song the doubt went away and I think the 20-year-old me who wrote it finally felt accepted.”
Love was a clear theme of “Love Me Like That”, and remains prominent in many of his songs and OSTs. Sam has consistently been active in the OST field and most recently released “Summer Rain”, a gentle and comforting track for the bittersweet romance drama Our Beloved Summer. The emotions he conveys through songs like these are always extremely heartfelt, and the secret to his mastery lies in the great efforts he puts into studying the songs. “Even though I can’t see the scenes my OSTs will play in beforehand, I try my hardest to read the story in the lyrics and deliver the emotions to the best of my ability. I ask the songwriter lots of questions such as ‘Should I sing this phrase a little softer? More powerful, sad?’” He added humbly: “The songwriters behind every such decision are the real MVPs.”
The year ahead will be another busy one for Sam, who has many meaningful and exciting things planned. He excitedly proclaimed: “It’s finally my year, the Year of the Tiger and I want to make it meaningful!” The support from his fans powers him on as he takes up new projects and challenges, evident in the message that he left for them. “Each and every one of you pushes me to be a better me and also shows me love that I sometimes forget to give myself. I wish you all health and happiness in these rough times and I will see you all very soon.”