Now Playing… is a biweekly column that releases every other Friday at 5 p.m. EST. Every other week, I will spotlight a lesser-known song or artist from a variety of genres. It will be a bit of music analysis, arts education, blogging, and more. Love it or hate it, I won’t let you down at exposing you to the cool art that is being made today from songs, to music videos, to live performances. If you’re also a cool young person constantly on the search for new music, let me supplement your listening diet!

Who is Lim Kim?

Lim Kim is one of my favorite artists ever, and she is so underrated. The 29-year-old Korean soloist started off in a duo in 2011, but officially debuted on her own in 2013. Her music has always been unlike anything else, but her journey as a musician is even more interesting.

Like any true artist, we long to be free from societally enforced confines. In Lim Kim’s case, it was to be free from the expected K-pop paradigm of her company. She was told she had to be pretty, had to sing a certain way to stand out, and that she could only explore lighthearted topics like love and growing up in her music. But why? 

She eventually left her company in 2016 in order to be free to make her own music, explore what really fit her, and rightfully renounce the direction she was previously forced into. While I was saddened to know that the songs I loved so much were made under her duress, I can value her art even more by knowing the struggle behind it. For example, she actually damaged her voice to get her “signature” gravely tone!)

Although commercially popular, the work is unsatisfying when it is not our own. Now, for Lim Kim, she is finally getting what she wants. And that is why I want to introduce — and reintroduce — Lim Kim for this week’s Now Playing.

What’s playing this week?

“Without knowing it all” — Lim Kim

“Awoo” — Lim Kim

“MONG” — Lim Kim

Why these songs?

It was so, so hard to only pick a few songs and I strongly recommend listening through all her past albums like Goodbye 20, Her Voice, and Simple Mind. They are all truly no-skip, and it is hard to find an artist today that compares to her artistic caliber. She was so unique and continues to be, and that’s a testament to her talents.

I finally settled on the three I chose because I believe they are the quintessential Lim Kim tracks that explore the trajectory of her career. 

Without knowing it all

“Without knowing it all” comes off her first 2013 album Goodbye 20, which, as its name reveals, is a coming-of-age masterpiece. This track is very sad, and is sung from the perspective of a younger person in an abusive relationship with either a partner, or the judgment of the world. “You don’t even know everything / But why do you always give me a hard time?” she sings. While she herself is young, she also knows that the one criticizing her isn’t who they think they are. However, this still harms her, causing her to feel defeated and ultimately blame herself for not protecting herself better. It’s tragic, but also beautifully real, and perfect for fall. The song itself feels cold, like a frost just beginning to seep into your bones. It probably reflected her state of mind at that point in her career, when her character was being defined for her. 

Similar songs to this include “Rain” (perfect for rainy days, obviously!), “Urban Green” (feels like the first blooms of spring), and the title track “Goodbye 20” (which is actually much more cheery). 


“Awoo” comes off her third 2015 album Simple Mind and was critically acclaimed — named in Billboard’s top 100 K-pop songs in 2019 for its unique pop-but-not-pop sound. It made such a splash because of its experimental electronic sound. It can really be seen as one of her first dips into a style she would claim fully once she went independent. The music video is also thematic of her playful artistic identity (she embodies a cat when playing hard-to-get), which first piqued my interest. Amazing music and visuals? Say less. If you like it, be sure to also check out another one of my favorites from the album, “Upgrader.” 


“MONG” is my most recent favorite from her independent album GENERASIAN. It’s fully fleshed out and fully “her.” In a way, it’s the truest coming-of-age for Lim Kim. After enduring all those years of expectations, she’s finally saying what she wants.  

Besides being a response to her experience in the mainstream music industry, she also pulls from her experience going to school in New Jersey where she confronted misogynistic western views of Asian women. As described in an interview with Lim Kim from The Korea Times, the whole album really centers on issues of Asian identity and “overturning the norms of Orientalism and female figures.” 

As such, many Korean commenters loved analyzing the “MONG” video. This included how Lim Kim depicted the stereotypes that exist for Asian women and how it is all an illusion that they can break through. Supported by a cast of many Asian women of different backgrounds and ages, the dreamy visuals are laced with Orientalist motifs like Chinese style clothing and lotus flowers, which are applied with broad strokes to collapse the diversity and humanity of the wide umbrella that is Asian identity. 

This is really art with a message, and that was clear to many listeners who felt that “MONG” was even worthy of being put in a museum. Though her sound is radically different from what it was before, it’s wonderful to see her breaking through and creating new horizons for herself — and others — as an artist.


Missed the last rendition of Now Playing…? Read it here!