[HOT TRACK]A Royal Outcast's 'Noblesse'

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[HOT TRACK]A Royal Outcast's 'Noblesse'

"Lee Eun-mi is like a warrior princess who isn't satisfied with maintaining the status quo. For that very reason, she holds a unique position in Korean music," said Jeon In-gwon, a living legend of Korean rock music.

Lee Eun-mi, 34, has released her long-awaited fifth album entitled "Noblesse." Ms. Lee is one of few musicians on the Korean music scene whose live performances and powerful voice always have the power to reign over audiences.

Originally Ms. Lee was known for her ballads, but recently she has transformed her style with a more powerful, driving sound. After her debut in 1992, she was lauded for her sentimental voice, showcased in hit songs such as "Gieok Sogeuro" ("Into the Memory"). She admitted that it took some time to develop a more powerful voice to match her energetic stage performances.

Ms. Lee's merits as a performer can only be truly appreciated live. She says that on stage it is a kind of sacred ritual for her to remove her shoes and perform barefoot - hence her nickname, "the diva in bare feet."

She believes it is a singer's duty to perform her music live. Unfortunately, the Korean music industry does not encourage this; often performances of popular dance groups are rated by how well they lip-synch or dance. Ms. Lee's outrage at this practice led her to publish an article entitled "Are You a Singer?" in GQ magazine. The scathing article named some of the dance groups and performers guilty of lip-synching and unabashedly denounced them. This caused much controversy; young fans flocked to the Internet, either defending their idols or agreeing with Ms. Lee.

Almost a decade after her debut, Ms. Lee confesses that she feels like a royal outcast, as she is the only singer who insists on performing live, shunning the practice of lip-synching favored by other popular "pseudo-singers." That is why she titled her fifth album "Noblesse."

Her criticism of the industry, which coincided with her album's release and her tour plans, may be another clever promotional strategy. Whether it is or not, the new album again displays her singing ability. From crooning ballads to driving rock numbers, "Noblesse" exhibits Lee Eun-mi's versatility. The single, "Sun Flower," is a remake of a a song by the renowned Japanese singer Mariko Takahashi. "Sarang-eui Hyang-gi" ("Scent of Love") displays the quintessence of Lee Eun-mi as a balladeer.

by Chun Su-jin

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