It seems like forever ago that Sam Kim took the runner-up place in Kpop Star season 3. Back then, he was known for his incredible skill with the guitar and charismatic vocal delivery. Now, two years later we have his official debut with Antenna Music, the soft, almost meditative Mama Don’t Worry.
Maybe it’s because it’s been awhile since I’ve heard from him, but the first time I listened to this track, it hardly sounded like Sam Kim at all. In fact, the delivery here is much more akin to popular indie musician Oh Hyuk. There’s a certain grittiness present in the vocals that wasn’t there before. It’s unclear whether this is simply an affectation or a genuine evolution in Kim’s style. Regardless, it suits the track’s world-weary mood perfectly.
The lyrics, written partly from the perspective of his mother, give a clear indication of the kind of introspective artist Kim will be. It’s oddly personal subject matter to debut with, but certainly sets him apart. It feels like a much more effective example of what Amber was trying to do with last week’s Borders, particularly in its snapshot collage music video, which paints an emotional portrait of Sam Kim the person, and not just the artist. If only all of this brilliant execution had been tied to a stronger song. As is, Mama feels like poetry, concerned more with its vibe and meaning than melody or sound. For me to really get behind it, those elements need to be just as strong. Still, it’s a unique, and long overdue, debut.