There is something inherently charming about Su Lee.
Quirky but not off-putting, often seen grooving with lanky limbs askew and the sheer excitement of finding something you love, Su Lee burst onto most people’s awareness with her song “I’ll Just Dance.”
The song’s lyrics are almost too relatable and Su’s soothing alto voice works doesn’t match the bluntness of her lyrics. There’s a definite flavor of dry sarcasm in her conversational lyrics as she says that she’s fine but she’s dead in real life. And yet it doesn’t come off as dark but honest, especially set to the instrumentals that are equally charming.
Her first full album Box Room Dreams further shows what she can do with disarmingly honest lyrics and her warm voice. There’s nothing fancy or intimidating in her music; instead, she makes a cozy space to sit for a while and think alongside her.
Box Room Dreams was created in her studio, which was her small bedroom in a Korean apartment, during the thick of the pandemic. My guess is that the pandemic did color the album, especially on a track like “Socially Alive”:
Missing movie nights
And heavy chatty nights
I never thought I’d like to be a little more
Most of the songs aren’t particular to the pandemic, though. They’re appropriate for any time because of how straightforward they are. Take, for example, the deceptively cute song “OUCH” which, after counting to six, starts with Su announcing that “The other day the doctor told me I got depression.” Turns out the title was referring to her heart saying “OUCH.”
In the hands of another artist, perhaps these lyrics could turn into ballads and depressing music. But through Su Lee who dances around her room and makes shadow puppets with Christmas lights in her music videos, these emotions become approachable.
With her warm voice and equally warm instrumentals, she makes a safe space to say what would feel awkward or maybe even harsh out loud. Things like “I need your help now” (“Coward”) or confessing that she stares at her wall, binges on treats, then cries to sleep to feel something (“Why Do I Feel Like This”).
As I listened more to her music, I did get more emotional in focusing on the lyrics because hearing someone declare sad emotions so simply is comforting and cathartic. But it doesn’t feel sad because of how she pulls it off; unabashedly, with a goofy dance. This is the charm of Su Lee.