In the latest Musiio by SoundCloud podcast, host Hazel Savage sits down with songwriter Jing Jie Lim (aka KEAT) to discuss his journey as a queer musician from Singapore. 

Jing Jie, or JJ to his friends, initially trained as an opera singer before choosing to pursue an electro-pop sound, in both his artist career and as a songwriter. He recently completed studies at Musikmakarna in Sweden, where he further honed his songwriting craft, focusing specifically on K-Pop. 

In this conversation, Hazel and JJ discuss the impact of culture, language, and identity in songwriting. 

Watch the full episode:

1. The challenges of being a queer musician in Singapore are real

“You feel the need to build another persona just so that you can survive,” says JJ. 

Despite having a support system of friends around him, the songwriter says he often worries whether he is going to be labelled as “too much” if he chooses to associate his queer identity with his public artist profile.

This, amongst other things, means he always has “1001 things to think about at any one point.” 

2. Culture massively influences songwriting

JJ speaks about the unique cultural identity that Singaporeans have, embracing both Eastern and Western influences. In the podcast, JJ explains that this cultural perspective has helped him to develop his own niche, as he has a unique perspective that bridges both cultures. This outlook has also helped him to write K-Pop which similarly shares Asian and Western influences.

“Like Hannah Montana says, it's the best of both worlds,” quips JJ. 

3. There are key differences between K-Pop and Western Pop

K-Pop requires a “steroidal level of hooks,” says the songwriter.

In the full interview, he explains how writing for Western pop differs from K-Pop. According to JJ, K-Pop uses a lot more hooks. In Western pop, “vibe” can do more heavy lifting.

Every song needs a strong concept that can be translated into Korean, too. That’s because K-Pop songs are often written in English first, before being sent over to Korea where it’s translated.

Even though JJ doesn’t speak or read Korean, he does know Mandarin. While very different, an understanding of a character-based language means JJ can make more educated writing decisions.  These include focusing on concepts and careful word choices, with the knowledge that songs will be translated. Jump to 24:45 to find out more.

4. Swedish pop is far more than Max Martin and ABBA

JJ attended Musikmakarna in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. The school has helped train songwriting legends, with previous students garnering 13 Grammy nominations across 10 categories in 2023 alone. 

Since the 1990s, Swedish songwriters and producers have, at times, been behind up to half of all top tens on the US Billboard chart.

Listen from 09:23 to hear JJ’s insight into how Swedish songwriting schools are able to produce such a high volume of talent.

5. Music careers can involve a lot of trial and error

JJ’s path as a Singaporean opera singer turned K-Pop songwriter in Sweden is unconventional – and that’s okay. JJ’s love for music shines through, and he speaks about retraining and upskilling to figure out where he fits in the industry. 

His story, like those of many other music industry pros, proves that you don’t have to know what career is best for you at first. In the podcast, Hazel and JJ discuss trying out lots of career paths to find what you enjoy more and less. 

As Hazel puts it, “as you get a bit older, you start to figure out which part of it you actually get the most out of.”

Catch the full episode to learn more about K-Pop songwriting, life as a queer musician in  Singapore and more.

Check out all the Musiio by SoundCloud podcast episodes here.

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