Release Date: October 29th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Scared to Talk to You
- Lonely Cactus
- Marching On
- Crying Underwater
- Paper Dragon
- Kiss You Anyway
Everyone knows Dami Im, right? Or so they should. This little-ol’ Korean-Aussie went nearly all the way (came in 2nd) in the 2016 edition of Eurovision with her song ‘Sound of Silence’, and so, I’m sure people have heard of this Aussie that nearly claimed 1st prize on a competition mainly won by European countries. But I guess apart from that…I’m not sure if people know of Dami’s powerful voice, or her big personality, and even though she has won the 2013 year of X-Factor Australia, I’m not sure if people know who Dami Im really is…yet. And so, my brother Josh wrote a blog about her and her influence and impact both now and into the future, and so it is in that light of respect and admiration for Dami and her music, that I was intrigued to see Dami release new music over the 2020/2021 period. Songs like ‘Kiss You Anyway’, ‘Marching On’, ‘Walk With Me’ (a duet with Swedish artist Mans Zelmerlow) and ‘Paper Dragon’ all highlighted Dami’s continual impact and influence in the music industry, especially the Aussie one, but for me, it was the song ‘Lonely Cactus’ that released quite recently (February of this year), and the track ‘Crying Underwater’ (from 2019), that were standouts for me amongst the most recent releases of Dami’s music- in fact, I reckon the songs ‘Crying Underwater’ and ‘Lonely Cactus’ are some of the most meaningful songs she’s recorded since ‘Living Dangerously’ way back in 2014.
Standing at 10 songs, we can maybe assume this album to be somewhat of a short one, and it is. In this time and place and space right now, people rarely release 10-song albums…maybe 11, 12, 13, even albums amounting to 15 or 16 tracks, so I guess Dami’s unveiling of just 10 songs, especially for her first full-length originally written album since 2014’s Heart Beats, seems a little bit absurd, to say the least. Nevertheless, what the album lacks in terms of tracks on it, makes up for, in terms of song quality and Dami’s own pristine and powerful vocals, that I firmly believe, is up there with Aussie female vocalists like Delta Goodrem and Olivia Newton-John, in terms of raw talent and power. Since Dami’s rise to fame and stardom way back in 2013, she’s been steadiy on the rise, releasing music that has bordered along the lines of pop and gospel for quite some time. Here on MY REALITY we receive the best of both worlds, as Dami herself, a woman of faith, allows us all to take a peek behind the curtain of her life thus far, and remind ourselves that you can still thrive in an industry seemingly void of anything to do with faith, with your own personal faith in tact. Dami has achieved this, and while it has been quite some time between originally written albums, MY REALITY is worth the wait…and why wouldn’t it be, especially with standout songs like ‘Crying Underwater’, ‘Paper Dragon’, ‘Lonely Cactus’, and current radio single ‘Pray’?
One of the most emotive and raw moments in the whole album is the song ‘Crying Underwater’, released in 2019 by Dami and was her first song unveiled independently since the parting of her and her previous label. A song that evokes heartbreak, hope, passion, sadness, joy and enthusiasm all at once, we see a song that is arguably one of the most vulnerable and honest, out of any pop artist, within the last few years. Dami’s ability to craft an anthem that I’m sure spoke to so many people, is something to behold, and is arguably one of my own personal favourites of hers…ever. Yes, that’s how much this song is piercing, and maybe it’s just because of her realness, maybe it’s the added attraction of Dami’s vocals, coupled with the authentic and relatable subject matter being presented. Whatever the case, ‘Crying Underwater’ is an insight into the world of not only famous people, but people who may at times feel as though they are alone in their difficulties…namely, everyone, at one point or another. And that is why this song is so relatable. And as we see through a recent interview Dami herself had with Sydney Christian radio station Hope 103.2, we gain some perspective into her own process of how she created this heartfelt anthem- ‘…everybody goes through really dark times. Where you just feel so low, and you feel sad, you feel depressed. I think that’s human. But when we are going through that tough time it’s really hard to talk to someone about it. We feel really afraid that people are going to judge us if we’re not always cheerful and happy. I just started writing how I felt, and this song is probably my most personal and honest song that I’ve written so far. We can forget that social media is the highlight reel. Emotionally, I go through ups and downs, and [in my industry] I go through phases where I’m super busy and I’m travelling, going on different flights to different cities, and then I’ll have nothing. That’s a challenge. [But] it’s ok to feel like that sometimes. You can’t be always happy, and you can’t live life not feeling those darker emotions sometimes. I try and talk to the people I trust about [what I’m feeling] which always makes me feel better, then give it time- it does get better…’ ‘Crying Underwater’ is a gem of a song, and anchors not only MY REALITY but is certainly a wonderful highlight amongst all Dami songs…ever. A song that people can feel connected to, no matter what season of life they are in, Dami’s way of allowing us into her world, is what I believe will separate people who are just performers, compared to people who are more well-rounded artists who care about their craft and write music people can see themselves in, no matter the places these people are in, themselves. Well done Dami for this emotive and life-giving song, one that really speaks to the message behind MY REALITY as a whole.
Dami signed to ABC Music in 2020, and her first single on the label, ‘Paper Dragon’, was going to be her song that she’d sing in Eurovision- Australia Decides 2021. But because of COVID-19, and the cancellation of Eurovision 2020, Dami’s planned reintroduction into Eurovision was postponed from 2021, to…I dunno when. Nevertheless, ‘Paper Dragon’ was going to be the song that Dami was going to sing in the 2021 Australia Decides competition. Right here on MY REALITY, ‘Paper Dragon’ speaks about trying to silence your doubters; and understand that in spite of their words that can seemingly cut you down, you are much more than what they say. The song speaks about how these people that we can so often overlook and put down for whatever reason, are actually metaphorical dragons, stronger than what we can often seem them as. Dragons, at least the dragons that were based upon real creatures and not mythological, are such were not many people understand, and people just project stereotypes and assumptions on them. In fact, these dragons are much more resilient than we care to admit. Dami in her own song, attributes the feelings outsiders and ‘weirdos’ get, to that of a dragon. ‘Paper Dragon’ is in fact an anthem, to all the people who pushed us aside, to the people that spoke lies into our hearts, and assumed we were this, based off this one thing that was unfortunately conflated and exaggerated. ‘Paper Dragon’ can hopefully rectify this; and allow people who were unfortunately downtrodden in their own youth, to take back what was unfortunately stolen from them, so long ago.
Following on from ‘Paper Dragon’ is ‘Lonely Cactus’- both of which were the first two songs released by Dami under the banner of ABC Music. Dami wrote the song ‘Lonely Cactus’ during COVID-19. And in an interview with the publication Herald Sun, Dami relayed to us the process behind writing the song ‘Lonely Cactus’- ‘…I wrote it during COVID world. There were days when I felt lonely. I needed to make friends or see my friends. Other days I just wanted to be alone – everything was annoying me; I started to not answer phone calls. We made the lyrics into talking about another person because you don’t want to sound like an arsehole in your own song! But it is about me. I found it [the lockdown] emotionally difficult because all our plans crashed. At the same time I was able to figure out how my new album should sound. Ever since leaving [my record label] it’s been a time of transition; going back to what I’ve always wanted to make. I had to do projects and cover albums that weren’t necessarily my ideas, and last year I had time to figure out what my ideas actually are now I have the freedom to do that. So in hindsight, 2020 gave me good space to explore and experiment… I don’t want to piss anyone off, but I really needed to make music that fits me as an artist and a person. Being with a big label has its benefits, but it really limits you. You don’t get full control and if the vision isn’t aligned, you waste a lot of time. That was happening to me for a few years. I needed to leave that situation. I feel really creative now…’ So I guess that’s how Dami signed to ABC Music, and that’s why recently, she’s been releasing a slew of original material instead of just cover and live albums that have been released over the last few years. In essence, MY REALITY is her second full-length original-material album since her 2014 album Heart Beats…and that’s very unfornate, that she couldn’t (or maybe wasn’t allowed to) release original material between 2014 and now. Nevertheless, ‘Lonely Cactus’ is a stripped-down acoustically driven piano song about isolation during the pandemic, or even about someone who wants to isolate and not be a social butterfly, and the repercussions of someone trying to be prickly because they don’t necessarily want to interact with people, for whatever reason. For someone to be labelled a lonely cactus, is someone calling someone else out, on their demeanour, their inward-looking focus at the detriment of social connections and connecting face to face with people. ‘Lonely Cactus’ reminds us all, to be the people in community that we know God has made us for. A song that can hopefully have the impetus to bring about positive change in people’s lives, especially in our lives post-COVID-19; ‘Lonely Cactus’ is a cleverly written song about cacti, but not really about cacti at the same time.
Throughout the rest of the album, we see Dami deliver poignant and emotive themes that are relevant and necessary to discuss in this current society, making MY REALITY one of this year’s albums that can find people from all walks of life being impacted but such music as this. ‘Marching On’ is a piano prominent melody, inspired by Dami’s own personal relationships with the women in her life, and the realisation either earlier or even later, that the people she admired and thought of to be ‘perfect’, were in fact really people who had similar issues and problems compared to herself; while ‘Kiss You Anyway’, the second radio single from MY REALITY, speaks about this issue about being vulnerable and in fellowship, communion and relationship with someone, even if you know that the relationship will end in the future anyway. It’s this question that everyone is asking- do you still love, knowing that the relationship is certain to fail, or you do not even love at all, for fear of the hurt and pain at the end? It’s a complex answer to a complex question, but ‘Kiss You Anyway’ attempts to answer this and say ‘yes’, to do all these things anyway, because this cliché understanding that ‘it is better to have loved and lost, than to never love at all’, is in fact true. Life is better lived with the hurt and pain, as well as the joys and triumphs. Yes, relationships end and fail, and change and evolve. Yes, the friendships we may have had in the beginning may not be to the same capacity now. And that’s ok. Because that’s all part of life, and Dami’s song ‘Kiss You Anyway’ reminds me of this compelling fact.
MY REALITY releases to us 5 new songs (inclusive of her current single ‘Pray’), and while for me, the album could’ve been enhanced with a few extra acoustic tracks, or even Dami’s own collaboration with Mans Zelmerlow in the song ‘Walk With Me’, where it stands, MY REALITY is most definitely one of 2021’s most emotive 10-track albums I’ve heard, and for me, it’s because of the newer songs, ‘Pray’ especially. ‘Scared to Talk to You’ speaks about falling out of touch with people and friends from your youth; and realising right now that these people that were once your friends, may in fact be in the category of strangers now…and that’s very sad. ‘Memories’ speaks about moving on in life, and understanding that sometimes, as much as you want to box up every memory in a certain place and bring it with you to the next one, it can’t really happen. You go through plenty of changes in your life, and one of the significant ones is moving house. Memories are often tied to the place where you live, and when you move, it can be a very emotional experience. ‘Memories’ attempts to capture the tension people have, in bringing things physically from one place to another, but can’t really ‘bring’ memories along as well. ‘Alone’ carries with it a sense of learning and being wise as you grow older; and understanding that the life of being a nomad (because that is essentially what people who are touring musicians are) can be very, very lonely. You travel from place to place, imparting encouragement and wisdom to others, but it’s often at a detriment to your own mental and spiritual health. ‘Alone’ allows us all to take a peek, into the dark reality of a touring musician, and the toll it can take on them emotionally. The album rounds out with ‘Fire’, a song that asks us the question of what we all should ‘burn’ for and what we should place high on our lists of things we ought to devote our lives to; while it is the album opener ‘Pray’ that really showcases Dami’s vocals and really places her faith front-and-centre and allows us all to understand that it is ok for someone to have a personal faith and still succeed in an industry that may not necessarily look to favourably on faith and religion in general.
‘Pray’ invites us all into this moment of tranquilty and perspective, as we understand that sometimes, all we can do is pray when our backs are against the wall, when we see things happen in our society now that cannot be undone unless by something called ‘divine intervention’. We see war, calamity, hopelessness, and all we can do is just pray, pray for our government, our parliament, people in power and influence, that they make right decisions regarding global issues around the world. Because when we pray with other people in mind, our focus comes off of our problems, and realigns not just our own priorities, but allows us to understand that the world out there is far bigger than just us. And maybe herein lies the point- that prayer absolutely does work, and it changes circumstances and situations in a way that God can. But prayer can also change our own hearts and perspectives just the same. Dami’s ‘Pray’ allows us to take stock of what we do have and what we don’t, to not focus on ourselves, and realise that when we pray for the Lord to do something in a world that desperately needs help, His answer would most likely be ‘I did answer prayer- I created you’, and then we realise that instead of asking the Lord to fix issues and problems just like that (and He sometimes does do it…just like that), we have to be proactive and allow the Lord to use us in situations, so that we can be the positive change and difference this world is longing and hoping for. A song of reverence and awe, coupled with urgency and intentionality, ‘Pray’ is one of my favourites on MY REALITY…and in the same realm as ‘Crying Underwater’.
So there it is…MY REALITY. An album full of lyrically rich moments and thematically necessary messages we all need to hear, especially now. In fact, dare I say that Dami herself is perhaps second to Delta, in regard to one of the most relevant and needed female Australian artists, right now? Jessica Mauboy is also up there too…in fact, Delta, Dami and Jess are in fact some of the pillars in terms of modern music for Australian female artists, and Dami’s MY REALITY confirms this- that even after 7 years between original albums, this new one from Dami is just as emotive and poignant as Heart Beats way back in 2014. She’s criminally underrated, and while talent competitions right now don’t necessarily have the same hype and excitement compared to 2 decades ago, Dami did get her start from X-Factor Australia (2013). And we’re so glad that she did win the competition that year! An artist that represents so much about Australian music, Dami could shoot to international fame with this album, or she could still be as impactful and popular as she is now, and that’s still ok. MY REALITY still has impact, especially the songs ‘Pray’ and ‘Crying Underwater’. Well done Dami for these 10 songs, one of the most emotive and necessary albums of 2021, out of any musical genre and any musical style!
3 songs to listen to: Crying Underwater, Pray, Paper Dragon
RIYL: Delta Goodrem, John Farnham, Kelly Clarkson, Rachel Platten