In case you were not aware: C-Pop is a genre on the cusp of taking over. Here to confirm this statement as an absolute fact, is Tia Lee. First beginning her transient climb to C-Pop stardom amidst the success of her girl group, Dream Girls, the singer crafted an arsenal of weaponry that she is now using to help tackle her latest battle: a solo career.
With a new globally focused era dawning for Lee, her 3.8 million Instagram followers are being invited to follow her as she embarks on a sonic evolution, one that has most recently manifested itself in her cut, "Goodbye Princess". An ode to women and the power of reclaiming narratives that have become sullied by patriarchal stereotypes, the track stands as the face of Lee's reinvention, which promises to be unapologetic and uplifting at once.
Through Lee and her team’s ingenious combination of animation, music and fashion videography, the “Goodbye Princess” music video pre-release global campaign series has generated an unprecedented 100+ million views in less than a month.
Ahead of the highly anticipated release of "Goodbye Princess", Lee sits down with me to touch on the wonders of the C-Pop genre, the advice received that has been integral in guiding her new global outlook and how her time in the acting world informs the music she is making today.
ERICA RANA: Hi Tia, where am I speaking to you from right now?
TIA LEE: Hi there! I am currently in South Korea and I am working on the next surprise for everyone.
ER: Can you talk to us about your earliest memory of music? When was the moment you realised that you wanted to pursue this as a career?
TL: I have always loved music and I enjoyed singing as a little girl. However, I never actively pursued a singing career. I actually first got into the public eye as a model doing fashion shoots and singing remained a pastime for me. It was actually my management company at the time that nudged me in that direction and opened up the path to a music career.
ER: Let’s discuss your time in Dream Girls! What were some of the biggest lessons you have learnt from your time in the band?
TL: Looking back on the days in Dream Girls brings up so many memories and emotions. I think the most important lesson is the mutual support we lent each other during those early days in the music business. It really taught me to be generous with words of encouragement and support to the people around me. You never know when someone is having a rough day, your words might give them the comfort to heal them and keep them going.
ER: What is the best piece of advice you have received so far?
TL: One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received actually came from my current management team. The team gives me the creative space and tells me to reimagine the endless possibilities of what C-Pop music could sound like when produced on a global scale. They gave me the courage and provided the resources for me to experiment with new music, new visuals and opened up new possibilities for me. It really gave me the confidence to collaborate with world-class musicians like Swizz Beatz.
ER: I want to talk about your creative process going into this new era! How was your time in the studio? Do you have a specific process when creating?
TL: Three years ago, I flew to LA and locked myself in the music studio with a music producer. We had to work through language barriers and different working styles. But the creative product actually did not follow any specific processes. It was more about vibing with each other, feeling out the sounds from different instruments and drawing inspiration from it and trying to complement the sounds with lyrics. The amazing thing is that until the final moment when everyone is happy with the product, you never know what creative turns the whole journey may take. It is magical. It is an experience and memory I hold dear in my heart.
ER: Talk to us about the genre of C-Pop! What does the genre mean to you and what do you hope for its future?
TL: C-Pop is a genre within pop music. But if we take a step or two back, music is about expressing one’s emotions and ideas through musical notes. Music should be the common language between different cultures, just like any form of art. That is why in the "Goodbye Princess" pre-release animation, I am very keen to work in various elements of visual art and intersperse the whole campaign with elements of 2-D animation, music, fashion videography, reality and virtual reality. It is an honour to work with the excellent team based out of Hong Kong, including Sunny Tang, Wan Pin Chu, Alex Li, Thomas Li, Mandy Mackenzie Ng together with UK-based Tony C. Miller and Kate Wynborne who share my vision of this project.
ER: Congratulations on the release of “Goodbye Princess”, first of all, what inspired the track’s name? Is the princess referencing a group of people in your personal life?
TL: The notion of leading the life of a princess can be both a dream and a stereotype. It is based on the false assumption that every girl yearns to be treated like a princess. For me, I hope this track inspires the listeners to discard certain traditional negative stereotypes of a princess and instead reclaim it as a form of female empowerment.
ER: You mention that the track is centred around the notion of reinvention! What do you want listeners to take away from the track?
TL: I want to drive home the point of being open to every possibility that life can offer us. If we just break free of the stereotypes and expectations that are cast upon us by others, we will gain the courage and strength to realise every possibility.
ER: You have also tried your hand at acting over the years! How do you think the two different worlds have informed each other?
TL: I would use the following analogy: Music is like a mirror that provides a reflection of myself. Through music, I can present different emotions that I am going through. Without the mirror, it might be too raw or too blunt to express certain feelings or thoughts. Acting, on the other hand, is about getting into the state of mind of the character you are playing. Acting is almost like living through the lives of different characters and absorbing the whole spectrum of emotions that the characters went through. It is a very enriching and rewarding experience, which hopefully I can translate into my new music.
ER: If you could have starred in one movie or show that has already been made, which would it be and why?
TL: Definitely Call My Agent, the French comedy-drama! I would like to do a role reversal and actually play the role of any talent agent or assistant in the show! To live that life and go through the rollercoaster of schedules, drama and deadlines of a talent manager would be fascinating. Talent managers and assistants are an integral part of the ecosystem that supports artists such as myself. While I may think I know what they are going through, nothing will beat playing a talent agent in a drama.
ER: What is one thing about yourself that you’d like readers to know that you have never shared before?
TL: I actually have a little tattoo in a secret place, which has never ever been seen by the public!
ER: Outside of work, what do you value most in your life?
TL: I know it may sound cliché, but I really value the little pockets of me-time that I can find outside of my busy work schedule. They allow me to reflect on life and also squeeze in my Pilates practice. Pilates really allows me to work on my core, and through little precise movements, refine my posture and build muscle strength. It is like a recovery process from the physical strains of work. Pilates heals my body and puts me in a better physical state to reflect on life and rejuvenates my mental and emotional well-being.
ER: Which relationship in your life are you most proud of?
TL: The one I have with my family. They provide unconditional love and support. It has given me the strength to come this far and to go further. It would not be possible without them.
ER: Finally, what do you hope 2023 holds for you, life and career-wise?
TL: I want to energise my fan base and followers through my new music, new looks and new experiments. 2023 is going to be an important and busy year. On a personal note, I hope to spend more time connecting with all my loved ones.
Photography by Shin Sun Hye
Words by Erica Rana
Editor Ella West
Visual Director Sean K
Executive Producer Lee Kyung Kimat BL Creative House
Styling by Kim Sun Young& Kim Jee Sooat ES Consultancy
Hair by Lee Enoc
Make up by Lee Suk Kyung
Nails by Kim Suji
Set Design by Yoo Yeo Jung
Art directors Aparna Aji, Harry Conor
Production Director Ben Crank
Producer Isabella Coleman