Pop princess and BBC Sound of 2013 starlet A*M*E (pron. Amy) is causing a ruckus with her 80s-encrusted, uber-catchy earworm pop. The teen gets her game on with Wonderland and pays tribute to her aural obsession, K-pop.
A*M*E (real name Amy Kabba) could have easily become south London’s next Katy B – after all, she’s mates with Rudimental producer MNEK and exudes a similar whip-smart girl-from-the-streets-made-good vibe. Instead, the Lewisham girl’s gone for full-on pop – thank God. In a musical landscape where every chart-topper utilises sub-Guetta esque beats and terrible, mid-range Skrillex breakdowns, A*M*E’s glossy, glitchy, sugary-sweet sounds feel oh so good.
Her first single Play The Game Boy is hyper-coloured, ultra-modern pop that sources its influences from the gloriously loopy extravagance of K-pop, which makes sense: A*M*E’s been listening to the genre since the tender age of 13.
“There’s this one song from Big Bang called We Belong Together, it’s their own version of the Mariah Carey song,” she recalls. “My big sister was just like, ‘Check this out. They’re not talking in English, but you should be open-minded, they’re really awesome.’ I listened to it and I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re hot as well! Jesus…'”
But it wasn’t just the smooth moves that drew A*M*E’s eye. K-pop at its best takes pop to fantastical extremes, indiscriminately devouring everything from breakbeat to hip-hop to Eurotrance to spit-out pop songs seductive enough to draw the attention of millions, including people who don’t even speak Korean. “Gangnam Style” might be a relatively recent phenom, but musicians like Grimes have been drawing inspiration from K-pop for years.
From the sounds of it, A*M*E was quite the early developer, putting together all-K-pop playlists and mainlining Korean pop music videos on hours-long YouTube binges while her contemporaries were still listening to landfill indie rock. “All of my mates were like, ‘Why don’t you just listen to English songs?’ But I was like, ‘You don’t understand, but you will soon,'” she laughs. Fast forward a few years and the girl from Lewisham’s been proved right.
A*M*E’s TOP K-POP TRACKS
1. Big Bang – Bad Boy
“This track has a very ‘N Sync vibe. The video was shot in the US and the dancing, the choreography – the boys in general – just everything is really smooth. The song’s so amazing. I think this song has got one of the best middle-eights I have ever heard. I just love the wayy it breaks down.”
2. Girls Generation – The Boys
“With K-pop girls like 2NE1, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls, I just love the fact that they’re so sassy. Everything’s really bright and everything’s in your face, shouting ‘You’ve got to notice me!’”
3. 2NE1 – Follow Me
“This is a very statement record – I love that fact that it is called Follow Me, because they’re almost saying they’re the leaders, but not in a cocky way. More like “yeah, I can teach you a thing or two”. My favourite from 2NE1 is CL, she’s the leader. She reminds me of myself quite a bit, ha!”
4. 2PM – I’ll Be Back
“I like the slow element. It’s quite laid back. Plus they’re really hot as well so it’s just very sexy – and there are four of them! They’re really awesome, just really chilled throwback R&B.”
5. Wonder Girls – Nobody
“The video’s in black and white and they’re singing into mic stands – it’s pretty Dreamgirls. Plus they’re all very, very cute. I was in a girl band in primary school and it didn’t work out. I was like, ‘I want to go solo guys, I want to go solo!’”
Words: Zing Tsjeng