Alive (A Egizii/D Musumeci) 2013 and Super Love (D Im/O Haggstam/M Lundberg/L Gustafson) and Gladiator (D Im/O Haggstam/M Lundberg/L Gustafson) 2014 and Sound of Silence (A Egizii/D Musumeci) – Dami Im 2016
Im Da-mi (1988), better known as Dami Im was Korean-born to parents Lee Hae-yun a trained opera singer and her father Im Dong-eal, she emigrated to Australia in 2007 with her mother and younger brother Kenny. The family was subsequently joined by her father after they had settled in Brisbane with a relative there, the Ims embraced Christianity and belonged to the 8 Mile Plains Church, a part of the Assemblies of God congregation. Below L-R – Dami’s 2005 Yearbook Photo John Paul College, Dami with her parents, Joseph Hong, Pastor of the 8 Mile Plains Church to which the family belong.
Dami studied piano at the Young Conservatorium of Music at Grifffith University and was a finalist in the Yamaha Youth Piano Competition, she graduated from the John Paul College (Daisy Hill, Logan, Qld) in 2005 and in 2009 she graduated from the University of Queensland with an Honours degree in Music. She pursued further studies and also completed a Masters Degree in Music at university – she was academically a classic overachiever, who had conquered language difficulties and racism, to pursue her dream of becoming a professional pianist/singer. Her music teachers included Dr. Irene Bartlett and Sharny Russell whose student alumni included Megan Washington and Katie Noonan, and Dami began performing at church camps and social groups, and cut her first records – the EPs’ Snow and Carol (2011) and Intimacy (2012) to raise money for her church. Im met her husband Noah Kim, at her family church in Brisbane and in September 2012 they were married in Seoul and set up house back in Logan (Brisb), where Noah commenced employment as a social worker. Below L-R Dami and voice coach Irene Bartlett, Dami’s Debut EP cover Snow and Carol, Dami with husband Noah.
She auditioned for Season 5 of X-Factor and made it through the early elimination or “bootcamp” rounds but was dropped after the third round, only finally securing a place in the future rounds after another contestant, Matt Gresham dropped out due to personal reasons, and she joined Dannii Minogue’s Over 24 Group. Throughout the competition she typically performed jukebox hits by such artists as Mariah Carey, U2, Dolly Parton, Beyonce, Prince, Katy Perry, Simon and Garfunkel, Miley Cyrus, Whitney Houston, and others, and in October 2013 she became only the second woman to win X-Factor, with Taylor Henderson and Jai Watford filling the minor places. Following her X-Factor success she signed a recording contract with Sony and her winning single Alive, written by Aussies known as DNA (Anthony Egizii and David Musumeci), who had already crafted hits for Delta Goodrem, Samantha Jade, Jessica Mauboy, and The Veronicas, quickly topped the charts here and was a #29 hit in South Korea, and sold in excess of 70,000 copies.
Musically the song was generically predictable as an X-Factor winner’s debut single, glossy, radio-friendly, with surging volume shifts, synth instrumentation, and a vaguely electronic dance beat loping along in support of Dami Im’s powerhouse vocals. Stylistically it owed a debt to Kelly Clarkson and particularly Katy Perry’s Roar, the lyrics proclaimed the life-affirming mantra of living life to the fullest, rejecting the naysayers, spreading your wings and following your dreams – so nothing revelatory or unique there, but Dami imbued even these most trite of lyrics with an urgency and intensity that drew the listener into the song, and further swelled the numbers of the “Dami Army”.
The original version of the music vid for Alive was so inferior that it was taken down after only a few hours and re-shot and released several days later. Sony could be less than enthusiastic about promoting their new signings from talent shows, as Idol Season 5 winner Natalie Gauci found when no music vid was provided in support of her debut hit Here I Am, and Samantha Jade’s debut music vid after winning X-Factor 4 What You’ve Done To Me, was also of poor quality. The revamped video featured Dami in solo mode, no dancers or musicians visible, interior shots only with Dami accessorizing several stunning outfits with a pink poodle, ear bracelet, amid wind machine effects, she eschewed playing piano and moved with a natural fluency to the beat.
Im’s self-titled second album was released in November 2013 and comprised songs she had performed on X-Factor, it debuted at #1 locally and #9 in South Korea and sold in excess of 70,000 copies, soon after she became part of the X-Factor Live Tour of Australia, and had already picked up brand ambassador positions with Priceline Pharmacy, Nintendo, and the children’s charity Compassion Australia.
Her third album Heart Beats was released in October 2014 and debuted at #7 locally and #32 in South Korea, the lead single was Super Love, written by Cheiron hit factory Swedes Oskar Haggstam, Marie Lundberg, and Lars Gustaffson, with Dami Im also getting a writing credit. The song made no pretensions to be anything other than a euphoric, dancefloor banger “we got the super love…”, which showcased Dami’s powerhouse vocals, and briefly her keyboard skills, as the video threw Dami into a succession of crowd scenes and flash mobs dressed whimsically and partying, as Im segued from costumes inspired by Barbarella, Flamenco Dancers, and Classical Divas. There was a fantasy element about the clip which was beguiling and quirky, and there was some autotuning of Dami’s vocals, which was apparently unnecessary, but not surprising, as autotuning had become a special audio effect since Cher autotuned all of her vocals on Believe, and sold 12 million copies. Dami would have to settle for 70,000 copies here when Super Love peaked at #11 locally and #16 in South Korea.
She followed up with the second single lifted from Heart Beats, which was Gladiator, a minor hit which stalled at #11 locally. It was another declamatory, slightly bombastic self-empowerment anthem which featured such fantasy and whimsical elements as ancient scrolls, warrior princesses, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon special effects, and the Yin and Yang of spiritual existence. Dami was again in good voice but her songs were now sounding the same, there was a general absence of light and shade in her vocals, and no evidence of a girl-next-door kittenish sex appeal, it was all very earnest, emphatic, and slightly mechanical.
In late 2014 Im was support act on John Legend’s Australian Tour and released the single Smile which tanked at #48, as she looked for new material for her upcoming fourth album.
In February 2016 Im was invited to perform at the international cast BTV Global Spring Festival on China’s BTV network, before a global viewing audience of 200 million. She was impressive and this was followed soon after by an announcement that Dami would represent Australia at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, and perform the song Sound of Silence, written by the local songwriting/production team of DNA (Anthony Egizii and David Musumeci), who had crafted her first hit Alive.
Undoubtedly Dami Im’s performance at Eurovision was a show-stopper, her costume, her vocals, her confidence and aplomb were impressive, she came first in the Second Semi-Final and dominated the jury voting. But she slipped to fifth in the televote round, where Europolitics are more decisive than the quality of the music, and finished second overall with 511 votes, to take Australia to its best result ever in only our second year in the competition. It was generally agreed that Dami Im should have been the winner – Ukraine took out first prize with 1944 – can anyone hum a few bars of that?
The song itself complied with the algorithm required to catch votes at Eurovision – a mid-tempo anthemic ballad, heart-on-the-sleeve yet inoffensive lyrics, a rousing chorus that arrives early and is infectious enough to bear repetition, and a key change later in the song to showcase Dami’s dramatic and emphatic vibrato at the outro to the performance. Sheathed in a figure-hugging shimmering black and silver fabric, a sleeve bracelet, and seated atop a silver pedestal, as wind and smoke machine effects swirled around her, she channeled Sia’s Chandelier and projected the melancholy and loneliness at the heart of the song “I tried to find you through face time…” as she interacted with a Matrix-style hologram that appeared in front of her. It was Dami’s biggest hit, #5 Aust, top 40 in six European countries, and helped to push the sale of her Classic Carpenters album released in 2016 to #3 and #23 in South Korea, with sales of 35,000.
Dami has proven to be an X-Factor success story with four consecutive top ten singles and albums, and the crowning achievement of a Eurovision performance that many judged the best on the night. So it was surprising that her post-Eurovision singles should tank so badly – Fighting For Love (#64 in ’16), Hold Me In Your Arms with Jack Jones (failed to chart ’17), and after leaving Sony and signing with ABC Music the trend continued, as Crying Underwater, a song inspired by the suicide of one of Dami’s close friends, and Kiss You Anyway, both failed to chart. She did better business with her last two albums though when I Hear A Song (#3) and My Reality (#12 ) charted, despite the former being mostly cover versions, while the latter indicated her new direction and comprised ten songs that were all originals written or co-written by her. Below L-R Dami appeared on Celebrity Masterchef in 2021 , Dami with partner Shai Mountain in 2020’s Dancing With the Stars, her first original album My Reality
Dami is a triple threat as a singer, songwriter, and pianist, but she has yet to translate those skills into enduring international success, she has a fanbase in both Australia and South Korea and has had hits in Scandinavia following Eurovision, she possesses a stunning soprano voice with a powerful range but to date none of her record companies have hit on the musical choices that would make her a global superstar. From the generic dancefloor pop of her post X-Factor period, through the twee and utterly strange album of Carpenters covers, to the anthemic power ballad of a Eurovision contestant runner-up, it’s hard to know where she is best placed to succeed.
A positive for her is that she has now escaped the toxic corporate culture that allegedly festered within Sony under former CEO Denis Handlin, to which she was exposed, and which she claimed undermined her self-esteem and crucially manifested itself in a suffocating management/recording contract, that pre-empted her creative control, and primarily forced her to record cover versions of other people’s songs. Notable departures from Sony over the years have included such female performers as Jessica Mauboy and Tina Arena, and Dami Im is now determined to take control of her career. She aspires to create more of her own music and to define her public image, she is expecting a baby in 2022 and will no doubt deal with such career-defining matters in the near future, after the arrival of her and Noah’s first child.