Lee Hi’s “Breathe” is executed to perfection, but doesn’t do her talent justice

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After a really impressive debut back in 2012 and a triumphant sophomore year in 2013, Lee Hi is now, somehow, having her first proper comeback in over two years. However, despite the long wait, “Breathe,” the first music video to be released for Lee Hi’s album, ‘Seoulite‘, doesn’t so much announce Lee Hi’s comeback with a bang as it does so with slightly misjudged pomp.

Putting aside the video (it’s a well-shot montage of boring), “Breathe” is a standard ballad that hits all of the genre’s traditional notes without deviating from the well-worn script at all. The soft piano riffs, the swirling maudlin strings, and the marching percussion could have been lifted from an television drama and I’m not sure anyone would have noticed a difference.

While Lee Hi kills it, it’s not like “Breathe” reveals anything about Lee Hi that hasn’t already been seen in her much more arresting comebacks from the past. Her ability to transition between pop, blues, jazz, and traditional ballad styles, sometimes within the same song, is precisely why Lee Hi is highly regarded, so giving her a cookie-cutter ballad doesn’t really do her talents justice.

Listening to Lee Hi sing “Breathe” is like having Stephen Curry stand in the corner shooting a bunch of short threes. The consistency and control is breathtaking, but you know that both are capable of so much more. At the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, “Breathe” is a fine ballad but it’s a bit disappointing that’s all it is.

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