Amber Liu knows what she wants. At this point in her life, she’s happier than ever and at the pinnacle of her career. At 28, Liu is a singer-songwriter, rapper, dancer, actor (known for her supporting role in the Korean version of the pop culture hit TV series Entourage), and is now a TV personality as a mentor on a Chinese reality series.
It was her audition with SM Entertainment and joining the newly formed girl group f(x) that jump-started Liu’s career into K-Pop superstardom. Already an established “idol” in the world-dominating genre, Liu is equally dominating the charts with her solo body of work in recent years. The “Curiosity” singer-songwriter, hailing from California, grew up listening to icons such as Linkin Park, Blink-182, and a plethora of pop songs written by the musical genius, Max Martin. Today, known for her smooth silky vocals and unique style, she’s focusing on more than being an artist: being a voice for those in the Asian-American community and continuing to propel her activism for mental health.
During the pandemic, she said it herself that she spent a lot of time on her own, taking the time to learn what loving herself really meant. The product of that experiment was Liu’s first release in a year, the upcoming new album called y?, which is out next month. Currently, she’s in China for the hit competition reality TV series, CHUANG 2021, working as a mentor to contestants competing to be in a group. Liu is a testament to those who long to be a globally recognized and respected artist, who has more to give than meets the eye.
Flaunt caught up with Amber Liu to chat about her latest single neon from her upcoming album, activism in the digital age, and what it means to be a global Pop star.
You released two versions of “neon,” an English and Mandarin version. Why did you choose to collaborate with two different rappers and how was the collaboration?
I love singing in Mandarin and I really felt that “neon” would sound amazing, so it made sense to me to make a Mandarin version. Plus, my mom LOVES hearing me sing in Mandarin. The two versions carry different vibes, so I reached out to my friend Peniel, because I’ve always loved his flow and he understands my playfulness. I was told that Blow Fever was interested in collabing with me, and I felt our synergy would be very interesting. He killed his verse! I really enjoy vibing with different artists and seeing how they interpret things differently.
What inspired the design aesthetic for the neon music video?
I co-directed the video with my mentor, Brad Wong, and we knew the video had to be fun. We wanted to use the retro vibe that the song contained, but add an element of chaos and randomness. My friends and I had such a fun time, we’re constantly told by the production crew to focus on the shoot. [laughs]
I noticed your following on Weibo has grown immensely ever since you became a mentor on the Chinese reality TV music competition CHUANG 2021. How has your experience been so far?
I was really excited when they invited me to be a mentor. As an international TV show for young talent, I met a lot of young trainees from all over the world. Watching them reminds me of my time as a new artist. I’m having a great time sharing my knowledge with the boys and advising them to keep working hard. The right time will come.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Balance is key. Work life, mental and physical health, everything. The industry’s so fast-paced and demanding that it’s easy to lose yourself in it. It’s easy to go too fast and burn out. I’m still learning to be okay with taking a long break, but I know it’s necessary. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Love yourself and be yourself.
Goals for yourself as a solo artist at this point in your career?
To be an artist, the biggest part I pursue is happiness. Be myself and keep being myself is always my life guideline. I try to keep learning and to stay curious. Besides, I hope my music can be loved by my fans and will last in people’s minds.
You say Los Angeles and Seoul are so different. Which do you like better and why?
Both cities hold a special place in my heart. Though my childhood was spent in the States, I spent half of my life growing up in Seoul. I can’t really compare and say I like one more than the other, but they both have amazing food. I will say that boba’s more accessible in LA than in Seoul, but Seoul’s nightlife is amazing and I’m a night owl.
You spent 10 years as a member in one of the biggest K-Pop girl groups f(x). Do you still keep in touch with your groupmates?
We’re all very close and regularly keep in touch. I was part of f(x) for many years, so I created a deep bond with them and couldn’t imagine if they were not in my life.
You’ve been very vocal about mental health awareness and female empowerment, as well as supportive of the #StopAsianHate” and #BlackLivesMatter movements on social media. How are you using your voice to make a difference? What words of comfort do you have for those experiencing hateful remarks?
I’m always trying to educate myself and have discussions with my friends and colleagues about these matters. I know I have a big platform so I always want to promote love, kindness and empathy. Though I’m not an expert on these matters, hopefully sharing my experiences and amplifying the stories of others will help.
What does it mean to be an internationally-acclaimed pop artist in 2021? How are you breaking those boundaries?
Probably because of my appearance and my style. I know that many people are not really used to the style, but I want to be myself in the most comfortable way.
What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
I want them to know that anything is possible. Don’t be discouraged because if they work hard and do what makes them happy, they will be successful.
Anything else you’d like me to know?
Make sure to download my album out May 7th and check out my other music videos dropping soon! Stay healthy and safe!