Thirty seconds into
Su Lee's "I'll Just Dance" comes this ingenious lyric: "Gotta lot of questions that I don't know the answers to/ I don't know who to ask, even Mr. Google's like, 'Bruh,' you need to figure this out.'" It's a bulky line that would sound wordy and awkward if it were anyone else, but Lee delivers it with an offbeat charm that instead makes it totally memorable.
The DIY pop songs that the South Korean singer-songwriter creates in her bedroom are filled with these little gems: hyper-specific yet relatable, and always delivered with a self-deprecating wink. They feel like honest, imperfect admissions — and they're resonating. Shortly after she uploaded "I'll Just Dance" to YouTube back in March, the song went viral on Reddit, and all of her subsequent releases have racked up significant streams since.
Lee's latest tune, "Wide Awake," is about "being a dreamer and wanting to have those dreams be fulfilled," she tells NYLON, acutely aware that hers have just begun. Ahead of its release, we hopped on Zoom with the viral song-maker to have her take the NYLON Nineteen, where she talked about everything from sugar highs and watching out-of-context videos on YouTube, to the meaningful DMs she's received from her fans.
1. What is your astrological sign?
I frankly don't really care about zodiac signs to really know if I believe in it or not. I read on certain traits of zodiac signs before and I read mine as well, and I think certain traits definitely check the boxes in terms of personality traits and such, but I guess if I had to say whether or not I believe in it, not really. The same goes with blood types as well, like blood A type is timid, and shy, and such.
3. Do you believe in ghosts (and have you ever seen one)?
I think basically yes, but I've never seen one. It's one of those things that I try not to think about too much, because if I do, it's going to drive me crazy. The thought that there might be something that's present in my room right now that I can't see or feel or actually talk to or whatever, freaks me out. But there's something that's definitely out there.
4. What’s your go-to drink order?
Probably rum and Diet Coke. I keep it to the basics, which might take people by surprise because I'm known to have a big sweet tooth. But for some reason when I go out for something, it's pretty basic. Sweet, really decadent stuff like cocktails and really sweet drinks, that's like keep it to myself in my room or something.
5. What's your go-to hangover cure?
I've actually never had a hangover. I know, it's like, "Ooh, you never had a hangover," but actually I think it might be because I'm really light weight. For me, one or two shots worth of alcohol really throws me out the window, and I think that's like not enough for a body to physically have a hangover, but I just get drunk from it. But, I like to think that waking up from a food baby is just as hazardous and traumatic as getting over a hangover.
6. What's the weirdest snack that you make?
You know how they have powdered drinks, where they have iced tea that's in the powder form that you mix with water, and all sorts of powders that you mix in with drinks? For me, sometimes, I just open up the powder packets and I just eat the powders by itself. I don't know if other people do that. You have to be careful, it's like the Cinnamon Challenge where sometimes if you're not careful it will literally choke you, or you'll sneeze really badly in the most painful way. But it actually gives you a good sugar high for a second.
7. What was the last internet rabbit hole you went down?
I think I spent a good amount of time educating myself in different cats in grey color. I'm a massive fan of
Tom and Jerry, especially Tom, so I think that feeds into my subconscious dream of raising a grey cat some day, but I thought I might as well educate myself on different cats that are grey colored.
I also spent the other day trying to find the equivalent of a Korean phrase which is the combination of the English words: uncomfortable, constipated, sluggish, foggish, heavy, and disgusting, all in one word.
8. Describe your worst date in three words.
I'd say, embarrassing, awkward, and... desiring-amnesia? Like, I wanna forget about it, I don't want this to last in my memory. The embarrassing part, it was really mostly me because I was just not feeling any romantic pull to the person. So I just ended up letting myself go and I ended up farting a lot and I ended up laughing with all sorts of gunk in my teeth.
9. What was the last DM you received?
One DM that really stands out to me — somebody reached out to me on Instagram being like, "Your music and your content has helped me have some better days going through depression and some suicidal thoughts as well." Which is really intense but it really brought me a lot of fulfillment. It just gave me a lot of courage in return as well, that I just wanna keep going, make more people feel this way.
10. If you could be in any music video, what would it be?
I forget what the song was, but I think it was a One Direction music video, where everybody was dressing up in different jobs, I think one member was dressed up as a sailor, and the other was a movie director or something. But I was a big fan of One Direction, I still am and fingers crossed for a reunion. But any One Direction video in their heyday, because they were so wholesome and so fun to watch.
11. What was your first concert, and what are your memories of it?
It was a Tom Odell concert. I'm a huge fan of Tom Odell; he uses a lot of pianos, and piano is like his main instrument at his gigs. And that was my first-ever concert experience, and I got there and I just ended up crying the whole time. It's like this thrill of meeting my all-time favorite artist in the flesh. He's literally standing there, and I swear we had eye contact. But yeah, I just cried the whole time.
12. What was your favorite movie as a kid?
I think this is probably still my favorite movie to this date, and it's
Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton. I love all Tim Burton movies because they're just so weird and grotesque and strange and magical and fantastic, but Big Fish was like the dream. I could feel while I was watching it as a kid, that there's something to be learned from this film, this kind of stance in life. But also it's such a pretty movie as well. The cinematography, Ewan McGregor — had a massive crush on him as a kid. Everything was just magical in that film.
13. What is one thing everyone should buy that is under $10?
I've been using these things called Bubble Makers. They're like one dollar. And it's this plastic cup that has a plastic pump, that you put your normal cleanser, cream cleanser or gel cleanser, whatever, mix some water in it and you just pump it like crazy. It makes these super rich, fluffy bubbles, and you lather it on your face and it feels so good, and it makes washing your face such a joy. I've been using it religiously every morning and night.
14. What reality show would you most like to appear on?
RuPaul's Drag Race. I don't watch too much reality TV, but if I had to choose ... I have so much admiration for drag queens. I'm a big fan of Trixie Mattel's and Katya's. They do a show called UNHhhh and they just talk about what they want, and I love them. I love how passionate they are about glam and decorating themselves and being queens.
15. What is your best beauty tip or trick?
Wash my face religiously twice a day, morning and night before bed. It's so hard to adhere to, but it's a habit that I believe in now and that's done some really good stuff for my skin. Making round movements as well, instead of just like, straight lines.
16. What is your coffee order?
Americano. If I'm feeling super, super,
super fancy, then frappuccinos.
17. What is your favorite fast food place, and what’s your order?
I'm not fussy about a certain fast food chain because I'm more of a side dish person. Instead of the burgers, I just go straight into the french fries, or like wedges or onion rings or snack wraps, or even apple slices, or nuggets.
18. What is your favorite pair of shoes that you own, and why?
I own a pair of Adidas that has... it's just like white background and you know those rainbow wheels that come out on Macs when it's loading? The shoes are covered with the rainbow wheels. It's really pretty actually. It's a sneaker. It's kind of sparkly as well, the rainbow wheels.
19. What's your favorite meme/internet joke and why?
I love random videos on YouTube that are like six seconds long. I think Vine was the place to watch those kinds of stuff, just really out of context videos. I guess TikTok's doing similar things nowadays but it's more music-oriented. Ones I love to watch are just like snippets, or random shots of random documentaries that are just floating around on YouTube with no context whatsoever.
I think we all inherently wanna watch and see something that's just naturally human. As opposed to stand-up comedy or skits that are super sketched out and all scripted out in advance. We just love to see people make a fool of themselves in real life, raw, as it is. What's better than these six second clips of super out-of-context stuff?