Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we’ll champion their voices.
After the 2016 election, women needed an anthem. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty ahead of the Trump administration, and singer MILCK (aka Connie Lim) ended up putting our exact feelings into music. "I can't keep quiet / A one-woman riot," she sang during a viral flashmob of her song "Quiet" at the 2017 Women's March.
She's been steadily making music since that moment, but her latest single, "Oh My My (What A Life)" is a specific reflection on the aftermath of "Quiet" and what it's like to realize your self worth.
The video for the song, premiering exclusively on Refinery29, is a reflection on MILCK's childhood as we follow the protagonist through different stages of life, and witness the "a-ha" moment the artist had after connecting with so many inspiring women around the world.
Ahead, we spoke to MILCK about going viral and what this new video adds to the conversation she started last year.
Were you intimidated or excited to get back into the studio after "Quiet" went so viral?
"I was really excited to go back into the studio because after my song went viral, my life changed completely. I was going thru many new experiences, which meant new emotions to help fuel my songwriting. I am always writing to capture those moments. The sense of intimidation only came in when people asked me to write another anthem for the political movement. I like to keep my songwriting free of too many pragmatic motives, so I thought that those requests were going to dilute my creative honesty. I was able to free myself of that intimidation just by simply saying that I can only write what I feel, and if a political anthem comes out, it will. If it doesn't, I'm okay with that, too. 'Quiet' was written from a place of personal reflection, and I like to always come from that place. As I keep observing this world's complicated nature, however, I'm sure something politically or socially conscious could come out naturally. I just don't want to force things."
So much has happened in the world since that song. Has politics and society continued to inform your songwriting?
"The job of an artist, to me, is to continually face the world with an open mind and heart, no matter how hard the world's news may be. Politics and society have reminded me that we must take care of ourselves enough to continue the long fight. Self-care is political, and joy can be the ultimate defiance against the forces that try to keep us oppressed or down. The more I look into this world and its problems, I believe that my role is to induce inner peace so that people can be better at bringing peace externally. Peace has to start from within each of us, and I want to help harness that for people who listen to my music."
"Oh My My" is about this moment of realization. Can you speak on what caused this catharsis?
"'Oh My My (What a Life)' is the result of the things that happened after 'Quiet' went viral: I met so many different survivors and activists from all over the world who would share their stories of strength with me. I would get messages on social media with women calling me 'sister'. People were singing 'Quiet' all over the world, from Ghana to Australia to Sweden, as a way to rise up, and that brought me immense pride and joy. I also signed with Atlantic, and found a team that believes in my message. Not only that, but my parents also have learned to see me as a strong individual now, and it's really cathartic to finally be seen for who I have always been. I don't feel as alone, as I know there is a global community that feels the way I do, too. This song is about that immense gratitude, joy, and disbelief."
What biographical elements of your life did you pull for the video?
"All of the video is autobiographical — from me being told that rice left over in my bowl would determine the number of pock marks on my future husband's face, to the family meals around that actual kitchen table. That was my childhood home, too! The theater in which we shot the performance shots is my home town theater, which means a lot to me, since I did many a dance recital in there as a kid. The setting of the video is all very autobiographical. The only thing that didn't happen were the teenager band rehearsals in the garage. I actually started playing with a band in college, but we twisted the story a bit to keep it all in one setting. I was also quite mischievous and rebellious as a kid, so I did like sneaking away from conventional and more serious settings."
Did the video feature actors (if so, who?) or were they real family members?
"The video featured both my real family, and also some actors.
Through casting we found two girls to play me: Hana Kim and Jade Marks. I feel super lucky to have found them, as we were scrambling to find our cast members till the day before the shoot. They both did such a great job learning the lyrics and concept in such a short amount of time. I actually started tearing up when I found these two actresses. It feels so good to give young Asian Americans a platform to express, be creative, and be seen.
In the beginning scene my boyfriend Garrett Fong is playing my dad, and Kiki Yeung, who we found through casting, plays my mom. Sadya Lagobi plays Annie at 12 years old.
There's also a teenage band that plays in the video with me, and they are both real musicians. I was so grateful to find them.
My little brother Erik couldn't make it for the last scene, so I had one of his best friends, Jon Chan, be in the video. I've known Jon since he was super young, so he feels like family anyway. Also, during the end scene, there is a little girl sitting on my sister Annie's lap, and that's our friend's daughter. Though Annie, Erik nor I don't have kids yet, I wanted to have a third generation in there to represent the future to come of passing down traditions with pride and joy."
You released your debut EP this year, what other musical goals do you have in 2018?
"I am working with YouTube as a creator for their Creators for Change program, and there's going to be a single aligned with this video. I am really excited to make that video and record that track. I would also like to release another EP or continue to release a series of singles. I'm currently writing and letting the songs lead me, so the goals are not quite defined yet. I'm starting to see some themes with the new songs I'm writing, so there may be an EP brewing. I'll let you guys know as I go!"
This interview has been edited for style and length.