DeVita makes a strong first impression as she enters AOMG’s modest studio in Gangnam, southern Seoul, in a pair of sneakers and a green dress.
With smoky eye makeup and her hair dyed bright red, her look for the day matched the rich, poignant songs she’s known for. But in person DeVita was down-to-earth and perky, speaking as if she was meeting a high school friend for the first time in a while.
She’s confident about her new album, “American Gothic” -- “It’s honestly a no-skip album,” she told The Korea Herald as she sat down -- but it was born out of a time of uncertainty.
“Everything started from the quarter-life crisis that hit me during my retreat from music,” DeVita said.
The singer is just 23 years old but has been in and out of the public eye since appearing in the third season of the survival program “K-pop Star” in 2013. She kept things ticking over while at school by uploading songs she had written on SoundCloud, and was eventually picked up by AOMG. But after her 2020 debut “Creme,” she went on a two-year hiatus.
“Fated to make music,” the singer-songwriter gradually pieced things back together for her new album. 'American Gothic'
DeVita’s biggest inspiration for the album was the 1999 film “American Beauty,” which revolves around a man who fears aging, losing the hope of true love and not being respected by those who know him best.
The singer said that she had everything she wanted after throwing her glitzy hat into the ring, but she didn’t know what to do with it. “I could relate to the movie in a whole different way,” she added.
The movie’s main character Lester Burnham and his daughter Jane, in particular, resonated with DeVita. She could only see one true love in the movie: the paternal bond between father and daughter.
“‘American Gothic’ could seem like a pretty love story, but it isn’t if you delve into it. I wanted to challenge listeners and ridicule how life is a tragedy when seen up close, but a comedy in the long run, and sympathize with it.”
“It’s an album that makes sense when it’s listened to from the perspective of any character in the movie, which makes it more enjoyable,” she added.
The song “Bonnie & Clyde” also draws inspiration from the same movie, as well as the famous crime duo.
“In a way, Jane and Ricky, the two characters in ‘American Beauty,’ are a couple, and their stories reminded me of Bonnie and Clyde, so I wanted to talk about that,” she said.
DeVita described it as “a song that talks about dangerous love, love on thin ice, and perhaps a song about a person who loves someone they shouldn’t love.”
Although the two were a couple, the song contains barely any elements of romance. Love appears only once, while crime is referenced throughout the three-minute track.
Asked why crime took center stage, the musician said she only felt one true love in the movie -- the love between the father and daughter seemed genuine, while the other relationships seemed more like a crime.
The album’s title is a reference to Grant Wood’s iconic painting of the same name.
“It’s a painting of a stern-looking couple in which the woman looks at the man while the man looks forward, and I liked the couple’s fixed look. It reminded me of unrequited love and made me go back to Jane and Lester’s relationship,” she said.
“The daughter loves her dad, but it seems like her dad doesn’t (love her), and it seemed like the situation of the two resembled the painting, so I decided to use the painting as my album’s name.” Synergy of film and music
Just as films highly inspired her stage name and album, DeVita opened up about why the flicks do not make her well run dry and how she keeps those ideas flowing in producing music.
“Movies are a tool that allows me to experience the things that I can’t feel in my daily life. For example, I can’t go to space, but I can hop on the adventure by watching a film and meld in my emotions and feelings, which is how my songs come to life.”
The musician labels herself as a big fan of cult classics, which let her creativity branch out into new areas. When inspiration hits, she has to write her songs right away.
“DeVita as an artist is pretty solid because I think I’m a vessel for the musical inspirations and genius ideas that come to me. When the two become one, that’s when I can pour it out,” she said.
Although not intended, her music also carries dual meaning: It could be interpreted from two different perspectives. DeVita’s “Sugar” contains both sweet and bitter sentiments, and her latest album also talks about true and unreciprocated love.
She finds it funny that her music is ambiguous in this way, but DeVita said what best illustrates her songs is “sincerity.”
“I’m both and neither. I could be mean but bad at the same time (in songs), and I don’t write stuff that I don’t know about. People can’t tell me that my music is fake or I’m pretending to be something I’m not, whether it’s the melody, harmonies, or the words.”
DeVita added, “I just make music to be heard. That’s what I do and what I live for.”
Apart from getting inspiration from movies, her music flows from the poems she writes. She keeps her poems in her musical archives because they are records of the little things in life, like emotions and incidents.
“I grew up in Chicago, and I barely had friends, and I overcame that time with the help of music. Just like how music was a tool that healed me, I want my songs to do the same. The odds of success are low, but I want to aim high.”
“I have so much confidence in what I do to the point where I believe in the impossible. And I want my music to be a pioneer in the industry. I’m DeVita, and that’s going to be my legacy.”
By Park Jun-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org