Amy Lee (Korean name: Lee Yejin; Hangul: 이예진; Hanja: 李藝眞, born 30 May 1989), better known by her stage name Ailee (Hangul에일리), is a Korean-American singer and actress. She is signed to YMC Entertainment in South Korea and Warner Music in Japan.

Before her K-pop debut, Ailee was signed under Muzo Entertainment in America. She moved to South Korea in 2010, where she passed an audition and became an artist for YMC Entertainment. After being recognised for her singing on Singer and Trainee, she started acting on the KBS drama series Dream High 2. She has released four extended plays and one studio album.

Ailee received the Best New Artist Award at the MelOn Music Awards, Golden Disk Awards, Gaon Chart K-Pop Awards and the Seoul Music Awards. She has additionally received a Best Newcomer and three Best Female Vocal Performance awards at the Mnet Asian Music Awards for "U&I", "Singing Got Better" and "Mind Your Own Business". For her work in Fated to Love You's OST, "Goodbye My Love", Ailee won Best Original Soundtrack at the 7th Korea Drama Awards.

Ailee was invited as a VIP guest to perform at a pre-Grammy party for the 55th Grammy Awards and attended both the ceremony and red carpet in Los Angeles. She has received the Mnet America Rising Star Award.

Life and career

Early life and career beginnings

Ailee was born in Denver, Colorado, on 30 May 1989, but grew up in New Jersey. She attended Palisades Park High School before moving to nearby Leonia. She graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, and went on to study communications at Pace University before dropping out to pursue a career in music. Before her K-pop debut, Ailee was signed under Muzo Entertainment, an independent agency based out of New York City and New Jersey. Under this label she collaborated with several artists, such as Johnnyphlo and Philadelphia-based rapper Decipher. Prior to moving to South Korea, Ailee created the YouTube channels "mzamyx3" and "aileemusic" to bring attention to her singing on the web.

Ailee moved to South Korea in 2010 after she landed a music label audition through her uncle's connections. She sang "Resignation" by Big Mama, and was recruited for YMC Entertainment on the spot. During her trainee days, she was featured in labelmate Wheesung's song "They Are Coming", which was released in October 2011. She additionally sang in Decipher and Jay Park's song "Catch Me If You Can". Ailee performed with Jay Park, Art of Movement, Johnnyphlo, Decipher, and Clara C at "projectKorea III", which was held at Rutgers University in 2010. In September 2011, Ailee and Wheesung were featured on the MBC's Chuseok special episode of Singer and Trainee. Ailee performed "Halo" by Beyoncé, impressing the audience with her powerful vocals and stage presence. After the judges had graded all the participants, Ailee was the first place winner.

2012: Debut, Invitation

On February 6, 2012 the music video teaser for Ailee's debut song "Heaven" was released. The track was written and produced by Ailee's labelmate Wheesung. Ailee released the song on February 9 along with the music video, which featured male group Beast member Gi Kwang. Later that day, she made her debut stage performance of "Heaven" on M.net's M! Countdown, and then on SBS's Inkigayo later in February. Just one month after her debut, she won two awards at the Cyworld Music Awards: "Song of the Month" and "Rookie of the Month".

In March 2012, Ailee made her first appearances on KBS's Immortal Songs 2, performing Patti Kim’s song “Light and Shadow” from 1967. On 19 May, on part 2 of the J.Y. Park special, she performed Park’s debut song "Don’t Leave Me". She beat Davichi’s Lee Haeri by 1 point, 419 to 418, for the win. She appeared on 30 June episode of Immortal Songs 2, which featured composer Yoon Il Sang. She performed "Fate" by Lee Seung Chul and won again with 402 votes. In August, it was announced that she was making a temporary leave from the show in order to focus on her music. She performed her final stage on 6 August, and the episode aired on 1 September. Later in August, she made an appearance in the third episode of Jay Park's online web series, Jay Park TV, where she was backstage attending Park's concert in Seoul. She additionally co-hosted the ABU Radio Song Festival with Han Seok Joon on 11 October 2012.

On 16 October, Ailee released her debut mini-album, Invitation, which contained the title track, "I’ll Show You" (보여줄게). The mini-album contains six tracks. It was produced by producers such as Kim Do Hoon, Lee Hyun Seung, Park Guentae, Duble Sidekick, Wheesung, and featured artists such as Verbal Jint, Swings and Simon D. On 18 October, Ailee made her comeback with "I'll Show You" on M! Countdown. On 23 November, She was able to acquire her first trophy in a music programme (Music Bank) beating Psy's "Gangnam Style".

2013–2014: A's Doll House and Magazine

On 4 July 2013, Ailee announced that she would release her second mini album entitled, A's Doll House, on 12 July. The album's single "U&I" topped music charts within four hours of release and earned Ailee her first "All-Kill" status. Popularity for the physical album was additionally deemed high when nearly all stores in Korea were sold out of the album on the first day of release. Orders overwhelmed the amount of stock, and a representative from Ailee's agency stated, "The rate at which this album is selling is a large number of times greater than the previous album’s."

On 4 August 2013, it was revealed that Ailee would be making her Japanese debut with "Heaven" under Warner Music Japan. The music video was released on 21 October. Ailee started to promote the song with a showcase at Shibuya O-East, Tokyo, on 21 October. The single was released on 6 November, and additionally included the song "Starlight".

On 14 September 2013, it was announced that Ailee will release a digital single, "Higher", with pianist Yiruma. Two days later, "Higher" was released online. On 16 December 2013, it was revealed that Ailee would be making a comeback after a six-month hiatus in January 2014.

A music video teaser was released on 2 January ahead of the full release. Both the full music video and the full digital song were released on 6 January. The music video features MBLAQ's Lee Joon. "Singing Got Better" reached #1 on Korea's major charts: Mnet, Bugs, Olleh, Soribada, Naver Music, Daum Music, and Genie.

On 16 September 2014, it was announced that Ailee would be having a comeback through YMC Entertainment's official Twitter account. On 21 September 2014, the teaser for Ailee's "Don't Touch Me" was released. It was written by Min Yun-jae, Jakops, and Ailee. The full MV was released in 25 September 2014. Later that day, promotions for her new album, Magazine, commenced. It peaked at #2 for the Gaon Single Chart. She won the first trophy for "Don't Touch Me" in 5 October 2014, on SBS Inkigayo.

2015: "Johnny", first solo concert, and VIVID

On 30 June, Ailee released "Johnny" as her contribution to the Brave Brothers’ tenth anniversary project.

On 4 July, Ailee held her first solo concert, titled Fatal Attraction, which was held at Olympic Hall in Olympic Park, Seoul.

On 20 September, it was announced that Ailee would be having a comeback through YMC Entertainment's official Twitter account. In addition, a video teaser of her title track entitled "Mind Your Own Business" (너나 잘해) was released on 1theK's YouTube page on 22 September. Ailee's first full-length album, VIVID, was released on 30 September 2015. She won her first trophy for this promotion on 7 October on Show Champion.

On 14 November, Ailee held a special concert in Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs), California, USA

On 30 November, it was announced that Ailee would be releasing a collaboration digital single with Seventeen entitled "Q&A" on 4 December.

2016-present: "If You" and A New Empire

On August 16, it was announced that Ailee was currently in preparations for her next album. It was stated that she worked on with a variety of several artists; one of them was revealed to be Yoon Mirae. On August 19, the teaser for the music video of "If You", was posted on LOEN and YMC Entertainment's YouTube channel. The teaser features Nayoung of I.O.I. The single "If You" is a pre-release track described to be a retro-soul tack, produced by the same lyricists and composers of "Dream", a popular duet between miss A's Suzy and EXO's Baekhyun. The song was additionally co-written and produced by Park Geuntae, who additionally produced Ailee's "Evening Sky" from Invitation. The music video was released on August 23, 2016. "If You" subsequently hit number 1 on several charts within a day, topping the MelOn roof, Gaon Weekly Chart for Digital Download, and BGM charts. On September 28, YMC Entertainment's official Twitter announced the teaser for the title track "Home" on her next album, A New Empire.

On October 5, A New Empire was released, along with the music video for "Home" that was officially released on LOEN and YMC Entertainment's official YouTube channel. The music video and song features Yoon Mirae.

Personal life

On 10 November 2013, Korean pop gossip site AllKPop.com published a storey containing several nude photos of Ailee taken prior to her debut as a singer. The following day, YMC Entertainment issued a statement claiming that "the pictures are of her she took when she was offered to be a lingerie model. [She] took nude photos because they wanted a better judgement of her body but the company was unable to be contacted after she took them. She reported them to the police and it was later found that she was scammed by a company who approached additional college girls as well. Ailee discussed the matter with her ex-boyfriend, a current AllKPop employee, and he claimed that he would need to see the exact content of the pictures before coming up with a solution so she sent them to him." On 24 November, a 2009 police report filed by Ailee revealed that Ailee had sent the pictures to her friend over Facebook, only to find out her friend's Facebook account had been hacked. As a result of the scandal, Ailee was removed from several advertising campaigns, including for fried chicken company Kyochon. Kyochon responded, "Ailee’s commercial contract hasn’t ended. But consumers have been showing sensitive reactions to Ailee’s recent situation, and Ailee’s agency is additionally not entirely keen on the singer’s exposure at this time, so we took certain steps.”

Discography

Concerts

Solo Concert

  • 2013: Japan Debut Showcase (Shibuya, Japan)
  • 2015: Fatal Attraction (1st Solo Concert)
  • 2015: Ailee Concert (California, USA)

Music Bank

  • 2013: In Istanbul (Special Stage "Üsküdar'a Gider İken" Cover)
  • 2014: In Brazil (Special Stage "Aquarela do Brasil" Cover + World Cup Cheering)
  • 2014: In Mexico (Special Stage "Donde Voy" Cover)

Collaboration Concert

  • 2014: Winter Concert with Eric Benet
  • 2014: Someday Concert with Wheesung
  • 2015: Back to School with Wheesung
  • 2016: Come Here with Yoon Min Soo

ETC.(Big Concert / Event)

  • 2012: Music Core (Vietnam)
  • 2013: 27th Golden Disk Awards (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • 2013: Grammy Awards Pre-Party (LA, USA)
  • 2013: MNET M! Countdown (Taiwan)
  • 2013: Eru Concert (Jakarta, Indonesia)
  • 2013: 2K13 Feel Korea (São Paulo, Brazil)
  • 2013: 2K13 Feel Korea (Perth, Australia)
  • 2014: VK-Pop Superstar (Hanoi, Vietnam)
  • 2014: MTV The Stage Big Pleasure
  • 2014: Eru Hide & Seek (Jakarta, Indonesia)
  • 2014: Mnet Asian Music Awards (Hong Kong)
  • 2015: AIA Life Korea (Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia)
  • 2015: K-Pop Concert (Yangon, Myanmar)
  • 2015: Unite the Mic (Toronto, Canada)
  • 2015: Korean Music Festival (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • 2015: Korean Music Festival (São Paulo, Brazil)
  • 2015: Jinusean Concert (Special Guest)
  • 2015: Mnet Asian Music Awards (Hong Kong)
  • 2016: Seoul Music Awards
  • 2016: Ediya Music Festival
  • 2016: JTN Summer Festival
  • 2016: Dynamic Duo Concert (Special Guest)
  • 2016: Ailee × Yoon Min Soo Concert

KCON

  • 2016: KCON (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
  • 2016: KCON (New York, USA)

Filmography

Television drama

YearTitleRole
2012Dream High Season 2Ailee

Variety shows

YearTitleNetworkNotes
2011–2016Immortal Songs 2KBS2Contestant
2012Beatle Code 2MNETGuest
Generation Sympathy SaturdayKBSGuest
VitaminJTBCMain Cast
Patti Kim ShowJTBCGuest
Human ConditionKBSGuest
2013–2014Great MarriageJTBCMain Cast
2013Beauty and the Beast (Lunar New Year's Special)KBSGuest
Generation Sympathy SaturdayKBSGuest
Miracle KoreaJTBCGuest
Crisis Escape No.1KBSGuest
1 vs 100KBSGuest
Live Information (Star Date)KBSGuest
Love RequestKBSGuest
Gag TonightSBSGuest
Weekly IdolMBC Every1Guest, episode 76
Smile PeopleSBSGuest
On Style Lee Hyori UnniSpecial Guest for Spica
Hello CounselorKBSGuest, Ep.109
2014Real MenMBCSurprise Guest, Ep.43
How to Eat and Live WellSBSEP.41–42
Laws of the CitySBSSeries regular
MBC Music Ailee's VitaminMBCMain Cast
Hello CounselorKBSGuest, Ep.156, 190
Running ManSBSGuest, episode 211–212 (team up with Gary)
Tray Song RelayKBS2Guest
Star KingSBSGuest, Ep.353, 373, 392, 394
One Fine DayMBCSeason Regular
Cool Kiz on the BlockKBSSurprise Guest, Singing National Anthem. Ep.61
After School ClubArirang TVGuest, Ep.40, 105
Superstar K6MNETGuest, Judge
2015Superstar K7MNETGuest, Judge
Jung Yongwha's HologramMNETGuest, EP. 1–2
You Hee-yeol's SketchbookKBS2Ep.264, Guest with Amber, Ep.292
Seventeen projectMBC MusicSpecial Guest, Ep 4
I Can See Your VoiceMNETGuest Ep.11
After School ClubArirang TVGuest, Ep.181
King of Mask SingerMBCContestant, Ep.7–8
Healing Camp, Aren't You HappySBSGuest, Ep.215
2016Two Yoo Project Sugar ManJTBCGuest (Contestant), Ep.19
Hello CounselorKBSVideo Call Surprise Guest, Ep.268
Duet Song FestivalMBCContestant, Ep.3, 25–26
Fantastic DuoSBSContestant, Ep.5–6
Superstar K 2016 (K8)MNETJudge
You Hee-yeol's SketchbookKBS2Guest, Ep.337
After School ClubArirang TVGuest, Ep.233

Awards and nominations