The Singer Whose Voice Rose Above the Inauguration
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because music can be powerful and healing.
By Katrina Kaufman
Connie Lim only slept about five hours in the two days after the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., when her song “Quiet” went viral and became the march’s unofficial anthem.
The Los Angeles–based singer also known as MILCK performed “Quiet” in a series of flash mob acapella performances at the Women’s March with a group of singers from across the country. The all-female #ICANTKEEPQUIET choir rehearsed via Skype, but many of them sang together in person for the first time at the march.
In a serendipitous turn of events, a bystander, director Alma Har’el, filmed the group’s final performance and posted it on Twitter and Facebook. Her video captured a raw and powerful performance of “Quiet” that quickly spread across social media. At the time of publication, it had over 14 million views.
Lim began performing about seven years ago and appeared on reality shows like NBC’s The Voice. But she felt stifled by the “plastic” aspect of this part of the music world and decided to reinvent herself as an artist, creating her stage name MILCK. The name is composed of her last name, “Lim,” spelled backward, and her first two initials, “CK,” for Connie Kimberly.
“My father was a first-generation immigrant from China, and he took what his parents gave him — a thousand dollars — and used that to fund his way through pharmacy school and medical school,” said Lim. “I wanted to take what my family gave me — this name — and make it for me. So I flipped it inside out. Because I also wanted to walk away from all the years of being silenced. Like symbolically cutting it and saying, ‘That’s over.’”
Lim says she wrote “Quiet” a year ago as a song of protest and empowerment in response to her experience as a survivor of sexual abuse. “So I had a nightmare before I wrote this song. I was being hit, and I was on the floor,” she said. “There were two people on each side watching kind of stoically. I looked up at the observers and said, ‘You need to say something, do something, help me because this is not OK.’ They said, ‘Just be quiet and it will be over soon.’ I said, ‘I can’t keep quiet.’”
Haunted, Lim told her co-writer about the nightmare, which turned into the chorus for “Quiet.”
“I walked away thinking, I have finally found my little token of my voice,” said Lim. “Then I didn’t release it for a year.”
But when Donald Trump was elected president, the song resonated anew for Lim. Her record management had encouraged her to hold onto the song so they could pitch it to a label, but she decided to release it grassroots on her own at the Women’s March.
“I think everyone has been silenced before in their life,” she said. “But it comes to this threshold when eventually we have had enough, and that’s what this song is. I’ve had enough.”
In the weeks before the march, she reached out to a cappella groups and put together a choir of 26 singers from D.C. and Los Angeles that included Capital Blend, a professional D.C. a cappella group, and the GW Sirens from George Washington University.
Lim also teamed up with her friend Krista Suh, co-founder of the Pussyhat Project. The whole choir performed wearing the iconic pink hats that have become a symbol of the march.
“I remember during our last flash mob [at the march], when we finished, I started second-guessing myself, like, did we do enough flash mobs? Have I reached enough people? Did I do my job as an artist, as the mother of this child, this song?” Lim said. “Then literally seven hours later, I got notification that Emma Watson had retweeted it. It’s been a whirlwind since then.”
In the days since the march, Lim has been contacted by choirs from around the world that want to perform her a cappella arrangement of “Quiet” — including a middle school choir (although they’ve asked her to make the lyrics a little more kid-friendly). Lim hopes to plan a day when choruses from all over the globe perform the song in unison as a cyberexperiment.
The #ICANTKEEPQUIET project is more than just this one song though. Lim describes it as “propelling the practice of turning pain into something beautiful.” As part of the project, she is collecting people’s stories, which will be turned into songs, art and dances.
Along with singing and “writing songs like a madwoman,” Lim produces other artists’ tracks. Her music has appeared on the shows The Royals, Netflix’s Marco Polo trailer and Pretty Little Liars, which helped her fund the “Quiet” project.
About six years ago, Lim remembers that someone told her she needed to make a song go viral, but she never thought that she was flashy or cool enough.
“I’m introspective and introverted and I go deep with things,” she said. “So for this to happen kind of opened my eyes that the world doesn’t just need the cool and the flashy, shiny things. People really want meaning and some hope.”
- Katrina Kaufman, OZY AuthorContact Katrina Kaufman