Through Emotion, Memory, and Understanding, Christina Li Tells the Story of Her Life on ‘Strings’

From Christina Li

🍊 1 month since ‘Strings’ was released. 27k streams. 18k listeners. So much love for you all. ❤️ Now onto the next 😈

Writing those very words alone is absolutely mind blowing. This EP has truly been years in the making, and an incredible journey beginning to end, from recording voice memos to exporting the final masters three years later. Words can’t describe how stoked I am for you all to hear these songs that I’ve poured my heart and soul into.

So help me on this final leg of the journey by staying engaged with all the coming updates over the next two weeks! I’m gonna need you all to make this release drop big!”

album art by: Isabella Hamlen & Madeline Lee

photography by: Kendal Duff

features by: ÉMIR, Cameron Herring, Yas Akdag & Thomas Bergeron

production by: Christina Li

session musicians: Arayana Carr Mal — Violin / Joe Wang — Violin & Viola / Nadia Jo — Cello / Thomas Bergeron — Trumpet / Sam Watson, Atang Peloewetse, Angelique Alexos, Isabella Hamlen, Josh Oduro, Tony He, Soo Oh, Sarah Jung, Max Brown, Colby Amos, Elliot Flagg, Mira Binzen, Talia Rajasekar — Background Vocals / Josh Oduro — Electric Bass / Mike Shalaby — Electric Guitar / Jacob Winthrop & Gabe Bango — Percussion

music consultants: Thomas Bergeron & Sam Watson

marketing consultants: Atang Peloewetse, Helen Mak, Elven Shum, Justin Winley & Amir Royale

engineered by: Christina Li, Aaron Kates, Yas Akdag & Amir Royale

mixed by: Christina Li

mastered by: Christina Li

EP Review

In her debut EP Strings, Christina Li pulls from all strands of emotion and memory — setting herself as both the narrator and the protagonist — to usher listeners through a vivid reconstruction of the last 18 years of her life. With themes such as love, loss, change, and time, the EP feels extremely intimate, yet, at the same time, familiar and relatable. Since Li created this EP over years of piecing together different concepts and memories, listeners can also sense a palpable change over time or transformation as the songs transition from one to the next.

The EP begins with two bubbly and upbeat pieces that exude the playfulness, innocence, and naiveté of childhood. The first piece, “Young and Reckless,” immediately uplifts listeners with a tune that is reminiscent of a late 2000s pop song. For those who grew up in that era, the song immediately transports you to a time of few expectations and unimaginable opportunities. Interestingly, however, just as the song allows listeners to remember themselves at that time in their lives, Li also approaches the song from her current mentality, instead of from the past. Though generally, the song reflects positively on this point in her life, the retrospective lyrics foreshadow that there were deeper issues and responsibilities that Li would come to understand only later in time. This underlying theme continues in the next song, “Stay Foolish,” which more deeply incorporates the theme of love along a funky, upbeat track.

The EP then turns to a slower, more reflective track — “If You Care.” The first song that directly addresses the greater understanding of life’s limitations and imperfections, this track pinpoints the heart of the EP as it maneuvers the difficulties of growing up and coming to terms with one’s identity. In Li’s own words, by “[shattering] the looking glass” — presumably to the wonderland of youth and innocence — she transitions the EP to the greater realities of adulthood.

This second conversation or understanding of life begins quite literally with “Truth,” as Li steps into a new world of responsibilities and challenges. Though the track is mostly up-tempo — and it will make you want to dance around your room — its underlying message follows the uncomfortable, sad realization that all too quickly, childhood has flown by to reveal harsher realities. Naturally, as children we have a more limited understanding of time and thus live each day to the fullest. But as we get older, as this song understands, we spend much of our time wishing we could go back to that innocent time in our lives. This song once again touches on the theme of love, which carries listeners to “Pretty Girl” — a piece that exudes love and the feeling of being in love. In opposition to “Young & Reckless,” which describes a more naive, childish love, the funk and layering of “Pretty Girl” makes it sound more mature, a difference that speaks to Li’s growth over the course of the EP.

Such maturity builds in the EP’s penultimate song “When I Let You Go.” The piece begins and ends with Li’s voice and complex lyrics woven between the simplicity of a piano — a stark juxtaposition that relays the gravity of the lessons she’s learned over the course of her life thus far. While previous pieces filled listeners externally with their bright, upbeat tracks and myriad of sounds, “When I Let You Go” fills an internal space and begins concluding the EP by allowing listeners to reflect on the messages Li has strung throughout.

The reflective thoughts conjured by “When I Let You Go” transfer listeners beautifully to the denouement of the EP: the beautiful yet haunting piece, “Golden.” Just as “Young & Reckless” awoke listeners to the beginning of Li’s story, “Golden” closes this chapter of her life by setting them in the midst of a summary of her last 18 years. Li uses the image of a “golden girl” to illustrate her journey through this path as she describes the girl’s transition from a “rosy” to a “gilded” to a “wretched” world. It is through this metaphor that Li expresses her realizations of life and the challenges of growing up as one is burdened with responsibility and knowledge. Perhaps the most masterful aspect of this piece is the way in which it is carried. Though the song is over seven minutes long, Li’s vocals and the emotion with which she sings allows listeners to sink into the EP’s true meaning in a way that most albums do not. The song truly embodies the challenge and beauty that comes with growing up. At the end of “Golden,” there is a slight pause before hearing Li packing up her equipment. Though the act feels final, it is understood that Strings is not the ultimate conclusion of Li’s story; It is the sunset at the end of a day, the change from one season to another, the closing of a chapter in a book.

Click here to listen to Christina’s stirring pilot, and hear her journey of self-discovery.

— Written by Angelique Alexos

Cover Art for ‘Strings’:

EP Artwork by Isabella Hamlen & Madeline Lee

Click here to listen to the full project.

About the Artist

Photograph by Kendall Duff

Singer-songwriter, producer, composer, and arranger Christina Li is a prime example of the up-and-coming DIY recording artist generation. Her musicianship began as a child with classical education; she then moved to contemporary when she was 12, and now maneuvers comfortably through a variety of genres. She finds her sound in the blend of Korean pop, American R&B, indie pop, and more. Christina splits her time between homes; one in Hong Kong and the other in New York City. After graduating from New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music Summer High School program in 2019, Christina is now pursuing her undergraduate education at Columbia University; developing her musicianship and establishing herself as a bright, bold new force in a rapidly changing industry.


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