Sad China – ilyimy Album Review: A Reflection on Heartbreak & Healing

Synths glittering with starlight. Frenetic breakbeats and chaotic percussion. Within this digital space, Sad China’s brightly autotuned voice emerges on ilyimy, the Vancouver-based singer-songwriter’s debut full-length album. It propels forward with the kind of uplifting euphoria that hyperpop best captures: a burst of energy; a release. Sad China does not waste time getting to the point, beginning with a mantra: “You can do this / You can do this / You’ll get through this / You’ll get through this.”

Sad China - ilyimy Album Review

Sung in both Mandarin and English, ilyimy was born in the solitude of quarantine out of a desire for connection to loved ones and community. The 10-track indie hyperpop album was produced with the help of electronic artist Kerub, whose slippery, experimental style laid the groundwork for seven of the tracks. Stylistically, ilyimy is diverse, traversing breakbeat-backed glitchy beats, effortlessly smooth R&B, and somber, introspective tracks. Kerub creates tracks that are full of light and allow Sad China’s energy to flourish — sometimes soft and angelic, other times sharp and brightly oversaturated — but not so bright that they outshine Sad China’s star power.

ilyimy, an acronym for “i love you, i miss you,” is a reflection on loneliness and social media; on heartbreak and healing. Sad China wears their heart on their sleeve, facing these heavy feelings head on. To run away from emotions or to bottle them up is not an option — a sentiment that Sad China expresses on title track “ilyimy.” Marimba-like synths drive the beat in tight arpeggios. A constant kick drum and rapid staccato snares add rhythmic texture, and a growling bass synth pushes us onward. Floating above, Sad China sings, “Feel / Gotta feel my feelings / Instead of self-destructing / To restore.” Yet, Sad China does not wallow, focusing not on despair but on the lessons learned: lessons of patience, of the love they have for friends and family, and the excitement of one day meeting again.

On the cool, calm, and collected R&B track “Bless.bliss,” Sad China invites vocalists Khamisa and Adewolf to offer their perspectives on celebrating the “Little things / That we living for.” With the gentle sound of rain in the background, sparse synths, a mellow bassline, and a slow jam beat creating the canvas, the trio paint together — each voice a different color; a different brush stroke. Khamisa’s flow is liquid, bringing depth and warmth that help make the track feel pleasant and at peace. Adewolf’s verse opens up new rhythms that expand our understanding of the groove, giving it just the right touch of bounce to make “Bless.bliss” the standout track of the album.

But even as the energy of ilyimy may push us forward, Sad China does not forget to honor the past. The ninth track, “永远在我的心里 forever in my heart” is an offering to their ancestors. Oversaturated synths give the track an expansive feeling, a reflection of the boundless gratitude Sad China expresses to their family. As the orchestra of synths swell to a climax, they address their maternal grandparents in Mandarin, “我爱你, 我想你 (I love you, I miss you) / 永远在我的心里 (Forever in my heart).” Though under three minutes, the track feels boundless, as if the brilliant synth lines and Sad China’s autotuned voice could carry these messages of love and gratitude all the way to their homeland of China. And this is the power that Sad China wields on ilyimy: that despite quarantine, they can reach beyond physical boundaries through music, all the beams of light created through saturated synth lines and glittering autotuned vocals shining brightly for their community to see.

Stream Sad China’s ilyimy


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Written by
Miles Ginoza

Miles Ginoza (he/him) is a freelance writer and DJ based in California. He has written for Eastern Margins, Look At My Records, and REDEFINE Magazine. His writing explores the emotional and sensory experience of music with a focus on themes of nostalgia, healing, and home. Miles is a member of Eternal Dragonz, a digital collective of musicians, artists, designers, curators, and writers that draw inspiration from the Asian diaspora.

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