Robin Kang is only 16, but she’s absolutely crushing it.
Her new single, ironically titled “Crushed,” details a journey through new-found love. Always feeling “too young” to truly understand it, Kang, who goes by her Instagram-ready stagename Robinkss, grappled with her own experiences and haunting fantasies, ultimately landing on a song “more personal” than anything she’d ever written. “I don’t want to open myself up to love or that feeling,” she says, quite candidly. “In this song, the person meets someone who makes them want to reconsider that.”
The song is co-written with Tammy Infusino and Francis Kim (Rain, Whee-Sung), also her producer who has “helped me with a lot of my music journey. Francis was the one to really guide me toward developing my style and how I think about music,” Kang says.
Born to two immigrant parents, one entrenched in music-making, the other not so much, Kang began playing classical piano at four. By 8-years-old, she became captivated by stage singing. That led her down a path of self-exploration and astute examination. Her older brother, who also dreams of a career in music, as a producer, would “have to catch up to me,” she quips with a giggle. ““Both my parents really pushed me to get experience in music,” she adds.
When she was 13, she attended a youth music camp, and everything changed. “I wrote a song during that time. Having all the materials given to you and then you’re able to write a song, that in itself was really fun and interesting,” she observes. Instantly, she was struck with such a fierce curiosity, she knew her destiny was music and the bright lights of Hollywood.
Early on, Kang connected deeply with the weirdness of Lady Gaga, decked out in meat dresses and being transported in giant eggs. There was a magnetism about her presence which drew Kang to push her boundaries even further. But she knew pop music alone (including Jessie J’s powerfully raw vocal chords) wouldn’t get her where she needed to go. “As the years went by, I started to have interest in other styles of music,” Kang explains, illustrating her trek through hip-hop and rap music, which lit a fuse under her art in compelling new ways. SZA’s CTRL represents one of those cathartic and empowering records, which “has rebirthed me,” Kang smirks. She also began digging more into her cultural heritage, including mainstream pop music, as evidenced with such acts as BTS, whose mass appeal has taken the world by storm. “Their personalities are really very bright, and I like that,” she says. “They have good workout songs, too.”
Jokes aside, Kang shows signs of remarkable skill in the recording studio. “Crushed,” which dazzles with slinky, tribal textures and a smooth, caramel vocal, is only the beginning. Robinkss has a commanding aura of her own, and given a little time, she will surely blossom. A forthcoming EP is also in the works.