Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis know a thing or two about musical talent. For more than four decades, the pair, referred to collectively as Jam & Lewis, have been crafting songs for the world’s biggest artists. Working with the likes of Rod Stewart, the Spice Girls and Celine Dion as well as Janet and Michael Jackson, they have produced 16 tracks that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In LMYK, these musical legends believe they’ve discovered a real gem. 

“I was sent a link of LMYK performing a few years ago,” recalls Lewis. “And then, as I was in New York at the same time as her, I invited her for lunch. She came with her guitar, so I was able to put her on the spot, and she obliged. It was amazing. One of the most angelic voices you could ever hear. Just wow. She was also proficient with the guitar too. I love artists who can both play and sing. Right away, I thought, ‘I’ve got to call Jimmy.’” 

“You could hear immediately that she had an inspirational voice and unique style of guitar playing,” continues Jam. “What’s impressed me most, however, has been her evolution. Part of that has probably been because of COVID. Rather than flying out to the States to work with us, she had to figure things out for herself in her bedroom. She became proficient at producing and engineering, and many of the demos she sent over, we didn’t change anything. It’s been a wonderful journey watching her mature.” 

Breaking Out of Her Shell

Born in Osaka to a Japanese mother and a German father, LMYK is a somewhat mysterious individual who likes to keep a degree of anonymity. She subsequently doesn’t reveal her real name, though we do know that LMYK refers to her initials. As a child, she was into both Japanese and Western pop music. Becoming a performer, however, wasn’t on her radar as she was so shy. That changed when she was at college in New York. 

“That’s when I started making music,” she says. “I enjoyed writing songs on the guitar and singing in my room, but as I was shy, I didn’t intend to share what I made with anyone. There was a kind of fear holding me back. I couldn’t break out of my shell.”

Eventually, she was able to tell someone and perform for them. “From that point, I had some momentum and soon started going to open mic nights,” she explains. “Somehow, I wasn’t so scared when I got on stage. I wasn’t good at connecting with people through talking, but I was able to do it when I sang.” 

LMYK’s introduction to Jam & Lewis came around two years after she started making music. She says it felt surreal being able to work alongside two of the world’s most renowned producers. Describing the pair as “inspirational,” the singer still has to pinch herself sometimes to make sure she isn’t dreaming. A big fan of their work, particularly with artists like Janet Jackson and Hikaru Utada, LMYK feels she shares a similar vision with the duo and has the same passion for music. 

Her debut single, “Unity,” was released in November 2020. A soothing track with silvery vocals, it featured on the Japanese version of the Chinese animated film The Legend of Hei. Her follow-up single, “0 (Zero),” also became a big hit with anime fans as it was used as the ending theme song of the popular steampunk-themed series The Case Study of Vanitas. With both a Japanese and English version, it’s a catchy, dream-like song that starts off midtempo before speeding up. For LMYK, it was important to create a sound that matched the 19th-century Paris setting of the program. 

Delightful Desserts 

Well received by fans of the show, “0 (Zero)” is, unquestionably, one of the standout songs on LMYK’s debut album, Desserts. Released in March of this year, it showcases the singer’s wide-ranging talent. From darker, more reflective tunes such as “Little Bit Lonely” and “Weak” to more upbeat tracks like “It’s So Fun” and “Smiley,” the record is certainly varied. The song that pulls on the heartstrings the most, though, is “Without Love,” written for the outro of the second season of the historical action-adventure animated series Vinland Saga. The atmospheric synths mixed with LMYK’s willowy voice and powerful lyrics perfectly encapsulate the emotional journey of the series’ lead character.

“That’s one of my favorite songs on the album,” says LMYK. “Another is ‘Tendency,’ as I feel it represents me as an artist. What I’m saying is simple, but I’m expressing it in a way that is different to how other people would express it. I like to write lyrics that might make somebody stop and think, and I believe I was able to achieve that with this song.”

The album, she says, explores human emotions. “The songs speak about those little pleasures we all seek to alleviate the workloads and burdens in our lives. The joyous and sad emotions we feel are inextricably linked. That’s why I called it Desserts, which is ‘stressed’ spelled backwards.” 

The 12-track LP, which has been lauded by critics, deeply impressed both Jam and Lewis. 

“You see the different layers of LMYK with this album,” says Jam. “She’s very complicated in subtle ways. There’s a little darkness in her happiness and happiness in her darkness. Lyrically, she says things you’ve heard before, but with her context and perspective, it comes out a little different. She tells a story when she sings, and the music is the journey. There’s a real dynamism to her songs. They grow, then get small, then grow again. She has the vocal and lyrical ability to pull that off.”

Adds Lewis, “Her writing style is like none other. It’s honest. It’s playful. And it’s reflective. She pulls people in, and she does it with open arms. I sometimes have to ask her, ‘What made you say that?’ She arouses a feeling in me. You have songs like ‘Nature-Nature,’ which makes you feel good, or ‘Smiley,’ which makes you smile, and then you have ‘I’ll Take It,’ which is so real it’s almost uncomfortable. There’s a power in her vulnerability.”

Undoubtedly, it is a very impressive debut from a singer who isn’t as well known as she should be. That is likely to change in the coming years, especially with so many of her songs featuring in anime series. 

LMYK is certainly a singer and songwriter to look out for, but the question is — just how big can she become? Jam & Lewis, who, remarkably, only released their first album, Volume One, in 2021, feel she has what it takes to go to the very top. 

“Put it this way,” says Lewis. “We are going to have to get some better sunglasses because the future is so bright.”

Jam & Lewis on:

Their debut album, featuring the likes of Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey: (Jam) We made exactly the album we wanted to make with the people we wanted to make it with. We’re now working on Volume Two and plan to make three, four, etc.  

(Lewis) We have so many artists and friends we want to work with, we could probably do this forever, or at least until we get tired. Though, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. 

Getting Fired by Prince: (Jam) After producing a track for the S.O.S. Band in Atlanta, we were called to Sunset Sound recording studio. Prince basically said, ‘I told you guys not to produce other acts. You did. So, you’re fired.’ Later that day, we met Steve Hodge at Larabee Sound Studios. He asked what was wrong, we explained what happened, then he told us we didn’t have anything to worry about before playing his mix of ‘Just Be Good to Me.’ That turned out to be our first hit.  

(Lewis) We were stunned by the firing, broken hearted. We loved working with Prince as part of The Time. That was our group forever. Fortunately, ‘Just Be Good to Me’ was our Cinderella story. The pumpkin turned into the buggy, and we rode off into the sunset. 

Working with Michael Jackson: (Jam) It was in New York for ‘Scream’ with Janet Jackson and was, by far, our most impactful, jaw-dropping moment. We were like teenage girls in there. Walking into the studio, he was so calm and quiet, then when the music started, he turned into the Tasmanian Devil. Janet was supposed to record right after him, but as he finished, she leaned into us and said I’ll do my vocals in Minneapolis. She wanted no part of following Michael. It was an amazing experience working with both.