Ailee was born in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, on May 30, 1989. Prior to her debut as a Kpop star, Ailee was under Muzo Entertainment, an independent entertainment agency serving New York and New Jersey. Eventually, she was signed to Korean record label YMC Entertainment. She made her acting debut in Dream High 2 as Ailee, a member of fictional Kpop group HerShe.
"Heaven", Ailee's debut digital single, was released on February 9, 2012. "Heaven" contained strong elements of R&B in its composition. The music video, released on the same day, featured Beast's Gikwang. Ailee made her performance debut on M! Countdown the same day of her single release.