Where Are Our Asian-American Singers?

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Joji’s album “Nectar” debuted at #1 on Spotify’s Us Weekly Album chart.

Amy Hardison, Scribe Reporter

Pop music has never been a place for Asian American artists. Asian Americans who enter America’s got Talent or The Voice regularly find themselves being turned down.  This is part of a common misconception that Asian American singers are not as marketable, and unfortunately, this causes a lack of visible Asian American pop singers to inspire up-and-coming talent.

According to Music Department Chair and Schaumburg High School Band Director, Mr. Inendino, students of Asian descent make up 15% of the music program at Schaumburg High School. However without much representation in American music, these students may not know music role models or inspirations that look like them.

On American Idol, Paul Kim, a Korean American contestant, wrote, “I was told over and over by countless label execs that if it weren’t for me being Asian, I would’ve been signed yesterday.”

Though the music industry can be a tough place for Asian-Americans, some artists have broken that boundary and made it onto Billboard charts. While these artists are not (yet) household names, they have managed to earn some attention and are worthy of following and downloading.  

George Miller, known as Joji, is a Japanese born singer and artist. His music genre is R&B/Soul, but his music has also been described as lo-fi or indie. Soul music is a popular genre which originated in African-American communities in the 1950s. Joji’s EP In Tongues made it to #58 on Billboard 200 and his album Ballads 1 made it to number one on Billboard’s top R&B and hip-hop chart in 2018. Joji’s 2020 album Nectar debuted at #1 on the Spotify US Weekly Albums Chart and #3 on the Billboard 200. Joji became the first Asian born artist to do so.

Beabadoobee is one of several Asian music artists to gain recent popularity. (courtesy of Wikimedia commons)

Mxmtoons, also known as Maia, is a half Chinese singer and songwriter. She also plays the guitar and cello but is best known for her singing and ukulele. She released her first album at home when she was 18, which has now been streamed over ten million times. Her music is soft and catchy and is in the lo-fi genre. With only her high school education she has toured twice and has over 700,000 fans.

Raveena is an Indian American singer and songwriter based in New York. She is North Indian and is 26 years old. With over one million followers on Spotify since her debut, her career has flourished. She currently has three albums. Her last was released in 2020. All are in the blues, soul and pop genre. Her music has been described as soft and ethereal. 

Beatrice Kristi Laus known in the music world by Beabadoobee, is a Filipina rock artist. She’s heavily inspired by 90’s rock and writes and performs her music live. She uses music as a way to express and accept herself. Her YouTube music video was nominated for 2019 UK music awards in Best Rock Video-Newcomer Category.

Conan Gray is a half Japanese artist that became famous after his single “Idle Town” in 2017. He has been a very successful singer and social media personality since. Conan says he writes and produces his music in his bedroom. His songs are sad yet fit for pop. Gray’s fans are drawn to his honesty and sympathetic personality. . His most recent achievement was reaching top 5 on Billboard 200.

2020 is the year for the music industry to welcome more Asian American talent. All musicians are recognized for talent and effort at SHS.  Hopefully the same will be true for the music industry. Hopefully we can break the stereotypical perception of Asian music, creating more opportunities for Asian Americans to show off their skills.

 

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