Going against the grain

Asian American artists you should listen to

Sreya Kumar and Lakshanyaa Ganesh

In the past two years, screens across the U.S. have been lit with Asian Americans; the success of movies like “Yesterday” and “Parasite” have begun to pave the way to the normalization of Asian representation in the film industry — and following closely behind is its representation in the music industry. 

While Korean pop (K-pop) music has been steadily gaining popularity in America, with groups like BTS and Blackpink as front runners, other Asian artists have been finding their way into the industry as well, breaking barriers and even placing on Billboard charts. TikTok, a global platform for users to share and create videos, has brought artists like Niki, Conan Gray and Eden to the spotlight, allowing their hits to go viral within days.

Despite living in the diverse Bay Area, many of our playlists are primarily composed of mainstream artists, predominantly white ones at that. Radio stations play the same Ed Sheeran song in a loop. Billie Eilish dominates charts and award shows. Justin Bieber’s 2014 song, Confident, starts to gain popularity again after a TikTok. While we aren’t criticizing these artists or their music, Asian American artists, who often remain relatively underrated, are going against the grain of primarily white artists in the American music industry. Even popular black artists are often categorized in hip hop and rap categories, and struggle to escape the labels placed on them by our community.

Even with the rising success of K-pop and an increase in the awareness of Asian artists, there is still a distinct separation between the traditional artists of the mainstream American music industry and Asian artists. We see examples of this time and time again, with awards shows like the VMAs making separate categories for these artists, somewhat ostracizing or “othering” these artists from the mainstream music industry. 

And yet, Asian American artists are still making marks on charts and in history. With a vastly changing music industry, marked by production from the likes of Finneas O’Connell and artists like Lizzo, the industry is making room for the more eclectic tastes of newer generations. We believe that Asian American artists deserve a spot in this new wave as well. 

Check out this playlist of our favorite songs made by Asian American artists.