Racism towards AAPI individuals has been, and continues to be, a pandemic that has plagued and permeated the United States. In our current socio-political climate, with hate crimes and anti-Asian sentiments rising at a staggering rate, it is important now more than ever to acknowledge and uplift AAPI voices through activism, education and general recognition. While May should not be the only time that we should do this, now seems like an appropriate time to recognize and shout-out some AAPI voices in the music community (not to mention that these artists are just super incredible and you should be listening to them anyways).
DISCLAIMER! Not all of these artists are American, as is implied with the title AAPI. If they are not American, that will be specified.
Click on the first mention of the artist’s name to learn a little more about them, and click on the second for a link to their Spotify!
I hope that enough people have listened to this album that this goes without saying, but SAWAYAMA is a gift to the human race. Japanese-British artist Rina Sawayama has elevated the definition of pop music, tying aspects of R&B, metal and hyperpop to cultivate a sound that is entirely her own. Her musical style is brought to a whole new level with the stunning and striking makeup that we see in videos like “Comme des Garçons (Like The Boys)” and “XS.” Beyond these two absolute gems, I must implore the entire population to listen to “Akasaka Sad” and her cover of “Love It If We Made It” (peace and love to Matt Healy, but he could NEVER).
Filipino-American artist Hayley Heynderickx is a name to be reckoned with in the folk industry. The acoustic energy of both her music and lyricism while transport you to a rainy day in the countryside, guaranteed. While all of her album “I Need to Start a Garden” is absolutely stunning, I would recommend “The Bug Collector,” “Oom Sha La La” and “Drinking Song” in particular, along with “Slow Talkin’,” recorded with Max García Conover.
From the melancholic and mournful to the delightful and dazzling, Japanese band Lamp presents great range but never fails from either end. Their songs “For Lovers” and “ゆめうつつ” will leave you nostalgic for something you never had, while “A都市の秋” and “Last Train At 25 O’clock” feel like sunshine audio-ified.
If you have not encountered Mitski at this point in your life, I am both confused by the life you lead and envious of it. One of the leaders of the sad-kid-indie genre, Japanese-American Mitski is the go-to for those of us in need of a good emotional cleanse. Most folks have probably heard “Nobody” and “Strawberry Blond” on TikTok, so allow me to take this time to direct you to some lesser-known gems. While every single thing that this woman has ever crafted is birthed in lyrical genius and I believe that not listening to her entire discography should be considered a federal crime, my current favorites would have to be “Real Men,” “Happy” and “Carry Me Out” (I want to die listening to this song).
Cultivating a gorgeous blend of R&B, alt and indie, Black, Filipino and Chinese artist Jelani Aryeh is defining his own genre of music as he makes his name known in the music community. Known for his banger “Stella Brown,” Aryeh’s music is defined by his catchy guitar riffs and resoundingly authentic voice. This is seen clearly in his new release “Marigold” and his older song “Where We Go,” which samples the classic guitar melody defining Declan McKenna’s “Brazil.”
An Indian-American experimental pop goddess, Raveena is an artist for the “I-like-pop-but-I’m-too-cool-for-pop” folks (myself included). The majority of her music has a very laid-back and soothing rhythm, which brings out the sweetness of her lyrics and the tone of her music as a whole. Her latest release, “Tweety,” signals a bit of a departure from this pattern—this song is much more of an energetic and bouncy song, but retains the sweetness found in her other music. In my interpretation, this one is meant to be listened to while driving with the windows down during a summer sunset (which I think is very visible in the pastel, y2k aesthetic that we see in the “Tweety” music video).
This one’s for the lo-fi folksy babes that we’ve got in the crowd. Filipino-American artist Jay Som takes aspects of indie, rock, alt and folk to create a delicately-cultivated sound that pulls at the heartstrings just a smidge (okay, more than a smidge). The sappy, lovey vibes of “I Think You’re Alright” and “Tenderness” are highly recommended for anyone who’s feeling sentimental or pining for a certain someone. If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat, try “Anything At All,” recorded alongside artists Bachelor and Palehound.
The musical genius baby of Korean-American artist Michelle Zauner, Japanese Breakfast is one of the most current and prominent artists of the indie genre. As if her melodically smooth and hypnotizing rhythms were not enough, her lyrics are both breathtaking and heartbreaking. While “Everybody Wants To Love You” and her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” are huge dopamine-boosters, “Boyish” and “Triple 7” are some of the best crying-songs known to man (but also, who hurt this woman?).
Another artist who many likely know from TikTok, Filipino-British artist beadadoobee has become one of the most well-known names in indie. Her song “death bed (coffee for your head)” with Powfu is one of the most popular sounds on TikTok, but her musical genius does not stop there. Another defining voice in the sad-kid-indie genre, her mournfully gorgeous sound is cultivated beautifully in songs like “Ceilings,” “1999” and “The Moon Song,” recorded with up-and-coming indie artist Oscar Lang.
This list offers just a small sampling of the talent and musicianship that the AAPI community has to offer—this month and every month, be sure that you are making an effort to diversify your playlists and listening queue!