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Landscape picture of a smartphone with Spotify open playing the Shang Chi album
Original photo by Dulani Hannadige
Entertainment

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The Album: an ode to the Asian Diasporic experience

I walked out of the theatre about two weeks ago absolutely blown away by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The acting, the visual effects, the fight choreography: everything added up to a beautiful movie and incredible viewing experience. I also left with “Swan Song” by Saweetie and NIKI echoing in my head as it was one of the songs that played during the end credits. Upon discovering that there was a soundtrack album to accompany the film, I sat down the next morning with my headphones on and dove in. Suffice it to say, the album did not disappoint. It’s been on repeat for the past two weeks and is definitely making an appearance on my Spotify Wrapped.

Executive produced by music collective 88rising—the leading music platform for Asian and Asian American artists across the world—in close collaboration with Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton, the album includes a range of different Asian and Asian American artists. Composed of 18 tracks, the album’s production and multilingual lyrics are inspired not just by the movie, but the Asian American and Asian Diasporic experiences.

Speaking on the album’s themes of familial love, parental dedication and growing up, 88rising’s founder Sean Miyashiro states, “This album is for their sacrifice, their grit, and their endless endurance to give us the platform to be great. We wanted to make music and write songs celebrating all of that, while marrying the themes of the film of cherishing family, being fearless, and realizing your destiny.”

Destin Daniel Cretton further elaborates, “The music on this album is the beating heart of our film. As we were editing Shang-Chi, we were constantly inspired by the early recordings coming in from these incredible musicians. When I first spoke to Sean about the idea for this album, we knew we wanted it to stand alone as a piece of work, but also be wrapped in the themes of our movie … themes of family, legacy, pain and healing.”

The entire album is excellent, and narrowing down this list was extremely difficult, but let’s get into some standout tracks, shall we?

  • The opener, “Always Rising” features Indonesian-born artists NIKI, Rich Brian and Warren Hue. The song sets the tone for the R&B and hip-hop heavy album beginning with dreamy, somewhat operatic vocals before giving way to heavier beats and Brian and Warren’s signature flow. The references are many, including Warren rapping about his overbearing mother who calls to say, “eat your food.”
  • “Diamonds + and Pearls” by Korean R&B artists DPR Live and DPR Ian, and peace. doesn’t sound like it’s about bubble tea but it very cleverly is. Pronounced “Diamonds, Tea and Pearls” the song references the boba or pearls in bubble teas, which originated in Taiwan.
  • “In The Dark” features well known R&B artists Swae Lee and Jhené Aiko and is characteristic of both their styles with sweet vocals and laid-back tempo. The song is accompanied by a music video telling the story of young East Asian kids going to prom with the two singers acting as performers at the event.
  • Korean and African American artist Anderson .Paak’s “Fire In The Sky” plays during the end credits of the movie and is one of Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s favorites from the album. The song’s retro vibes and Anderson’s smooth vocals fit right into the image of young love and California in the summer.
  • “Never Gonna Come Down” by Taiwanese American artist Mark Tuan from GOT7 and up-and-coming South Korean R&B and hip-hop artist BIBI can be heard in the background of one of the very last scenes in the movie. BIBI described the song as being about being who you are and Warren Hue, who wrote part the first verse and chorus, cites “guess you just a part of my scene, my movie” as his favorite line.
  • Serving as the official single off the soundtrack as well as the official 2021-2022 ESPN College Football season anthem, “Run It” by DJ Snake, Rick Ross and Rich Brian combines hip-hop, dance and cinematic music. The song notably plays during the pivotal bus fight sequence in the movie and even has a music video starring Shang-Chi himself, Simu Liu.
  • “Swan Song” also plays during the end credits of Shang-Chi and encompasses Xialing’s character from the movie. Featuring Filipino and African American rapper Saweetie and Indonesian singer NIKI, the song feels big and powerful. As NIKI describes it, “It’s an empowerment anthem that hopefully lifts up future generations of Asian kids around the world.” A worthy addition to anyone’s BBE playlists.
  • “Warriors” by Indonesian-born rapper Warren Hue and Korean artist Seori closes the album and tells the story of growing up, learning and adapting as an Asian immigrant. Warren cites a lack of Asian artists and role models growing up as part of the inspiration for the lyrics, and Seori states that she tried to sing with the joy, anger and sorrow she saw in the movie.

The album is brimming with talent, emotion and, quite frankly, is an incredible project from start to finish. I leave you with one last quote from 88rising and the enhanced playlist available on Spotify with introductions from some of the artists featured on the album:

These are the songs of the seeds that grew, us, wild and free filled with the the joy of new thrills. This is not just a soundtrack of a movie, these are the songs of our life, songs of our love, and a story that is still being written. Perfect love conquers all fears.”

Hi! I'm Dulani and I'm double majoring in International Studies & Sociology with a minor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at KU. I am an unapologetic introvert, pop culture nerd and the resident mom friend.
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