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Breaking Down Barriers: Notable Asian Womxn in Today’s Music

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

As an Asian-American woman, I don’t know what’s worse: often feeling overlooked, or being stereotyped to be “shy” or “timid.” These inspiring Asian womxn in today’s music effectively defy these notions through demanding attention to their music, which is often raw, honest, and more often than not loud. Not only are they overcoming various obstacles and barriers in the industry by making it as a womxn and Asian, but they’re also staying proud and true to their creative craft and style. Here’s five artists (out of many more) who are currently redefining and breaking down previous definitions of what it means to be an Asian womxn. 


1. Beabadoobee 

Philippine-born singer-songwriter Bea is currently making waves in indie music, with her song “Coffee” reaching over 18 million streams on Spotify. Personally, my favorite song of hers (and what led me to discover her talent in the first place) is her cover of “The Moon Song.” It’s an equally low-key version as the original from the movie Her, excellent for quiet evenings. 

2. Rina Sawayama 

Rina Sawayama got me back into pop music. She’s a Japanese-British singer, songwriter, and model. I always remember her as having one of the best aesthetics out there. Her music videos are very colorful and out-of-the-box, just like her fashion and makeup style. She’s definitely confident and experimental in many ways. If you’re listening to her for the first time, I highly recommend “Cherry.” This song’s melody is unforgettable and reminiscent of early 2000s pop.

3. Mitski

Mitski, a Japanese-American musician, is an alternative genre fan favorite with her most popular song, “Nobody,” with over 29 million streams. I remember the first time I listened to the song, I initially dismissed it, but then later on I found myself singing the chorus in my head! Some of Mitski’s music is definitely genre-blurring, but honest and poetic in her lyrics. I highly recommend her album Be the Cowboy for a first listen into her work.

woman at a concert putting hands in a heart shape
Unsplash, Anthony Delanoix

4. Awkwafina

Who hasn’t heard of Awkwafina at this point? She’s a rapper, actress, and comedian featured in popular films like Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. She’s done a lot to bring Asian-Americans to mainstream media, and through her success and hard work has paved the way for future Asian-Americans to pursue their dreams in music or film and TV. While her last album was released in 2018, many of her songs are still as amazing as ever, like “Testify” and “Pockiez,” which speak on issues like feminism and what she’s faced living in New York.

5. Ruru

Singer and songwriter Ruru, (or Denice Quimbo) is an up-and-coming indie/ alternative artist from Manila, Philippines. I found her through her collaboration with Filipino-American artist Mellow Fellow in the song “It’s Okay to Dream.” Upon first listen, this song has (and will always be) one of my favorites from both artists. They effectively combine elements of both jazz and indie that sound pleasant to hear, and their voices mesh perfectly together. Ruru definitely needs more credit where it’s due, because her contribution to indie music so far has been unmatched!

Hayley is currently a fourth-year student at UC Davis, majoring in Human Development with a minor in Communication. You can often find her listening to True Crime podcasts, watching classic movies (yet, her true favorite is 'Ratatouille'), and obsessing over cats.
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