Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A spotlight on AAPI musical artists and recommendations

Some popular and up-and-coming artists to keep your eye on
Via Mitski’s official Facebook page

Asian American and Pacific Islander musicians have had a considerable affect on the music business, contributing to a wide range of genres and styles. However, AAPI musicians have encountered great difficulties and discrimination in the industry.

One of the most significant challenges for AAPI artists has been a lack of representation and exposure in the business. Many AAPI musicians have failed to break into the mainstream, and instead have been labeled as belonging to specific genres or stereotypes. This has resulted in less opportunities and exposure for AAPI musicians, making it difficult to reach a broader audience.

Despite these obstacles, AAPI musicians have made substantial contributions to the music business and have influenced many people through their music. They have also helped to draw attention to major social and political concerns, such as racism and discrimination, and helped to break down industrial boundaries and prejudices.

In the past decade, there have only been a handful of Asian American artists who have reached big, mainstream success. Olivia Rodrigo is one of the most talked about new artists in the music industry, and her first album “Sour” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Rodrigo has been vocal about her Filipino ancestry and has shown pride in her Asian background. Many fans have found Rodrigo’s success as a young Asian American musician to be encouraging, particularly those who have felt underrepresented in the entertainment business.

Prior to Rodrigo, only three other musicians of Asian descent had topped the charts in the previous decade: Bruno Mars, Far East Movement and BTS.

Here are some spotlights on Asian American artists and Pacific Islander artists and recommendations for your listening pleasure:

Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast is the musical project of head singer Michelle Zauner. Her Korean American heritage has played a significant role in her music, as her lyrics explore themes of identity, family and cultural heritage. In addition to her music, Zauner also wrote a memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” which explores her relationship with her mother and struggles with her identity. The book also delves into Zauner’s experiences growing up as a Korean American and her connection to Korean food, and it has garnered critical acclaim.


Mitski is a Japanese American indie singer-songwriter and musician whose Japanese heritage has influenced her music. She explores themes of identity, cultural displacement and the immigrant experience. In “Your Best American Girl,” Mitski sings about her struggles to fit in and find acceptance in American society, while also grappling with her Japanese heritage: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I finally do.”

Mitski’s Japanese heritage has also influenced her musical style. In an interview with The FADER, she mentioned how her mother played traditional Japanese music around the house, which gave her an early appreciation for melodies and harmonies. Mitski has also cited Japanese rock bands such as X Japan and Number Girl as influences on her music.

Additionally, Mitski has been vocal about the lack of representation of Asian women in the music industry. In an interview with Pitchfork, she talked about the pressures of being a minority artist: “There’s a certain responsibility to represent something when you’re a person of color, and that can be difficult.”


Joji’s music explores themes of heartbreak, loneliness and introspection, and his sound is a blend of R&B, lo-fi and alternative pop. He has cited artists such as Radiohead, Frank Ocean and James Blake as influences on his music.

In some of his songs, Joji has touched upon his experiences as an Asian person, particularly in the song “Ew,” where he addresses the stereotypes and microaggressions he has faced in the past.

His most recent album, “Smithereens,” received widespread acclaim with “Glimpse of Us” charting at number one on Spotify’s Global chart, becoming the first song by an Asian artist to reach that title.


This past October, NIKI came to the University of Massachusetts to deliver an intimate performance in the Fine Arts Center.

NIKI is an Indonesian singer, songwriter and producer who blends R&B, pop and electronic music and explores themes of self-discovery, love and growth. She has cited artists such as Frank Ocean, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar as influences on her music.

Songs such as “Every Summertime” and “High School in Jakarta” have gained popularity and have become staples in many summer playlists.

Warren Hue

Warren Hue is an Indonesian singer and rapper who was signed to the Asian American label 88rising in 2021.

His debut album “BOY OF THE YEAR” received positive reviews from various sources. He told Bandwagon that “We wanted to be honest with everything and just try to push the boundaries for what hip-hop or R&B music should sound like now and have an electronic twist to it, have almost like a futuristic vision for it. That’s what I really wanted to do for this project.”

In 2021, the breakthrough film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released in theaters and its soundtrack received widespread critical acclaim. Hue was featured on many of the tracks, singing alongside musicians such as NIKI, Rich Brian and Seori.


Beabadoobee is a Filipino-British singer, songwriter and guitarist. She blends indie rock, folk and pop, and explores themes of love, relationships and growing up.

Even if you haven’t heard of her name, chances are you have heard some of her songs. “Coffee” took over the internet as soon as it came out, and her recent album “Beatopia” took off at the beginning of last year. Songs like “the perfect pair” and “See you Soon” also became instant hits.

She most recently collaborated with Clairo to recreate her recent single “Glue Song,” featuring soft vocals and a melodic guitar background.


Umi is a Japanese-American singer, songwriter and producer known for her soulful and introspective music, which blends elements of R&B, jazz and neo-soul.

As a Japanese American artist, Umi incorporates her heritage and cultural experiences into her music. In her song “Sukidakara,” she sings in Japanese and explores the complexities of her bicultural identity.

Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak is a American singer, rapper, drummer and producer with African American and Korean descent. Although Anderson .Paak’s Korean heritage is not always a prominent aspect of his music, he has spoken about the impact that his Korean identity has had on his life and career.

In an interview with Korean media outlet Yonhap News Agency, Anderson .Paak expressed his pride in his Korean heritage and stated that it has influenced his music in subtle ways.

Anderson .Paak’s music is a fusion of genres, including hip-hop, soul, funk and R&B. He has collaborated with a diverse range of artists, including Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller. His lyrics touch on personal experiences and social issues, such as race, identity and poverty.


Raveena is an American singer, songwriter and producer of Indian descent.

Raveena has been vocal about the importance of her Indian heritage and its influence on her music. In an interview with Vogue India, she spoke about the significance of incorporating elements of her South Asian identity into her artistry. She has also used her platform to raise awareness about issues affecting the South Asian community, such as colorism and discrimination.


Dhruv’s music is a blend of pop, R&B and electronic influences, with lyrics that explore themes of love, relationships and self-discovery.

In an interview with Billboard, Dhruv spoke about the challenges he faced growing up as a first-generation Indian American, and how his experiences with identity and belonging have influenced his music. He has also used his platform to raise awareness about social and political issues affecting marginalized communities and to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in the music industry.

He released his debut single “double take” in 2019, while a still a third-year student at Yale University. The song gained popularity on TikTok and was placed on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist in 2021.

Kaviya Raja can be reached at [email protected].

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