Asian Air 


Is the U.S. Ready for Asian American Pop Stars?
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:57:37 PM)

ime was when we saw literary fame or Hollywood stardom as the final frontier for Asian acceptance in the U.S. More recently the frontier shifted to pro sports and national politics.
     A year into the 21st Century we see Asian lights going on in the literary world, Hollywood and pro sports. We even see Asian Americans in two cabinet posts. But one arena remains starkly devoid of Asian stars -- the pop music scene.
james iha
James Iha, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist/backup vocals & solo recording artist

     Classical stars like Yo-Yo Ma, Seiji Ozawa and Vanessa Mae are old news. We've noted Japanese imports like Shonen Knife, Keiko Matsui and Pizzicato Five. We've marveled at the unlikely hit "Sukiyaki". Many of us have spotted James Iha in Smashing Pumpkins and Jeff Lin in Harvey Danger, or maybe even heard of Asian American bands like Seam and Versus.
     But where is pop music's Chow Yun-Fat, Ichiro, Chang-rae Lee, Norman Mineta?
     One indication of our lack of presence in pop music is the fact that Ming-Na and husband Eric Zee have even financed a record label (Innovazian) in hopes of promoting an Asian American pop/R&B boy group -- a sort of private Head Start program for pop music. Few of us even know its name (At Last). Its first CD sold all of 3,000 copies.
     Those of a paranoid or cynical bent will postulate conspiracies among racist, short-sighted heads of major record labels. The sociologically inclined will see pop music as the inner sanctum of American culture and Asians as the perpetual outsiders.
     But for purposes of this page, put on your music critic/historian hat and prognosticate the most likely path by which an Asian star will ascend to the American pop firmament. Will it be a Canto-Pop, J-Pop or K-Pop star storming the U.S. via the import route? Will it be a surprise chart-topper by an AA artist (say James Iha with another, more successful solo album)? Or will there be a frontal assault by a wave of AA groups/artists currently playing the club and auditorium circuits?

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What the hell are you guys talkin about?!?!?!?! asians can make it if they have the drive for it!! there is an asian rapper (i think 2 of them) that raps on 106andpark. and the going to make it by the next year with the ruff ryders. yall aint never hear of clipses either have u?? they asian!!! and they made it with black producers and everything.

they said that blacks could never be on tv, be famous, be educated, or taught marial arts and we all that and then some!! thats becus we have the drive for it and yall can do it to, if you stop complaining and do something about it. african americans on top right now and whites are mad but who cares!!! f*** what people have to say about yall and just do it!!! email if you have any thing to say, thanks
black_princess    Thursday, April 17, 2003 at 11:35:49 (PDT)    []
There's a difference between a GOOD song and a HIT song. And good is relative anyway...

There are plenty of indie artists that won't ever get the recognition that artists on major labels will get, because they chose that for themselves. Indie labels don't have the budget or clout to break artists into the mainstream, but some artists (and fans) prefer that so let that be what it is.

As for a hit song, yes it's all politics and radio stations are run by major corporations, but if a song is a hit song, then the chances of it getting on radio are huge. It seems like you guys think Asian Americans haven't made it in the music business because it has something to do with race but it's mostly because like someone said, Asians do only make up 4% of the US. So the chances of one getting through is slimmer, that's all. I think the lack of Asian Americans in the ent. industry is also because most Asian parents are old fashioned and very intent on having their children graduate from Ivy leagues in the top percentile of their class. Felial piety is something that is instilled in most Asian children from the very beginning, and not to generalize too much.. but White, Hispanic and Black parents are not as strict about education. So there are more non Asians who are willing to risk it all to break into the entertainment industry.
   Friday, April 04, 2003 at 15:50:38 (PST)    []
There are some groups out there like Urban Xchange who are asian, but make music which is very american. if one did not know of their origins, one may easily mistake them to be american. I don't see why groups like these, who make american-friendly music that would definitely appeal to the us market, can't break into the american market.
   Friday, April 04, 2003 at 00:33:42 (PST)    []
The reality is that as long as Asians are only 4% of the U.S. population, we will never have Asians making it very big. That is because entertainment is all about marketing and making money.
An Asian artist has a small shot of being on MTV and the radio because they are controlled by the music companies. These companies pay MTV and the radio to play songs. Talent isn't very important, just someone who can sell records (like crappy boy bands that lip-synch to digitally altered music).
   Wednesday, April 02, 2003 at 13:53:12 (PST)    []
However, hit songs are made, not written. There are countless numbers of independent artists who write songs better than the drivel penned by the likes of Diane Warren or the Matrix for major label acts. Unfortunately, with the consolidation of these labels and the deregulation of radio station ownership over the past decade or so, mainstream music has become less and less diverse, lowering the music-buying public's expectations for artistic expression in popular music. Thus, what is defined as a "hit song", not to mention the supposed talent responsible for its creation, is not based on any objective musical standards these days, but rather is solely at the discretion of the record industry, which will continue to bank on (and bankroll) the only surefire sells it knows - midriffs and mook machismo. Even otherwise radio-friendly independent bands like the Shins or the Walkmen, who possess tenfold the song craftsmanship and integrity by comparison, can't compete with sheer dollar signs.

Therefore, it's pointless to throw Asian-American artists at this board, hoping one will stick, because unless they've got someone rooting for them on the inside, even a hit song isn't worth much (that is, apart from immediate royalties earned, obviously). Think of the fellow from OMC, who had that incredibly catchy song "How Bizarre" a few years back. He was Maori, but I don't think anyone cared a whit for the band - they liked the song, a fluke success, nothing more. The only real chance for Asian-American acts (or anyone, for that matter) to gain any kind of decent stature within popular music is for them to amass a loyal following through the regional circuits, independently. This is how REM both got there, and stayed, and it's what a number of Asian-American bands are already in the process of doing.

Yes, Big Head Todd and the Monsters were (still are?) a good band, though they probably wouldn't be thought of as popular.
Oakland indie kid
   Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 22:21:35 (PST)    []
Yeah, but how does a song blow up? It has to get played on the radio. But radio playlists are tightly-controlled commercials for the major labels. It's all controlled by the suits.

You'll have to be a major undeniable talent to break thru on your own.
Men in Black..
   Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 09:28:54 (PST)    []
Think of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. The lead singer is Asian and that band rocks, they've got a lot of talent and they're very original.
Irish Dude
   Monday, March 31, 2003 at 21:59:35 (PST)    []
It seems as though almost all of you have gone pretty off subject from the article. The topic at hand is whether or not Asian Americans have a chance in the UNITED STATES, not how well they did in Asia or Europe or wherever, because the pop market overseas are very different (ESPECIALLY Asia). I will bet anyone any amount of money that neither BoA or Ayumi Hamasaki or any other extremely famous Asian artist will ever make it in the US if they were to be marketed the exact same way they are in Asia. Let's face it, the markets are VERY different.

The one surefire way to make it in the US industry, whether you're White, Asian, Hispanic or whatever... is a HIT SONG. I cannot stress enough how important hit songs are.. With a hit song, it won't matter if you are the ugliest or the prettiest looking thing in the world. It doesn't even matter if you're talented, just as long as you have a song that has that appeal (in other words, radio friendly), you will definitely make a big splash in the industry. There's a chance that you might become a one hit wonder, but if you have several hit songs then you'll probably easily go platinum (with the right push from a label of course). So all of these "will Asian Americans make it in the US?" questions being thrown back and forth to eachother is ridiculous... because yes, it's VERY POSSIBLE. But ONLY if they have the right songs will it happen.
   Monday, March 31, 2003 at 14:48:15 (PST)    []