Asians Half a Voice

(Imported from: [link])

I listen to a lot of music, and while I don’t really pay much attention to pop, I do notice a lot of things.  For instance, the other day I was trying to count how many Asian American women I could think of that were in the music business, whether it be mainstream, independent, or on YouTube, and I noticed something: a lot of them are half-Asian.  So of course I had to ask myself, why is that?

For reference, let’s make that list, shall we?

Priscilla Ahn (half-Korean)
Meg and Dia Frampton (half-Korean)
Kina Grannis (half-Japanese)
Norah Jones (half-Indian)
Cathy Nguyen ([half?]-Vietnamese)*
Thao Nguyen (Vietnamese)
Karen O (half-Korean)
Utada Hikaru (Japanese)

*I always thought Cathy Nguyen was half-white, but I couldn’t find anything anywhere to make sure either way.

I went on Wikipedia (I know, such a reliable scholarly source!) for their ethnicities.  Six out of eight of the people on that list are half-Asian (two are sisters, but still).  As with any phenomenon, there might be several factors playing into this at the same time.  Maybe it has something to do with…

…the growing rate at which Asian American women have been marrying men outside their race.  It’s no secret that Asian women have become decreasingly attracted to Asian men, because of their emasculation in mainstream media or whatnot.  Maybe the presence of half-Asians in the music business is the result of this.

…the increasingly liberal outlook half-Asian couples have on occupations.  Okay, maybe I’m just making this up.  Or maybe I’m onto something.  If an Asian marries an Asian, maybe their kids will end up being super-Asian.  That’s where you get the doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.  But if an Asian marries a white dude, maybe that’s where you get the artists, writers, and of course, the musicians.  (Yeah, I’m full-Viet, and yeah, I’m majoring in English, but hey, maybe I’m one of the lucky ones whose parents just wanted me to go into something I’d be happy doing.)

…their visibility from my side of town.  I don’t live under a rock, but I don’t really actively look for Asian/Asian American music to listen to, either.  And you might’ve noticed that none of the women I listed are involved in hip-hop/rap.  Maybe there are a bunch of Asian female rappers I don’t know about.

…their popularity, which has less to do with me and more to do with what the general public is interested in.  Why does it seem like Thao Nguyen, who as far as I can tell is fully Asian, isn’t as popular as Kina Grannis, who’s huge on YouTube, and Meg and Dia, who’ve gained some popularity after Dia’s run on The Voice?  Of course, Thao is an indie musician, with very indie-styled music, so maybe that has to do with it.  Or maybe the general public only starts to care when the person is half-white.

But at the end of the day, does any of this matter, this categorization of whether someone is fully Asian or half-Asian?  Will it change the way the world spins?  Probably not.  So why did I just spend all this time writing this post in the first place?  Because it’s something I noticed, and it’s something I find interesting, and it’s something some other people might find interesting as well.  Some people will make music and some people will make cures to diseases.  It doesn’t matter if they’re fully Asian, half-Asian, or not Asian.  At the same time, it’s pretty cool that we have Asian Americans in the music business to begin with, even if they are half-Asian.  It shows that we’re not just about math, science, and engineering, that we’re capable of doing all these other different things as well.


7 thoughts on “Asians Half a Voice

  1. driftkidrx7

    Now that you mention it, I don’t know that many Asian American female singers besides Lisa Wong who is now in Japan. And besides Norah Jones, I think I know any other Asian American singers. The Asian singers I know are Utada Hikaru from Kingdom Hearts, BoA a singer who can sing in Japanese, Korean and English who has some of her albums in English now, and Coco Lee who sang the main theme song of Mulan in Mandarin. As much as I see a couple here there I don’t see very many Asian American singers that are mainstream.
    -Jonathan Saavedra

  2. belgianrofl

    Although I do agree with prominence of out marrying among Asian American females, I believe the crux of the swing in popularity towards hapas is largely in part due to visible phenotype discrepancies. Going off Jason’s presentation about plastic surgery, it is established that there is a large bias towards the idealization of the Western image of female aesthetics. I believe that the hapas Anglo characteristics make it easier for viewers to identify with.
    -Max Agabon

  3. Mc Alnair Casanova

    Max Agabon has a great point about the Asian’s plastic surgery and the Half Asian trends that is going on our society.This two examples are part of two ways Asian foreigners try to assimilate in this country . Going back to the blog, it is really good to see Asians are making their way to mainstream media by not just having side roles in movies or TV shows. Asians are starting to emerge as musicians and dancers . The contestants in the show ” American Best Dance Crew, I noticed that all of the groups that win that contest contains members that are majority Asians. This shows that Asians are very well rounded people.
    – Mc Alnair Casanova

  4. Mariel Calinog

    Having half-Asian and White children can also mean that they want them to have physical features that will have both their Asian features and also features of the superior race. They also tend to have even more of an exotic look. This can be a good and bad thing. This can either feed the stereotype of being the exotic and sexual object that everyone desires because of their features or they can be taken in a positive light by embodying two cultures.

  5. chelseaeh2

    I found this post very interesting and eye opening. I had never taken the time to think about Asian American women in specific in the music industry. Thinking about it now, I do not know of any Asian American women that sing, nor have i heard of the few you posted in your blog. I’m intrigued to look these women up and learn more about them and their music. It is interesting to think that these Asian American women, involved in the music industry that are half Asian could possibly have this career because they are from an interracial family. When growing up in an Asian-non Asian family the children run the risk of losing sight of some of the more traditional Asian ways and are able to live more freely.

  6. educatewwyyf

    I don’t exactly know that many Asian American singers. Like you mentioned the ones I know of are also bi/multiracial. I listen to a lot of foreign and oversees music including J-pop, J-rock, J-indie, C-pop, C-indie, K-pop, K-indie, as well as traditional Asian folk music. I’ve been exposed to these musics and listening to these genres since i was little. Honestly, I prefer listening to these music genres rather than the typical mainstream western music playing on the radio. I don’t necessarily understand the languages spoken but the sound of their music speaks volumes to me. Unfortunately there is a strong trend to Westernize the music which I feel alters the beauty and unique sound and quality.
    In regards to Asian American singers, there are many who aren’t able to gain footing in the U.S. music industry (most probably because the “Asian” image is not that of typical musicians in America) and decide to go back to Asia where they actually “make it big” there. Singers such as Utada Hikaru and Vanness Wu are two examples of this situation.
    Far East Movement is the only Asian American music group that I know of that has recently made it to mainstream popularity and fame. Hopefully there are more out there to give Asian Americans a name in Western music.

    -Amaris Lim

  7. educatewwyyf

    I think appearance and perception has a lot to do with being successful in general. In regards to appearance, you either have to be original or fit into the part if that makes sense. That’s why I think artists who are half Asian “fit” the role as being musicians. Being half Asian for the most part means that you don’t look like the stereotypical Asian. People judge artists a lot by their appearance because their perception of you is among the deciding factors that makes a listener tune in. “Looking Asian” or being Asian hinders Asian musicians’ opportunities in the music industry. Therefore, unless media can change who fits the role, Asians will always be underrepresented in music.

    Alyssa N


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