Guest Blogger GT makes it his mission to support and promote promising Asian-American musicians. Here he mixes up the unknowns with the famous for his top 10 favorite songs by Asian-American artists from the past 10 years.
Let me start off this list by saying it was nearly impossible to try and pick my top 10 favorite songs by Asian-American artists . One reason being, I didn’t really follow the scene heavily until a couple years into the decade and even then the pickings were a bit slim at the time. Also, I’ve opted to go for my personal favorite songs that have stood the test of time, and not just the most influential. Lastly, I’ve decided to stick strictly with Asian-American artists meaning UK import Jay Sean didn’t make the cut despite how much I love “Down.” All I can say is, it’s been really exciting to see more and more Asian-American artists make a name for themselves in the industry and I can only imagine next decade’s top 10 will be exponentially more difficult to sort out. As with any list there’s going to be some consensus and some disagreement but without further ado I present to you my top 10 from 2000 to 2009.
10. Utada — “Come Back to Me”
This Japanese-American singer has made a huge name for herself in Japan but still struggles to break into the US market. In 2004 she debuted in the states on Island Def Jam with the album Exodus but it did poorly domestically. Five years later in 2009, she comes back with her sophomore effort This is the One with the single “Come Back to Me.” I consider it to be one of the most under-rated songs of 2009 with its infectiously catchy chorus and strong mid-tempo R&B production. Although it wasn’t a hit, it surely deserved to be.
9. Chan — “Lonely Road”
Chan may be doing his thing in Korea now as part of the group Uptown but he’s got his roots in the Independent American Hip-Hop scene. Although he had been releasing tracks years beforehand, in 2006 Chan released “Lonely Road” from his debut full length album Politickin’ Vol. 1. Produced by the heavily sought after Filipino-American Illmind, the track cemented what Chan was going through as one of the few first Asian-Americans to find some level of success.
8. Daphne Loves Derby — “Hammers and Hearts”
Formed in 2001, Daphne Loves Derby (fronted by Kenny Choi) has gone on to find a sizeable audience despite being an independent band. In 2005 they released their sophomore album, On the Strength of All Convinced, along with the single “Hammers and Hearts” which remains one of my favorite rock songs to this day. The melancholy lyrics are contrasted by the upbeat music making for a catchy yet intriguing song.
7. Far East Movement — “Round Round”
Yes, I purposely decided against including “Girls on the Dance Floor” and opted to choose FM’s “Round Round” instead. While the former is easily their more successive single, it’s the latter that first broke them in to the major public eye to a sizeable degree. With a huge placement in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift film, this 2006 song was heard by millions whether they realized it not. The song is fun, pure and simple and for that reason it’s made the list.
6. Ken Oak — “End Credits”
Before Ken Oak was in Oak & Gorski, before he had formed the Ken Oak Band, and even before he started sharing his signature cello rock, he was just a solo artist from southern California. “End Credits” was released back in 2003 and to this day remains my favorite Ken Oak song yet. By discussing a break up in a very candid manner, Ken has given us a refreshing perspective in a genre often filled with clichés. His sound has changed a lot since then, in some ways making me appreciate the song that much more.
5. Decipher x Manifest x Lyricks x Johnnyphlo — “One of the Best”
When numerous talented MCs come together to collaborate, you pay attention. The Asian American Hip-Hop world has given me a number of choices to include on this list but in the end I had to choose 2009’s “One of the Best.” While I debated over other collabs such as “Movementality,” and “About that Money,” none of the other songs were executed quite as well as this one. Bringing together Decipher, Manifest, Lyricks, and Johnnyphlo, this track is bursting at the seems as each MC tries to one up each other, backing up the title of the song. Let’s hope the next 10 years have many more collective efforts similar to this one.
4. Jinny Kim — “Hold On”
Back in 2005 Jinny Kim released her debut album ‘Finding Ophelia’ with the production help of her now husband Koo Chung. The album has many strong singles but none more so than “Hold On,” a simple ballad speaking to those that seek encouragement in tough times. Although the song is thematically Christian, even those who do not follow the faith can appreciate her earnest and vulnerable expression of emotion and prayer.
Listen to it here!
3. Decipher — “Sinner’s Prayer”
Decipher makes his second appearance on this list although this time around as a solo artist. While there are many tracks I was considering from Decipher for this list, none of them have managed to top “Sinner’s Prayer.” This is one of the most honest songs I’ve ever heard as DC openly questions God and expresses why he struggles with the concept of faith. His perspective in this song is so fresh and frank that it easily stands out in a world where that’s becoming an increasing rarity.
2. Jay Legaspi — “10 Past 3″
Jay isn’t one of the most well known artists, but I’d argue he’s easily one of the most talented. Just as the title suggests, the song was written late in the night in 2002 after an emotional break up. Somehow Jay was able to channel the raw emotion into a simple yet beautiful song that perfectly captures those impressionable moments just after a split from someone very important in life. Consisting of only an acoustic guitar and Jay’s moving vocal, the song exhibits hope and sorrow all at the same time.
Listen to it here!
1. LWP — “Land With Three Sides”
Back in 2003, if there was one collective of Asian-American artists you had to respect it was Likwifakshun aka Likwit Productions aka LWP. Their song “Land With Three Sides,” an homage to their heritage and roots in Korea exemplified so much raw talent it was impossible to deny their abilities. Although the group continued to expand only to completely disband years later they remain one of the most influential Asian-American artists, especially among those who participated in like minded online communities. Even after all these years, the song has held up very well. That coupled with it’s sheer impact on the scene is why it’s my number pick of the decade.
Album images courtesy of the artists.