Exploring Asian American Artists with EASTBOUND
Words by Justin Huang
- boylife is the solo project of Ryan Yoo of mmmonika, a Los Angeles-based indie band. The boylife sound was first introduced with the song peas, a song more reminiscent of a slow R&B song with upscaled production and poetic lyricism. While the song itself is impressive, Yoo’s skills were truly shown off with the release of his 2021 album, gelato.
- Two songs, in addition to his freshman single, stand out among the rest. “church,” with its pitched-up, choppy gospel and organ samples, creates a confused, possibly angry view of religion. Yoo’s identity as a gay man conflicts heavily with the values of the church, as well as with the expections of his parents, who are Koreans and are devoted to their Christian church.
- “superpretty,” another song on the album, focuses more on the perception of Asian Americans in the US, posing questions such as “young and colored in America, tell me who gon’ wanna stare at ya?” “superpretty,” with its hyper-production beat, distorted bass, and powerful vocals, offers a rebuttal to these negative perceptions of Asian Americans in saying, “I’m a star, and I’m super super pretty.”
- Overall, Ryan Yoo produces complex, thoughtful work through the name of boylife, fighting stereotypes and finding comfort in his identity altogether.
- Only in his second year at UC Berkeley, Charles Park aka Chasu has made a name for himself as the primary producer and close friend of Warren Hue, an up-and-coming rapper under prolific pan-Asian label 88rising. Chasu launched his solo career as many artists do, through small sound bites on Soundcloud, taking a break from his own projects to work with Warren Hue on his 2019 album, SUGARTOWN.
- With his debut EP, bury me instead, Chasu creates a melancholy, bittersweet atmosphere with his two songs, sweet decay and seance, in which he explores themes of loss and love, an undeniably dangerous combination that culminates in his EP
- “sweet decay” makes heavy use of an electric guitar, as well as synths and other elements that make the song sound full and flat all the same, until the swelling chorus, which ends with the question: “언젠간 괜찮아지겠지?” (Will you be okay someday?)
- “seance” is a beautiful song. Utilizing all instruments from strings to horns to piano to a glockenspiel, the song as a whole is tied together with crisp, tasteful drums. Chasu is definitely an artist to keep on your radar.
- Monsune, also known as Scott Zhang, is an indie pop artist with a focus on high-production R&B, released his EP Tradition just before disappearing off the face of the Earth.
- On Tradition, Monsune brings out songs with dramatic swells and chilling outros in songs that can never be forgotten after even just one listen. Described as Gambino’s “Redbone” with an indie twist, Monsune creates songs that are both catchy yet out of many people’s vocal ranges.
- However, Monsune has not released a song since 2019.
- Sen Morimoto utilizes many styles and themes throughout his three-album discography,. The Japanese-American artist incorporates many styles into his music: rap, jazz, and rock just to name a few.
- The two songs on the playlist, released just two years apart, seem to belong to two entirely different genres, showing the versatility Sen Morimoto uses in his music.
My show, EASTBOUND, is an Asian music show where I play Asian music from around the world. While I play some music in English, I also play a lot of foreign language music. Tune in Saturdays at 3 AM at this link here if you’re awake!