Words by Samantha Pak
In an effort to bring you more joy, we wanted to share a few of our favorite music videos—both the coolest new releases and older clips from AA+PI artists we think just don’t get enough mainstream play. This week’s theme: Songs that will get you moving. Have a video you think we should know about? Hit us up at [email protected].
‘Lonely in Tokyo’ by Mirei (2020): Dancey pop with substance
Music has always been a part of Mirei Touyama’s life. The Tokyo-based singer, who goes by her first name, made her English-language debut with her 2020 album, Take Me Away. With elements of R&B and electronic beats, Touyama’s songs may sound like just danceable pop music. But she’ll hit you with intimate lyrics that touch on heavier subject matters such as mental health and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, so you know her songs mean something.
“Lonely in Tokyo,” which is on Take Me Away, is a perfect example of Touyama’s ability to create pop music with substance. Based on two former classmates, the song is about the objectification of girls and women in Japanese culture. In the video, The song will have you dancing while lyrics like “Half-naked on the cover/Photoshopped like no other/I'm loved but I got no lover” will make you think about what it’s like to be a young woman in a big city.
‘Nobody’ by Mitski (2018): Dance away your loneliness
Mitski Miyawai was born in Japan and moved around the world with her family—including stints in Turkey, Malaysia, and the Czech Republic—before settling in the United States. She studied studio composition at Purchase College Conservatory of Music, where she released her first two albums as student projects. She released several other albums since then, and has collaborated with indie rock bands like Xiu Xiu and opened for the Pixies on their 2017 tour. As the daughter of a Japanese mother and American father, her music often reflects her cross-cultural identity and that feeling of not always belonging.
As an Asian woman, Mitski has said she feels the need to apologize for even existing—her most recent album, 2018’s Be the Cowboy (which includes “Nobody”) is about not apologizing for who you are. With lyrics like “So I open the window/To hear sounds of people,” and “And I don’t want your pity/I just want somebody near me,” “Nobody” is a tender song about loneliness with a catchy beat.
‘Forevermore’ by Yuna (2019): An ode to Malaysia
Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna started writing songs when she was 14. She taught herself how to play guitar soon after. Her 2008 self-titled EP won four Malaysian Music Awards (the country’s equivalent of the Grammys) and her 2016 breakout single “Crush” with Usher peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard Adult R&B chart. Some of her other collaborators include G-Eazy, Jay Park and Jhené Aiko.
In “Forevermore,” it’s clear that you can take a girl out of Malaysia (Yuna’s now based in Los Angeles), but you can’t take Malaysia out of the girl. The song, from Yuna’s 2019 album Rouge, is an ode to the singer’s home country, showcasing not just the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur but the gorgeous countryside of Yuna’s home state of Perlis. Also, dancing in music videos is my favorite thing and Yuna and all the amazing dancers here do not disappoint.
‘Evan Finds the Third Room’ by Khruangbin (2018): Funky beats from an AAPI-adjacent trio
Khruangbin—a trio from East Texas whose name means “flying engine” or “airplane” in Thai—doesn’t have any Asian members, but the group is heavily influenced by Asian pop, including Thai funk. Khruangbin’s music is definitely funky, with a definite international flair, which I totally dig.
Who remembers those iTunes commercials with Harry Shum Jr. walking around town listening to music while his shadow and reflection dance like we all wish we could? This is exactly what the video for “Evan Finds the Third Room,” off the group’s 2018 album Con Todo el Mundo, reminds me of—except here, we’ve got a middle-aged Asian woman busting the moves. The lyrics are minimal and don’t mean much because the real stars are the instrumentals. The funky beats, combined with this Asian aunty shaking her booty and not caring what anyone around her thinks, will have you smiling and wanting to shake your own groove thang to the music.
Published on September 12, 2022
Words by Samantha Pak
Samantha Pak (she/her) is an award-winning Cambodian American journalist from the Seattle area and assistant editor for JoySauce. She spends more time than she’ll admit shopping for books than actually reading them, and has made it her mission to show others how amazing Southeast Asian people are. Follow her on Twitter at @iam_sammi and on Instagram at @sammi.pak.