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 AAPI artists we think just don’t get enough mainstream play. This week’s theme: LGBTQ+ artists and allies. Have a video you think we should know about? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Headaches’ by Raveena (2020): The heady feeling of falling in love
Raveena Aurora grew up in a traditional Sikh household with parents who immigrated to the United States from India. Her exposure to R&B, soul, jazz and folk in middle school piqued her interest in music. Aurora blends those early influences from her younger years to create a sound that is very much new school R&B—reminiscent of H.E.R. and Jhené Aiko as well as the lesser-known but equally amazing Sinéad Harnett (look her up)—while exploring themes of self-love, sensuality, spirituality and healing from trauma. Aurora has also been featured in campaigns alongside fellow outspoken female musicians such as Lizzo, Awkwafina and Hayley Kiyoko and has co-headlined festivals with H.E.R. as well as Toto.
“Headaches,” from Aurora’s 2020 EP Moonstone, is all about those early days of falling for someone. In the video, we see Aurora and her new love as the two women share kisses, their art, dim sum dates, walks around the city and even a trip to the pet store. It’ll remind you of those moments with your love when all you want to do is be with them.
‘Cherry’ by Rina Sawayama (2018): A declaration of self-love
Rina Sawayama made her U.S. TV debut in 2020 with an incredible performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Earlier that year, Sawayama made headlines in the UK when she revealed she was ineligible for the Mercury Prize and Brit Awards because she’s not a British citizen, though she’s lived in London since she was 5. Instead, Sawayama, a Japanese citizen, holds indefinite leave to remain status, which grants her permanent residency. Her situation got people talking, including Elton John, who said her album Sawayama (2020) deserved to be among the list of nominees for the Mercury Prize. After Sawayama went public, it sparked a conversation and those in charge of the awards have changed the eligibility rules.
This penchant for speaking out and sharing her truth carries over to Sawayama’s music and her single “Cherry” is the embodiment of this. Rocking a pink pixie cut and fierce makeup, Sawayama sings, “Now I wanna love myself/'Cause nothing else is guaranteed.” If that’s not a declaration of self expression, I don’t know what is.
‘Forever’ by Nic Masangkay feat. Falon Sierra (2019): Honest vulnerability
We all have baggage that can stop us from getting things and being with the people we want. But as the Seattle-based Filipinx artist Nic Masangkay shows us in “Forever,” admitting to that kind of vulnerability might just get you that much closer.
Masangkay’s talents go beyond singing and songwriting. As a queer trans poet, music producer and audio engineer, they describe their art as “trauma pop.” Through their music, Masangkay sings about their own unique experiences. Masangkay has said being an artist is about “archiving in real time, paying attention to what so many overlook as mundane, everyday life,” and that’s reflected in the music. From gender identity to living in the diaspora, Masangkay lays meaningful lyrics over pop beats that will make you think.
In “Forever,” off of their 2019 album Dark at Dusk: The Final Suicide, Masangkay’s vulnerability is on full display. As Masangkay and Falon Sierra sing, “Nobody can promise forever/And I wanna promise you this life/But someone broke me long ago/Now nobody can fix me right,” you can hear the pain in their voices. If you’ve ever been there, Masangkay and Sierra are here to tell you that’s okay. We’re all only human.
‘Boyish’ by Japanese Breakfast (2018): Nostalgia awash in bisexual lighting
Japanese Breakfast is the musical project of South Korean-born Michelle Zauner, whose family moved to Oregon when she was 9 months old. Zauner’s earlier music days included another solo project called Little Girl, Big Spoon, and an indie pop band called Post Post. Later, she started an emo band called Little Big League, and was the frontwoman before returning to Oregon when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Zauner, whose music has been described as experimental pop and lo-fi, has said she hopes she can influence more Asian Americans to get involved in music.
“Boyish” is all about nostalgia. With its soft chorus and the sentimental guitar solo, the song, off of 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet, reminds me of the Beach Boys. And then there’s the video. Set at a school dance and awash in the pink, purple, and blue of bisexual lighting, it follows a tuxedo-clad young woman, seemingly interested in a boy at the dance and/or Zauner, who is playing at the dance. It’ll take you back to those days when wanting someone to love you was everything.
Published on December 19, 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.