Single-phile: Far East Rising
by Mosi Reeves | October 11, 2010
The release of FaR*eAst Movement's Free Wired is notable for many reasons: The electro-hop crew's mainstream success after years of slogging away in the underground and local circuits. The coining of the word "slizzered." The popularization of ambiguous aviation metaphors. Perhaps most significant, however, is the fact that their major-label debut, containing the hit song "Like a G6," has made F.M. the first all-Asian American group to climb so high on the pop charts.
Asian artists have not historically fared well in American pop music -- or, perhaps more accurately, they have appeared not to fare at all. Try to name an Asian American pop star. If you're struggling, it's not because you haven't been paying attention -- but it's also not because Asian Americans haven't been involved in American pop music since such a thing came into existence. From the Asian big bands that traveled the jazz circuit in the early to mid-1900s to the world-renowned Filipino DJs in the 1990s turntablist movement, from old-school (but still kicking) R&B singer [Sugar Pie DeSanto(http://www.rhapsody.com/sugar-pie-desanto?pcode=edt&rsrc=blog&cpath=fareast) to behind-the-scenes movers and shakers like The Neptunes' Chad Hugo, from Jasmine Trias to Justin Bieber's all-Filipino backing band, Asian Americans have been active participants in pop music history. But that history, like race in America in general, has often been reduced to an almost exclusively black vs. white representation. In the last 10 years or so, Latino artists have begun to get some long overdue attention and chart success. But with a few notable exceptions (remember, for instance, Jin?), Asians have yet to receive the same.
Which is what makes Far*East Movement's success -- and this moment in general -- so exciting. Not only are the members of F.M. trailblazers, they are also not alone on the charts or the pop culture landscape right now. In this edition of single-phile, we review the rather impressive contributions Asian Americans have made to the hit-making universe lately.
Track: " If I Was You (OMG)"
Artist: FaR*eAst Movement
The most direct heir to the digital-Dionysian throne of " Like a G6," "If I Was You" is a club-oriented, bad-girl-wooing, Snoop Dogg-featuring party. Also featured: dumb, addictive lyrics like "you ain't a dime/ you's a silver dollar" (sadly, no aviation references this time). If you want to see another side of F.M., check out the pretty, almost pensive mid-tempo jam " Rocketeer" (the album's second single).
Track: " Liquor Store Blues"
Artist: Bruno Mars
The half-Filipino Mars is a multitalented chameleon capable of charming in any style. Here, he tries on a combination of dub and the blues, complete with plaintive vocals about drinking and a Damian Marley cameo. A slightly sadder version of Mars' sensitive smooth-talker shtick.
Track: " Rock That Body"
Artist: Black Eyed Peas
B.E.P.'s Apl.de.Ap was born and raised in the Philippines, a history he has paid interesting and sometimes provocative tribute to on the Peas' last two albums, with bio-track " The Apl Song" and the all-Tagalog " Bebot." No explicit Filipino references exist on The E.N.D., as the entire crew seems focused on tracing their origins back to another planet, as on the video for this neo-futuristic dance cut.
Track: " Eat You Up"
Before there was B.o.B., there was BoA, already a South Korean pop star of massive proportions before she set her sights on first Japan (success!) and then the U.S. (not so much). She hasn't quite taken off here, despite high-profile collabos ( Sean Garrett guests on this album) and slinky, smoking-hot dance-pop grooves like this one.
Track: " Sneakernight"
Artist: Vanessa Hudgens
The half-Filipino Hudgens' singing career has been overshadowed by her acting (OK, High School Musical) career (which has in turn been overshadowed by her partner in H.S.M. and life, that Efron kid). But this cut from her second album is a fun, funky effort that shows off Hudgens' surprisingly soulful(ish) vocals.
Track: " Let's Get Crazy"
The third single from the half-Filipino Cassie's long-delayed sophomore album flopped when it dropped last summer, which wasn't so surprising. The innocuous but relatively bland "Crazy" doesn't really live up to its name -- a kind of phoned-in cut from an artist known more for shaving half her head than her singing.
While you're listening, check out just a few of the mega-hits from internationally acclaimed Asian pop stars, who are HUGE in the rest of the world but virtually ignored in the U.S.
Track: " Nobody"
Artist: Wonder Girls
A hip-checking beat, pop-soul harmonizing and Korea's campy, candy-coated girl group=the hit that would not die in most of Asia.
Track: " Dirty Desire"
Artist: Utada Hikaru
Track: " Girls"
Boy-band bedroom vocals (with a hip-hop edge) and a Lil' Kim cameo from this Korean pop artist.