[Asian-Americans] Trying to Crack the Hot 100

Well, I found this New York Times article to be quite interesting, “[Asian-Americans] Trying to Crack the Hot 100” – Where is the Asian-American Justin Timberlake? Asian-Americans cite the “Asian thing” as keeping them from pop-star status.”

The article goes on to say:

“There are Asian-American stars in sports, movies, television and classical music. But the “Asian thing” is what Mr. Lee and many other aspiring Asian-American singers say largely accounts for the lack of Asian-American pop stars. People in the music industry, including some executives, have no ready explanation, but Asian-American artists and scholars argue that the racial stereotypes that hobble them as a group — the image of the studious geek, the perception that someone who looks Asian must be a foreigner — clash with the coolness and born-in-the-U.S.A. authenticity required for American pop stardom. Asian-Americans may be expected to play the violin or know kung fu, some artists and scholars say, but not necessarily to sound like Kanye West or Madonna, or sell like them. The issue came to the fore most recently on “American Idol,” where a Korean-American contestant, Paul Kim, 24, said he was giving music one last shot after many disappointments.”

This really struck me as quite sad considering how the Asian-American stereotypes have been relatively “positive” (as opposed to let’s say the stereotypes for other races and ethnicities). And this part of the article brought it home to me. I used to make light of all the negative comments regarding William Hung, but now realize how much damage he has done to today’s Asian-American stereotype. I think William Hung’s intentions have always been good, but the damage he has done is unknown with lots of negative ramifications:

“Asked to name the most recognizable Asian-American pop solo singer today… younger Asian-American artists agreed on one person: William Hung, the “American Idol” castoff who became an overnight sensation in 2004 for his off-key rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” ….That is why the case of William Hung stings, some artists admitted. Of all the Asian-American singers trying to make it, the one who seemed to have no trouble finding the limelight was a comic figure. “For Asian-Americans it was a collective cringe,” said L. S. Kim, a professor of film and television studies at the University California at Santa Cruz.”

One small step for William Hung as he has gained “fame” in his music career (if you can call it that – he’s sold three albums with sales of 200,000, 35,000 and 7,000 units respectively and perform at concerts, events and private and corporate parties. ” ) – and one giant leap backwards Asian-Americans.

Thus I think the excitement in the past year at least with positive or popular Asian-American role models in the media such as Yul Kwon and Masi Oka are encouraging to see, but Asian-Americans need the anti-William Hung to break the barriers at least for the music industry.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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