Jay Sean: Asian Male Hits #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100

“He’s Punjabi just like me!”

That’s what The Daughter’s Friend J said about Jay Sean, whose song “Down (Featuring Lil Wayne)” is number 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 at the time of this post.  I had heard the song before, but I had no idea that he was Asian.  Given the difficulties that Asians have had cracking the American market, I suspect that was part of the marketing strategy for him in the American market.

A singer-songwriter originally from England, Jay Sean dropped out of medical school to pursue his music career.   While in England, he took the stage name “Jay Sean,” which is probably more marketable than his birth name of Kamaljit Singh Jhooti.   He became known for working on projects fusing traditional Punjabi music and contemporary Pop and R&B (check out Dance With You) and has developed a following in many countries including India.  One commenter on the video to Down asked about the small amount of “Asian” music at the beginning, so it looks like he is adding some Asian elements but keeping it to a minimum.  I think that the fact that he could be made to pass for Hispanic (compare him in the Down video to the Dance With You video) helps him.  The overall strategy seems to be to minimize his Asianness.

I personally wish him much success and hope he can continue to break barriers.  I have seen comments about him like “the hottest Indian I’ve ever seen” (you can see him without his shirt toward the beginning of the Down video), so I think some barriers are already being broken!

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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