10 Amazing AAPI Women to Add to Your Playlist During AAPI Heritage Month (And the Rest of the Year, Too)

Better than 4Town, believe it or not!

Happy AAPI Heritage Month! It’s a great time of the year for everyone to start educating themselves, both in AAPI cultures, and in the serious matters affecting these communites. In this case, I’m happy for the chance to talk about a topic I care about very dearly: AAPI rep in music, specifically regarding women.

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The music industry is notoriously awful for WOC, and even on a smaller scale in local scenes, it can be difficult for Asian women to get a foothold if they don’t fit a certain stereotype (i.e. that cutesy, waifish B.S. that white people expect us to be). Thankfully, there’s already a sizable canon of badass AsAm women in music who are breaking stereotypes and making their own damn things, and I can’t wait to share them with you all.


(Dead Oceans)

Many of you probably already know Mitski, one of the heroes of modern indie music. Mitski was the original trailblazer, whether she expected to be or not, and there’s already a plethora of modern songwriters who can cite her as their inspiration for getting into music in the first place.

Recently, she released “Laurel Hell,” her first new album since 2019’s “Be the Cowboy.” Laurel Hell was named after Mitski’s own frustrations and jadedness regarding her fame as a musician, and the feeling of wanting to escape—yet, not quite knowing what to do. Those feelings translate beautifully into her music, and while I sympathize greatly with her pain, it cannot be denied that this is yet another album that demonstrates her immense, natural talent. I just hope that with the success of this album comes a reprieve for her, in whatever form that may take.


Also with a new album is Sasami, a longtime veteran of music scenes, who now, more than ever, is breaking out with fists swinging. Whereas once she stayed on the indie-rock side of things, Sasami is now in the mode of “appropriating white maleness” by way of her new album, “Squeeze,” which is unapologetically metal as hell. I was fortunate enough to see her perform twice in the past six months, and both times were borderline religious; there’s something really, truly incredible about seeing a woman like Sasami get up in full bondage gear and scream about her trauma with a smile on her face.

(Domino) Featuring Patti Harrison, we stan.

Someone on her Instagram page left a comment that went something like, “Reclaim Asian rage!!!” And to that I say, YES.

Japanese Breakfast Takeover (and Yoko)

Michelle Zauner of the band “Japanese Breakfast” has been incredibly busy these past couple of years, and we’re all the better for it. J Brekkie has been an indiehead staple for years, with a steady output of inventive, introspective tunes that can easily occupy your whole day. The culmination of their growth—both as a band and as a reflection of Zauner—is evident in their newest album, “Jubilee,” which was released this time last year.

(Dead Oceans)

The album is a poppy departure from the moodier tunes of yore, and combined with the release of Zauner’s book, “Crying at H-Mart,” it definitely feels like it’s a product of emotional release. [And speaking of, let me say that everyone should be getting this book. Zauner’s ability to convey feelings that most people keep hidden deep inside, particularly related to grief, is incredible. Not every musician goes on to prove their chops as an author, but Zauner is absolutely one of them. Read the book.]

The last thing that Zauner’s been up to is her cover of Yoko Ono’s “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do,” which is part of a larger Yoko tribute album called, “Ocean Child.” J Brekkie’s cover hits emotional notes that make it difficult to listen to cavalierly. Which is to say, it’s very, very good. All it takes is Zauner’s voice and a piano, and the point is conveyed: this is a painful, yet beautiful song about love.

Oh, speaking of–

Yoko Ono (Particularly the tribute album, ‘Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono’ by various artists)

Official art for Yoko Ono tribute album Ocean Child
(Atlantic Records)

Yeah, hating Yoko is passé. We’re over it. If you’re still on the hate bandwagon just because you think you should be, I dunno what to tell you, other than: damn, what a poser!

Yoko is many things, but first and foremost, she was an Asian woman making art in an America that didn’t want her, yet she kept doing it anyway. I’ll always love and respect her for that, and therefore, I have endless appreciation for the fact that so many talented artists came together to make this tribute album, ‘Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono.’

It’s a fantastic, modern take on her music, featuring a diverse array of artists: we’ve got big-timers like David Byrne and The Flaming Lips, and we’ve also got other AsAm women, like Jay Som, Thao, and Deerhoof. All in all, it’s a beautiful album, even separate from all the other fanfare surrounding it, and it deserves a listen by anyone even remotely interested in new music.

mxmtoon and ‘Life is Strange’

Let’s get into some new talent now, because there’s always someone trying to make it, and it’s worth celebrating when they do. Oakland-based Maia, A.K.A. mxmtoon, is such a person, and at only 21, she’s been able to do great things with her music.

I have to admit, even though I’m not that much older than Miss Toon, I can’t help but be bewildered by how she got to where she is. Maia is from a generation where being constantly online has actually helped them get ahead in life, and in this case, Maia’s online friendships with musicians and her boldness in sharing her music were essential in helping her get her start.

Now, Maia’s topping charts and even starring in video games: she’s the singing voice for Alex Chen in the hit game “Life is Strange: True Colors,” as well as the composer of a few original songs for the game. Her performance as Alex covering “Blister in the Sun” is pretty cute and sweet:

(Square Enix)

I’m not normally a huge fan of bedroom pop. I have a hard time accepting that this is one of the only ways for young women to get recognition in the music scene, by leaning into softness, and I often wish more young women would be bolder and more aggressive in their musicality in order to push boundaries. But I also recognize that getting anywhere at all as an Asian musician, and doing so on your own terms, is something to celebrate with vigor and earnestness. I adore mxmtoon and I’m incredibly proud of how far she’s come, especially considering how young she is. I just hope the industry doesn’t eat her up, and that she’s able to maintain her independence moving forward.

Watch out, industry—mess with these girls and you’ll have to deal with ME.

Other Artists to Get Hip To

Recently, while talking to some guy, I brought up how much this topic means to me, and he replied, thinking he was oh-so-clever, “You guys already have Awkwafina, isn’t that enough?”

Let’s ignore, for a second, that that was the weakest neg in the history of negging, and just focus on the point of that statement. The fact that this was a joke to this random guy only proves to me that we need to celebrate diversity in music more, especially when it comes to Asian women. Asian women are constantly commodified in ways that often go unexamined by the masses. So, to finish off this article, I’m going to share some other Asian American women in music who I love—including


Like how do you even top this: “Flip a stereotype, how a Asian bitch got concubines?”

Deb Never

Then there’s Deb Never, who got a brief shot upwards when she featured on BROCKHAMPTON’s 2019 album, “Ginger.” Gotta show love for our gaysians in hip-hop:

(We Did It Collective)

Jay Som

I previously mentioned Jay Som, who’s been taking somewhat of a quieter approach to music lately. Her ‘Ocean Child’ cover was beautiful, and I look forward to seeing what new things she may bring to us in the future:


Hana Vu

Of course, I gotta show some love for newer acts, especially in my hometown of LA. Hana Vu blew me away when she opened for another act, years ago, when she was just a teenager in high school. She was confident, loud, and honest, and none of that has changed in the years since (girl opened for Willow, we gotta stan). Rooting for you, Vu, keep it up!


Shilpa Ray

Lastly, to cap things off, I’m gonna show some love for some good ol’fashioned (but not really) East-Coast punk, with my girl Shilpa Ray. Shilpa Ray got me through some tough times because she screamed when I couldn’t. I hope she’ll help you scream, too, and I hope she’ll keep screamin’ for years to come.


Now it’s your turn. Got any other Asian women to clue us into? Or just Asian musicians in general? Since it’s AAPI Heritage Month, I focused on Americans, but there’s a whole slew of Asian talent out there in the world, such as the likes of Rina Sawayama and KKB. Let us know in the comments, and hope these recs give you some new joy in your life.

(Featured Image: Rolling Stone/Getty Images)

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Image of Madeline Carpou
Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).