Asians rule this year’s biggest music awards
The Grammy Awards is the music industry’s biggest night, and I’m not ashamed to say I watched the whole show and gushed over all the performances. While the awards selections have historically been criticized for racism and a controversial voting process, I’m not here today to delve into that. Instead, I want to recognize some of my favorite singers, songwriters and musicians from the Asian community. In commemoration of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month this April, I’m bringing you the ten biggest and brightest Asian and Asian American stars who made their mark during the awards ceremony this year and won a myriad of awards, as well as our hearts.
1. Olivia Rodrigo
The Filipino-American singer-songwriter was one of the biggest winners of the night, collecting three awards for ‘Best New Artist’, ‘Best Pop Vocal Album’ (for Sour) and ‘Best Pop Solo Performance’ (for Driver’s License). She had so many awards to hold that while posing for pictures after the show, she accidentally dropped one of her awards on the ground, which broke in half (reminiscent of Taylor Swift circa 2010). Despite being relatively new to the music scene, Olivia’s wins were not surprising at all considering her songwriter talent, amazing voice and dynamic stage presence, which were all showcased in her live performance of Driver’s License during the show.
2. Bruno Mars
Bruno is not a stranger to the Grammy stage, winning his first award back in 2012, but this year he’s coming in as one-half of the R&B super duo Silk Sonic with rapper and singer AndersonPaak. Together they won four awards for their debut song Leave the Door Open – ‘Song of the Year’, ‘Record of the Year’, ‘Best R&B Song’, and Best R&B Performance’. Bruno, whose real name is Peter Gene Hernandez, is half Filipino and continues to impress us with hit after hit and a wide variety of genres, from pop to funk to R&B. Silk Sonic is currently headlining a residency in Las Vegas, and we saw a sneak peek of their fun and funky show as they opened the Grammys with a performance of 777 and Hot Music.
It’s no surprise that the biggest Korean boy band in the world made the list this year. Butter was one of my jams in 2021, and I’m so glad that the hit which spent a total of 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart was nominated for ‘Best Pop Duo/Group Performance’. They were also nominated for the same category last year, for their song Dynamite. The audience at the awards show got to enjoy a James Bond-inspired rendition of Butter, complete with their lasers and jacket choreography, and the seven BTS members received a huge standing ovation from the Grammy crowd. I can’t mention BTS without talking about that moment when V cozied up to Olivia Rodrigo during their performance which made me swoon.
4. Arooj Aftab
If you don’t know Arooj’s name before the awards show, you definitely will now. The Pakistani vocalist and composer became the first winner of the newly established category ‘Best Global Music Performance’ for her song Mohabbat, the award being reserved for international performers exhibiting “non-European, indigenous traditions.” She was also nominated for ‘Best New Artist’. Mohabbat is a beautiful, slow-burn song that was selected by Barack Obama as one of his summer playlist favorites for 2021 and declared one of the best songs of 2021 by Time and The New York Times. She made history this year by being the first Pakistani to win a Grammy, a first of many I’m sure.
H.E.R. was an award heavyweight in the 2022 Grammys, totaling seven7 nominations and winning ‘Best Traditional R&B Performance’ for her song Fight For You. Her nominations this year make her total a whopping 21, and I know she’s not stopping anytime soon. The Half-Filipino soulful R&B singer also showed off her talents by playing the guitar and drums while singing in a medley performance joined by Travis Barker and Lenny Kravitz, and showed off her sense of style at the red carpet with her signature sunglasses and a sparkly yellow jumpsuit.
6. Michelle Zauner
Frontman of the band Japanese Breakfast and Korean-American singer, songwriter, and overall superstar Michelle Zauner was nominated with the rest of her bandmates for ‘Best New Artist’ and ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ (for Jubilee). If you recognize her name, you might know her better for her 2021 memoir Crying in H Mart. If you’re in love with her book as much as I am, I have some good news for you. Crying in H Mart is getting a feature film adaptation, and Michelle herself will be providing the film’s soundtrack and playing a huge role in the movie’s production. A multi-talented queen!
I’m surprised to hear that this year marks Saweetie’s first nominations at the Grammys, given how insanely popular her songs are. I’m sure all of us have danced (or tried to bop along) to some of her hits, including My Type and Tap In, which were hugely successful on TikTok. The half-Filipino and -Chinese rapper was nominated for ‘Best New Artist’ and ‘Best Rap Song’ for her collaboration with Doja Cat, Best Friend. She’s been vocal about her Asian background, teasing her fans in a 2021 interview that they can expect to hear Tagalog lyrics on her upcoming album, Pretty Bitch Music, which is definitely something to look out for.
8. Jennifer Koh
Korean-American Jennifer Koh brought home the Grammy for ‘Best Classical Instrumental Solo’ for her project album Alone Together. The project is a meaningful one, which was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the financial hardship that many artists and musicians faced during this time. The album collected 40 works from 20 different composers who all agreed to donate 30-second micro-work for a violin solo. The New York Times called Alone Together “more inclusive than anything in mainstream classical music.” Koh has performed all around the world with well-known orchestras like the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic.
Indian-born, New York-based singer Falu is a first-time winner this year, and a well-deserved one for sure. Her record A Colorful World, which blends ancient classical Indian melodies and elements with contemporary Western sounds, won the ‘Best Children’s Music Album’ category. This is the second time she’s been nominated for this category, the first being in 2019 for her album Falu’s Bazaar. Falu spent her early years training in the Jaipur gharana musical tradition for up to 16 hours a day before later studying under vocal master Ustad Sultan Khan. She shares that she wrote the album for her son to teach him to embrace the values of unity, acceptance, and tolerance.
10. Ricky Kej
Last but not least on this list is Indian music composer Ricky Kej who managed to snag the ‘Best New Age Album’ award for his record Divine Tides. The album features artists from all over the world and aims to convey the idea of a world where all life can live sustainably and in harmony. Besides making stunning music, Ricky is also an avid environmentalist who is named a UNCCD Land Ambassador and UNESCO Global Ambassador for Kindness. He works to raise public awareness about land degradation, desertification, and drought through his music and has performed at the UN headquarters in both New York and Geneva. We love an environmentally-conscious king!
Representation is so important, and I’m so excited to see faces like mine taking the stage and being commemorated for their achievements. The Grammys, while still having controversial and problematic issues of their own, are slowly making progress in terms of diversity and inclusion and I’m all for that. I can’t wait to watch next year to see which of these stars make the list again, and which new Asian artists I need to add to my playlist.