The Asian takeover is upon us! Here is our roundup of brilliant LGBTQ+ Asian internet stars, fearless outspoken artists and upcoming queer talent that everyone needs to know about. From algorithms to friends pestering you to listen to the next big artist, we all know what it feels like to be flooded with music recommendations. So, GAY TIMES has your back. Packing a mixture of big names and some rising stars, this list can serve as your go-to fix of suggestions. Keep reading to find out the names your library is missing out on.
Our favourite song: Bad Habits
An LA-based activist and artist, Madame Gandhi is unafraid of making some noise. From free bleeding on a marathon to destigmatising attitudes on the menstrual cycle to owning a thriving career as an electronic artist, Gandhi has used her voice for the causes of gender liberation and personal power. Kiran Gandhi, who takes the stage name Madame Gandhi, has used her platform to encourage meaningful conversations online and on the stage. You can check out one of her music videos below.
Our favourite song: Butterfly
R&B artist UMI is one to watch. An incredible soulful musician, she blends contemporary styles to create her soothing, peaceful sound. The 22-year-old Seattle native has made her imprint online with her Neo-soul tracks Remember Me and Love Affair. The singer has teased new music soon and has left social media to work on her next project. In the meantime, get to know all of UMI’s best hits and add her to all of your playlists.
Our favourite song: Stoop So Low
A pioneering creative trailblazer, the artist is at the forefront of driving LGBTQ+ visibility in the LGBTQ+ scene in the South East. Aptly titled Malaysia’s first out and proud queer pop star, Alextbh aka Alex Bong had led the way as an outspoken activist and musician. In an exclusive interview with GAY TIMES, the singer revealed how much he enjoys being able to openly express who he is: “It feels great to be openly gay, it feels great that I can talk about these issues with people who are outside of my community as well, because I feel like that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, to let people know there is indeed a queer scene in Malaysia.”
Our favourite song: Still Dreaming
Queer Indian-American artist Raveena is known for her distinct vocals and creative melodies. The star describes music as an “expression of the self” and her heartfelt tracks prove exactly that. Balancing her dynamic visuals and carefully curated sound, the singer cuts through the industry with her delicate lyrics that pieces together to build her unique artistic world.
Our favourite song: Be Sweet
Michelle Zauner has been busy. Not only did the artist find the time to release her New York Times’ best seller, Crying in H Mart, but an incredible album. Jubilee stands as her first release since her third record, one shaped by the passing of her mother who died of pancreatic cancer in 2014. Japanese Breakfast is no stranger to grief; a theme that encapsulated her last album. However, looking ahead, the singer revealed her new album, Jubilee, would offer a contrast to this. An outstanding artist, Japanese Breakfast pulled together a polished album with a lasting impact. Take our recommendation as a sign to get stuck into all of the Japanese Breakfast’s work.
Our favourite song: Raingurl
A Korean American DJ, Yaeji innovatively mingles her art with her identity. Born in Queens, New York, the singer’s discography wraps around her dual identity as a South Korean and American artist. Her introspective sound sits these grand themes side by side with subtle allure. At times, the rapper slips into bilingual lyricism, immersing listeners in her thoughtful hip-hop meets house hybrid sound. An artist creatively conscious of what she is bringing to the table, Yaeji is definitely one to check out.
Our favourite song: Neverland
Commonly labelled the ‘first gay K-pop idol’, Holland has been powerfully outspoken when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation in South Korea. His single, Neverland, puts same-sex romance at the forefront. The song’s accompanying music video received a 19+ rating in South Korea as it features a same-sex kiss. Despite this, his powerful single struck a chord with listeners across the globe and was praised for its fearlessness. Speaking to GAY TIMES in 2019, the K-pop star opened up about advocating on behalf of the community: “LGBTQ rights in Korea are still not very progressive in comparison to some other countries”. Holland has since released hit songs Love You Better and more.
Our favourite song: Prom Dress
Aged 21, Mxmtoon has established a brand intertwined with introspective lyricism, activism, and even landed a collab with the beloved Carly Rae Jepson. From her social media profile to her signature dream-pop style, Mxmtoon (aka Maia) is on the rise as an up and coming artist. The singer’s stage name stands for her initials while the ending is a nod towards cartoons. The singer rose to prominence after becoming an online sensation. Grouped with Gen Z bedroom pop artists such as Claud, Cavetown, Clairo, the DIY singer-songwriter made a name for herself with songs that tapped into the generational mindset. And with her debut album dropping last year, listeners have plenty of music to dig into.
Our favourite song: Boys Aside
Hailing from Los Angeles, Wang is an indie-pop artist that is unafraid to experiment with her artistry. The gender-fluid singer is known for delving into subjects of romance, sexuality and her identity as a first-generation Chinese American. The star’s upbeat sound and visuals aspire to uplift and empower audiences to be authentically themselves.
Our favourite song: Heartbreak On The Dance Floor
Born in India, Arora started off in the music industry at a young age. What began as covers on YouTube soon evolved into a career on stage. If you think you’ve heard of Arora before, well you might recognise him from his 2016 viral hit Feel Good Song. Since then, he has been continuing his mission to spotlight the “vibrant” LGBTQ+ community, particularly POC voices. Speaking exclusively to GAY TIMES, the American singer opened up about the importance of his voice and perspective in the music industry: “I feel like my voice and what I’m saying is unique in its own way, and I just want to trust that and make whatever feels good in the moment without trying too hard.” Arora’s debut EP, Heartbreak on the Dance Floor is out now.
Words by Zoya Raza-Sheikh for the Gay Times