It’s been nothing short of a grueling year for everyone, but especially so for Asian Americans, for many of whom the past 13 months has been a maelstrom of alienation and grief. But with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month coming up, and as we slip into a warmer and hopefully easier time of our lives, we can try on optimism again with some music made by AAPI artists. This playlist will sing you through breezier, more hopeful days.
“All Tinted” by Wolftyla
“All Tinted” kicks off the playlist, with Wolftyla’s sleek voice riding the impeccably smooth beat into the start of summer. The track, written in the wake of a breakup, is carefree and sunny, all top-down-with-the-wind-through-your-hair vibes. Wolftyla’s velvety voice is always playful, and flirtatious, dangling pleasant possibilities in the air.
Born Tyla Parham in Queens, New York, to Korean and African American parents, Wolftyla’s claim to fame began as a Viner who eventually moved on to making music. She amassed a loyal fanbase on Soundcloud, with songs like “Feels” reaching millions of streams organically. She is currently signed to Interscope Records.
“Midsummer Madness” by 88rising, Joji, Rich Brian, Higher Brothers, AUGUST 08
“Midsummer Madness” is a bittersweet anthem that rides the wave of summer, cruising through the messy feelings and entanglements that arise from many a well-lived summer with Joji’s crooned verses and AUGUST 08, Rich Brian and DZ’s raps. It soars from emotion to emotion, from regretful reflection to flirtation and back in smooth beats. The song culminates in a mournful yet floaty outro by Joji and NIKI that follows DZ’s verse in Chinese.
88rising is a media conglomerate founded by Sean Miyashiro, most widely known as the Asian-interested record label that hosts artists including Joji, Rich Brian and NIKI. It seeks to elevate the presence of Asian artists from immigrant backgrounds in American music and pop culture, fields in which they have been sorely underrepresented and underappreciated. In just a few years, the label has hosted multiple sold-out worldwide tours and reached international acclaim, collaborating with artists including Soulja Boy, Denzel Curry and Jackson Wang.
“Indian Summer” by Jai Wolf
“Indian Summer” is a euphoric and endlessly bright EDM track featuring a repeated vocal sample in Hindi with the simple verse that translates to “took it to the moon/ my friend took me to the moon/ took it to the moon.” The verse soars and settles with Jai Wolf’s luminous beat, invoking the remarkable clarity of emotion and peace that the serenity of moonlight beams into people on summer nights.
Jai Wolf, born Sajeeb Saha, is a Bengali American EDM producer who was raised on Long Island and began his musical career with bedroom-made bootleg remixes and mashups. His collaborations include Melanie Martinez, Alesso and keshi, among others.
“drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo
With this unabashedly heartbroken ballad of a song, Olivia Rodrigo had millions of listeners on their knees as the track’s soaring and crashing chorus played over and over — 13 million times over in a single day at its peak, to be clear — for weeks. The song is powerfully despondent and reminiscent, calling back the hurt of being made to feel as if you could never be enough: “and you’re probably with that blonde girl / who always made me doubt / she’s so much older than me/ she’s everything I’m insecure about.”
As a Filipina American, this verse could potentially have articulated more for Rodrigo than what it has been widely interpreted as. The track has been used as the audio in 1.9 million TikToks, mostly by white girls in an ongoing competition, of sorts, between blondes and brunettes. Considering that Rodrigo is a woman of color, was born to a Filipino father and German and Irish mother, it’s possible that this phenomenon was grossly diminutive to the true nature of Rodrigo’s track, centering around perhaps the most negligible part of the generally important conversation about beauty standards in America.