Asian Americans And Soul

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Just in case you missed it.

African-American icons like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Mary J. Blige are often associated with soul music. Even some white artists have found success in this genre. But Asian-American soul artists have yet to break through into the mainstream. Host Allison Keyes talks with culture and music critic Oliver Wang about a number of soulful Asian singers who are trying to reverse that trend.


Say you're bopping around on YouTube and you might come across this.

(Soundbite of song, "Trust You")

Ms. HEATHER PARK (R&B singer): (Singing) I can't trust you. You are too smooth. So smooth. I can't be with you. No.

KEYES: That's Heather Park. She's sexy. She's soulful. And she just happens to be Korean. She's the latest in the tradition of Asian-American soul singers who are trying - so far, unsuccessfully - to break into mainstream music. That's her new single "Trust You."

Here to tell us more about what Asian-American singers face in the music business is Oliver Wang. He's a cultural critic and a sociology professor at Cal State Long Beach. He joins us from member station KPCC in Pasadena.

Welcome, Oliver.

Professor OLIVER WANG (Sociology, California State University, Long Beach): Hey, good to be back.

KEYES: So tell us about this Heather Park and this sort of poppy reggae thing she has going. What kind of reception is she getting?
Check it on in full down at NPR.