Harmonizing Cultures: Top Asian Musicians Reshaping American Music

In recent years, the American music landscape witnessed an unprecedented surge in the influence of Asian musicians and bands. From Japan to Indonesia, these artists have brought their unique sounds and styles to the forefront, reshaping the industry and winning the hearts of fans nationwide. With K-pop opening the door for new Asian musicians and bands to be seen, here are some of the non-American and non-K-pop acts that have redefined the American music scene in 2023: 

For Character Media’s full list of song recommendations, check out our official “Harmonizing Cultures” playlist here.

Photo by Laura Harvey.
Photo by Laura Harvey.

1. XG: Japanese Girl Power Unleashed

From taking over TikTok to setting the stage on fire at KCON LA and 88Rising’s Head In The Clouds festivals, the seven-member Xtraordinary Girls (XG) from Japan (Jurin, Chisa, Hinata, Juria, Cocona, Maya and Harvey) are taking over the music world by storm with their infectious melodies and charismatic performances. Blending J-pop, hip-hop, R&B with modern pop elements, XG delivers a fusion of catchy tunes and electrifying choreography with hits like “Left Right,” “Shooting Star” and “Girl GVNG.”

The girls have unveiled new singles, including “TGIF” and “New Dance,” for their upcoming September mini-album “New DNA.” Beyond their musical prowess, their empowering messages of unity and self-confidence make them role models for a new generation. As they continue their meteoric rise, XG promises to leave an indelible mark on the global music scene while shaping the future of Japanese music.

Recommended Song: “Girl GVNG”

2.SB19: The Filipino Boy Band Phenomenon

Photo by Francis Ray.

Hailing from the vibrant streets of Manila, SB19 has taken the global music scene by storm. This Filipino boy band, consisting of Pablo, Josh, Stell, Ken and Justin, has captivated hearts with their unique blend of P-pop melodies and heartfelt Tagalog and English ballads. Their infectious energy and top-notch choreography have garnered a dedicated fan base known as “A’TIN,” who won the crown for the 2023 Billboard Fan Army Face-Off, beating the fan base of K-pop boy band SEVENTEEN. 

SB19 was the first Filipino act to be nominated in the Billboard Music Awards for Top Social Artist. In January 2022, they also broke a record set by BTS for the longest No. 1 reign on Billboard’s Trending Songs chart for their trap-pop song “Bazinga.” This year, the band embarked on their second world tour, striking six cities in the U.S. with the power of their latest EP, “PAGTATAG!” featuring the viral track “GENTO.” SB19 stands as a testament to Filipino talent making waves on the international stage, proving that boy bands have no boundaries when it comes to talent, dedication and connecting with fans worldwide.

Recommended Song: “Gento”

3. Yoasobi: Japan’s Dynamic Superduo

Photo by Lindsey Blane.

The dynamic Japanese pop duo, composed of Ayase and Ikura, have struck a chord with fans worldwide through their captivating melodies and emotive lyrics that feature a unique blend of J-pop, EDM and poetic storytelling. In August 2023, Yoasobi made their U.S. debut by headlining at HITC Los Angeles, where they played their viral TikTok songs “Idol” and “Into the Night” from “Oshi no Ko” in a performance that transcended language. 

Yoasobi’s ability to evoke profound emotions and paint vivid narratives in their songs have garnered them a dedicated following. The duo, who pulls inspiration from written works like novels, short stories and even manga, is revolutionizing the musical artform by creating works of fiction that explores complex human experiences and narrating them through often tragic lyrics with funky music before complementing their pieces with visual storytelling. This combination of elements allows them to engage listeners and transport them into the stories they tell through music. Only time can tell the lasting impact Yoasobi will have on the Japanese music industry and their global effect.

Recommended Song: “アイドル”

4. beabadoobee: Filipino British Indie Powerhouse

Photo by Justin Higuchi.

beabadoobee, born Beatrice Laus, is the indie music sensation captivating hearts with her timeless sound and lyrical depth. Hailing from London, this Filipino British singer-songwriter has become a symbol of the modern-day indie movement. Her music, reminiscent of folk, grunge and dream-pop influences, paints vivid portraits of youth, love and self-discovery. beabadoobee first garnered a dedicated global following through TikTok after gaining traction through her hit song track “Coffee,” which was later sampled and further popularized by Canadian rapper Powfu in his hit song, “death bed (coffee for your head).”

The 23-year-old artist reached new heights this year, having gone on her tour in the U.S. alongside Taylor Swift as an opening act for the Eras Tour. Beabadoobee also headlined the first-ever HITC festival in New York in May and performed at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago in August. As her popularity continues to skyrocket, Beabadoobee remains an artist to watch.

Recommended Song: “10:36”

5. Jackson Wang: China’s Rap and Pop Fusion Star

Photo by Connor Gasky.

Jackson Wang, the multifaceted singer from Hong Kong, has redefined rap in the Asian music scene through his magnetic stage presence and lyrical prowess. A member of the K-pop sensation GOT7, Jackson is also a triple threat as a solo artist, entrepreneur and fashion icon. The 29-year-old rapper captivated audiences worldwide by combining Chinese and Western influences in his music. 

Wang made headlines this year by becoming the first Chinese solo artist to perform his own set at Coachella, where he went on to surprise the audience by bringing out Grammy-winning artist Ciara to perform their new single “Slow” and a remix of XG’s “Left and Right.” In 2019, Wang’s first album, “Mirror,” reached no. 32 on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest-charting debut album ever by a Chinese artist. He is currently the most-followed Chinese celebrity on Instagram with 32.9 million followers. Through his talents, Wang continues to redefine and elevate Asian representation on the global stage.

Recommended Song: “Drive It Like You Stole It”

6. Rina Sawayama: Japanese British Genre Bender

Photo by Laura Harvey.

The British Japanese powerhouse is reshaping the pop landscape with her genre-blurring creativity. Her music seamlessly melds elements of pop, R&B, rock and electronic, crafting a unique sonic universe. Rina Sawayama’s compelling lyrics explore identity, technology and the human experience that resonates with a diverse global fan base.

With hits like “XS” and “This Hell,” Rina amplifies underrepresented voices and empowers her listeners. This year, Sawayama brought her magnetic presence to the stage at music festivals, such as HITC and Lollapalooza, and to the silver screen by making her acting debut in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” Beyond acting and singing, Sawayama’s outspoken advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and cultural diversity makes her a beacon of change in the industry. The emerging Pop icon heralds a new era of authenticity and inclusivity in music.

Recommended Song: “Catch Me in The Air”

7. Agnez Mo: Indonesia’s Pop Diva

Photo by Francis Ray.

Agnez Mo was a star in Asia far before she was known in the West; her career spans from her early days as a child star to her current status as Indonesia’s beloved pop queen. Her career spans from her early days as a child star to becoming Indonesia’s beloved pop queen. With international hits like “Overdose” and “Coke Bottle,” Agnez has collaborated with prominent American artists such as Chris Brown, Keith Martin, Timbaland and most recently, Ciara. 

Beyond her music, her philanthropy and advocacy for social causes make her a role model for aspiring artists. In September 2021, the 37-year-old artist was appointed as the ambassador of Intellectual Property Rights 2012 by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Indonesia. She is also an ambassador of MTV EXIT in combating human trafficking, as well as regional icon for the Anti Drugs Movement as appointed by the Drugs Enforcement Administration. Agnez represents Indonesian talent and advocacy on the world stage, inspiring a new era of cross-cultural music and activism.

Recommended Song: “Get Loose”

8. DPR Live: South Korean Hip-Hop Trailblazer

Photo courtesy of Dream Perfect Regime.

DPR Live, the South Korean maverick, has redefined the K-hip-hop scene with his genre-bending artistry since his start in 2017. As a rapper, singer and producer, his music transcends boundaries, seamlessly blending hip-hop, R&B and electronic elements. His lyrics explore life’s complexities and personal growth that resonate with a global audience. In 2021, the 30-year-old artist unveiled the track “Diamonds + And Pearls” along with DPR Ian for the soundtrack to Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

Known for groundbreaking tracks like “Jasmine” and “Text Me,” DPR Live pushed his creative boundaries while taking the stage in some of this year’s hottest music festivals, such as HITC and Lollapalooza. In 2021, the 30-year-old artist unveiled the psychedelic track “Diamonds + and Pearls” along with artists DPR IAN and peace as part of the official soundtrack to Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” His collective, Dream Perfect Regime (DPR), embodies a spirit of artistic freedom and continues to shape the boundless future of Korean music.

Recommended Song: “Jasmine”

Listen to the full playlist below:

This article appeared in Character Media’s Annual 2023 Issue.
Read our full e-magazine here.