Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! Whether you’re single-and-ready-to-mingle or fiercely committed to your significant other, our Valentine’s Day playlist is ready to conjure up every possible feeling. Take a journey through infatuation, despair, and true love with these solo artists and bands of Asian descent, all of whom have songs illustrating the emotional mayhem this day brings.
1. “OMG” – NewJeans
Although they debuted less than a year ago, HYBE girl group NewJeans has already made a mark on the industry with early hits like “Attention” and “Hype Boy.” Not only did the five-member girl group smash streaming records with both tracks, their Y2K aesthetic and R&B-influenced sound has launched them to the forefront of K-pop. Their newest release, “OMG,” is another high-energy, synthy, and trap drum-backed song, keen on creating butterflies in the listener’s stomach as the heart-eyed members sing about a dreamy crush.
Favorite Lyrics: “They keep asking me, ‘Who is he?’ / You really are — he’s the one that’s living in my system, baby.”
2. “Punching Bag” – Wallice
Japanese American singer-songwriter Wallice knows a thing or two about what an unrequited connection can lead to. In the lo-fi, mellow jam “Punching Bag,” she sings about the lengths one would go to keep a special person around, playing chicken with manipulative and self-destructive tactics. Between white lies and Hydro Flask-initiated schemes, Wallice convinces herself that she’s in the right, even if she’s not in her right mind.
Favorite Lyrics: “In my right mind less than half of the time/ I can be a punching bag.”
3. “Nobody Gets Me (Like You)” – Wallows
Many know alt-rock band Wallows because of lead vocalist Dylan Minette’s role in the Netflix original series, “13 Reasons Why.” But the other two members of the group, guitarist Braeden Lemasters and drummer Cole Preston —the latter of whom happens to be a quarter Japanese — bring just as much to the table. In the 2020 release “Nobody Gets Me (Like You),” Lemasters sings over a punchy bassline and explosive synths and drums about the honeymoon phase in a relationship. You know, when love is brand new, thrilling, and it feels like no one else “gets” you quite like your partner. The song’s music video features Y2K ski goggles, crossdressing, and the absolute giddiness of true love, so be sure to check it out!
Favorite Lyrics: “I’m not that simple/ Neither are you/ I’m not that simple/ Come see me through.”
4. “Let You Break My Heart Again” – Laufey, Philharmonia Orchestra
In jarring contrast, Icelandic Chinese singer Laufey is determined to break the will of every person who’s ever had a fleeting romantic thought. The jazz-pop artist teamed up with the Philharmonia Orchestra to record the heart wrenching “Let You Break My Heart Again,” a soaring ballad reminiscent of songs like “I Know Why (And So Do You)” by Glenn Miller and Nina Simone’s cover of “I Loves You Porgy.” Unlike these two, Laufey waxes poetic about a night filled with unreciprocated, but deathless, love, all while operating on only coffee and leftover pie. This tune is for those who are heartbroken, wallowing, and can’t resist some maladaptive daydreaming, otherwise known as “copium.”
Favorite Lyrics: “One day, I will stop falling in love with you/ Someday, someone will like me like I like you.”
5. “if ur leffen then im chillendude” – Flight Patterns
Michigan-based midwestern emo band Flight Patterns is best known for the sardonically titled 2017 track “i would throw my vape in the cornfield for you.” But that’s not their only histrionic, softboy anthem deserving of a nod. “if ur leffen then im chillendude” has all the elements of a mournful Mitski song—if it were set to arpeggiated guitar riffs (headed by lead guitarist Alex Wong) and toed the line of hardcore punk and indie rock. The track tells the story of a relationship warped by time, with the fallout affecting one partner more than the other. For context, leffen and chillendude are the usernames of two professional “Super Smash Bros. Melee” players who fought in Apex 2015, which ended with leffen demolishing chillendude 5 to 0. Gamer talk aside, get ready to scream your heart out to this one.
Favorite Lyrics: “Do you remember when we drove down Glenlord/ And as the sky lit up, I screamed out, ‘I love you.’”
6. “Amber” – Steve Lacy
We’re well-read here at Character Media, which means we know more than one Steve Lacy song. If you don’t know R&B singer-songwriter Lacy by name, you most likely know his hit song “Bad Habit” —queue it up if you’re dying to hear it! It definitely doesn’t need any more promotion from me, but while you’re at it, zip other tracks off his 2022 critically-acclaimed album, “Gemini Rights.” Slow jazz-influenced jam “Amber” bemoans a tale of a formerly enthralling relationship that went sour. Through falsetto vocals, Lacy describes missing a partner to the point of wishing he never even met them. Another sad tune for the heartbroken out there!
Favorite Lyrics: “The look in your eye lets me know I’m mesmerized/ I wish I never met you no more, no”
A Valentine’s jams list wouldn’t be complete without at least one song by the incomparable Mitski. Known for her searing lyrics, the indie-rock singer-songwriter has been releasing music since 2012, with her latest album, “Laurel Hell,” receiving almost unanimous critical acclaim. Although it’s common for fans to sing praises of her more melancholic tunes, “I Will” takes a long look at deep love and care. The track describes a moment of vulnerability between partners without any second thoughts of commitment. If you’re happily in a long-term relationship, turn up the volume!
Favorite Lyrics: “I will see your body bare/ And still I will live here.”
8. “Lovesong” – beabadoobee
Filipino British singer-songwriter beabadoobee is opening for Taylor Swift during The Eras Tour later this summer, so you better learn all her tunes! “Lovesong,” off the artist’s 2022 album “Beatopia,” is a great place to start. Beabadoobee’s delicate vocals take us through a story of surprising love—the kind where you’re not sure you’re in the right place for a relationship, but it’s all-consuming, overwhelming, and happening. She sings over an unhurried guitar strum how she can’t stop writing love songs about said person, and the words to describe them are so much easier to find than she previously thought. Give it a listen if you’re in love, or hoping for it to fall from the sky.
Favorite Lyrics: “I missed the train again/ I called your name/ As if you’d drive it back.”
9. “T.L.C (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)” – Turnstile
Need a chaotic pick-me-up? Hardcore band Turnstile’s “T.L.C. (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)” sounds like it was made for the opposite of a romantic night in. In fact, the song has some devilish vibes, but in reality, the members are singing (and screaming) about wanting to find true love. By the end of the tune, the singer profusely thanks an unnamed subject for helping clear their sights, allowing them to truly see. A self-love and love-love anthem!
Favorite Lyrics: “I want to/ (Thank you for lеtting me see myself)/ (I want to thank you for letting mе be myself).”
10. “Catch Me In The Air” – Rina Sawayama
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romance (this chronically single author whispers this affirmation to their mirror every Feb. 14). But seriously, platonic and familial love exists, and can transform us just as well. Pop girlie Rina Sawayama knows and addresses this in several of her songs, with “Catch Me In The Air” being the newest addition to the catalog. On this track, Sawayama details the ups and downs of her relationship with her mother, with lyrics describing the hopes and dreams the pair had during her somewhat difficult adolescence. It’s a song of gratitude, so everyone out there, remember to thank all the mothers in your lives!
Favorite Lyrics: “But mama look at us now/ High above the clouds/ Yeah, I hope that you’re, hope that you’re proud”
11. “Forever & Always” – Zeph
Some are cynical when it comes to romance, but Asian American singer-songwriter Zeph believes that love can last forever and always. In this whispery, deliberately distorted bedroom-pop track, Zeph compares lasting love to a memorized melody that’s always in your head and impossible to forget. She sings about how her adoration for the unnamed subject will not change with time, but will instead keep renewing year after year, until the couple are old and gray. Soulmates won this round!
Favorite Lyrics: “Every note you hum/ Is a classic through and through/ I’ll add them to a playlist called/ ‘Things I Look Forward To.’”
12. “Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Throwing it back, “Maps” by indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs proves you can write the world’s best love song (in this author’s humble opinion) using only 26 unique words. Formed in 2000 and headed by mixed Korean American singer Karen O, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs proclaim that love can surmount anything in its way—tours, distance, maps be damned. The verses are short and vivid, but the real standout is the chorus, where the band practically reaches out and snatches the listener up with propelling drums, O’s drawling tone, and tender lyricism. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs created their own love-conquers-all world with this song, so what better day to give it a listen?
Favorite Lyrics: “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you”