meta-scriptGet To Know The Many Sounds Of Asian Pop: From The Philippines' BGYO To Hong Kong's Tyson Yoshi & Thai Singer Phum Viphurit | GRAMMY.com
Get To Know The Many Sounds Of Asian Pop: From The Philippines' BGYO To Hong Kong's Tyson Yoshi & Thai Singer Phum Viphurit
(From left) Baek Yerin , Tyson Yoshi, So!Yoon!, Lexie Liu, Phum Viphurit

Photos: Justin Shin/Getty Images, Just Kidding Limited, Justin Shin/Getty Images, Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Miu Miu, Frank Hoensch/Redferns

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Get To Know The Many Sounds Of Asian Pop: From The Philippines' BGYO To Hong Kong's Tyson Yoshi & Thai Singer Phum Viphurit

While many are likely familiar with big names in K-pop such as BTS, BLACKPINK and NCT 127, the Asian content has a plethora of equally exciting pop acts. Read on for 10 artists from China, Japan, Vietnam and beyond who are worthy of checking out.

GRAMMYs/May 11, 2023 - 08:48 pm

In recent years, the music industry has made strides when it comes to giving artists of Asian descent a platform. At this year's Oscars, "Naatu Naatu" from the film RRR became the first Indian-Telugu language song to win Best Original Song. At Coachella, Diljit Dosanjh made history as the first South Asian artist to perform in Punjabi; BLACKPINK became the first-ever K-pop group to headline the iconic music festival. 

Such achievements have been a long time coming. Asian musicians have long struggled in mainstream entertainment, often encountering stereotyping, exoticism and othering. Some studies have suggested that East Asian performers face more discrimination over their music-making, with many considering their style as less expressive than caucasian acts. And while much work has been done to change these views, more needs to be done. 

Asian artists around the world have been responsible for some of the most exciting and eclectic music being released today. While many are likely familiar with names in K-pop such as BTS, BLACKPINK and rapper Jackson Wang, there are many other underrated pop artists from across Asia. From Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Japan to Vietnam, below are 10 artists worthy of checking out. 

Car, The Garden 

Since his debut in 2013, South Korean singer/songwriter Car, The Garden has been winning the hearts of audiences with his husky, soulful voice and feel-good songs. After releasing an EP and several singles under his previous stage name Mayson the Soul, the singer changed his name to Car, The Garden, which is an interpretation of his real name (his last name Cha is a homonym of "car" and his first name "Jung-won'' means garden). 

His original songs can be heard on Korean television series and international films. "Romantic Sunday," which he wrote for the hit 2021 K-rom com series "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha," similarly evokes feelings of being cheerful, happy and carefree. His latest single, "Home Sweet Home," was written for the acclaimed Canadian film Riceboy Sleeps, about a South Korean single mom who leaves her life behind for the Canadian suburbs to give her son a better life.

Lexie Liu 

Chinese singer Lexie Liu has long been crossing cultural boundaries. Known for blending elements of electro-pop, cyberpunk, hip-hop and rock in her music, Liu also sings in English, Mandarin and Spanish. Liu incorporated Spanish into her debut studio album, The Happy Star, after hearing one of her songs on the Spanish Netflix series "Elite." 

As an independent artist, Liu’s career could have ended up much differently. At 17, she placed fourth on the South Korean reality competition series "K-pop Star 5." Ultimately, she decided to leave behind a chance at becoming a K-pop idol for more freedom to write and produce her own songs. 

Today, her cool girl and edgy style has moved beyond music. She’s since also become a darling in the fashion world, modeling and working with brands including Miu Miu, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. 

BGYO 

While idol groups are popular in Japan and Korea, BGYO have been redefining what it means to be a boy band in the Philippines. The five member boy group was formed in 2018 after the Philippine commercial broadcast network ABS-CBN launched its Star Hunt Academy, a program meant to introduce Filipino talent to the international market. After training in a program similar to the K-pop trainee system in South Korea, BGYO made its official debut in 2021.

Dubbed the "Aces of P-pop," the group’s name is an acronym for "Becoming the change, Going further, You and I, Originally Filipino." The quintet mix elements of pop and R&B, and attribute their music and style to their Filipino roots. BGYO's lyrics focus on social issues relevant to youth such as self-love, empowerment and hope. Their debut single "The Light" made the group the fifth Filipino artist ever to appear on the Billboard Next Big Sound chart, debuting at No. 2. BGYO capped off their debut year with more than 10 million streams on Spotify and 12 million views on YouTube. 

So!YoON!

So!YoON!, born Hwang So-yoon, is an alt-pop singer, songwriter and guitarist known for her powerful, raspy vocals. Before embarking on a solo career, she founded the band SE SO NEON at the age 18 — which became one of South Korea’s most acclaimed indie groups for their blend of rock riffs, R&B sounds and airy synths. 

Earlier this year, So!YoON! released her sophomore studio album Episode1: Love which explores themes of love, desire and self-reflection. Lead single"Smoke Sprite" features BTS rapper RM. Set over the grainy wash of grungy guitars, the sensual song follows two lovers calling out to one another in the gap between dreams and reality. The track is effortlessly cool, and perfectly describes So!YoON!’s unique sound and style. 

PRETZELLE 

PRETZELLE  is a Thai pop girl group that’s quickly taking the T-pop genre into the international market. The quartet's name is inspired by the infinity shape of the pretzel because it symbolizes happiness and enjoyment. 

This past January, PRETZELLE released the assertive and confident love song "U R MINE," which sees members fiercely devoted to a romantic partner and not wanting outside competition for their affection. Members Inc, Ice, Aumaim and Grace all took part in the writing process, and enlisted Shin BongWon (known for working on "Ditto" by the K-pop group NewJeans) to mix the song. The song has since received more than 161 million streams overall on streaming platforms including YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and TikTok. 

Since its debut in 2020, PRETZELLE’s music has also appeared on a number of original soundtracks, including the Thai TV drama "Love Revolution" and the Korean animation "Teteru." The group have also found a solid fanbase, fondly called Twist. 

Baek Yerin 

The frontwoman of the indie Korean rock band the Volunteers is also a singer/songwriter whose voice you may have heard on K-drama soundtracks. Baek Yerin's original ballad, "Here I am Again," was featured in "Crash Landing on You" and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard K-pop Hot 100 chart. Known for her sweet and delicate vocals, Baek is credited with composing the majority of her songs, often touching on real life experiences. 

She first debuted with major South Korean label JYP Entertainment as part of the duo 15& with singer Jamie (also known as Park Ji-min), and formed her own independent label, Blue Vinyl, in 2019. The 25-year-old writes in Korean and English, citing Amy Winehouse, Oasis and Rage Against The Machine as some of her biggest influences. Yerin has also written for artists including Chungha, Soyou and Yeonsoo. 

Phum Viphurit 

Thai Indie singer/songwriter Phum Viphurit first rose to international fame in 2018 with the breezy summer song "Lover Boy," and has since garnered a loyal fanbase in his home country as well as South Korea, India, Japan and Hong Kong. Viphurit writes in English and blends elements of surf-rock, pop and neo-soul into his guitar riffs and melodies. 

The 27-year-old moved to New Zealand at age 9, and then moved back to Thailand for university. Viphurit reached viral fame for his original and cover songs on YouTube, and signed to the indie label Rats Records. While Viphurit’s songs are often uplifting (such as 2022's "Welcome Change"), he has also been open about his own mental health struggles in songs like 2019’s  "Hello Anxiety."

Sexy Zone 

Fans of the "Full House" TV franchise may recognize Sexy Zone, the Japanese boy band that made a brief appearance on "Fuller House" in 2018. Yet  Sexy Zone has been an active group since 2011, releasing eight studio albums and numerous No. 1 hits in Japan. 

With a name inspired by Michael Jackson’s "sexiness"  and bright and colorful concepts, Sexy Zone’s music can surely be compared to the catchy bubblegum pop hits often heard in K-pop. The members’ eye-catching costumes, synchronized choreography and charming personalities have helped the group garner a loyal fanbase, dubbed the Sexy Lovers. 

Tyson Yoshi 

Tyson Yoshi, born Ben Ching Tsun Yin, is one of Hong Kong’s best known hip-hop artists, amassing more than 46 million views on YouTube and more than 247,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, with streams from more than 100 countries. While ballads have often dominated the Hong Kong music scene, Yoshi represents a new kind of contemporary artist in his home city. His music melds elements of trap, pop, hip-hop and R&B, while he sings in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. 

While Hong Kong society has typically favored more conservative styles and appearances, Yoshi stands out for his bleached colorful hair and tattoos. He's developed a fanbase for singing about wanting to be understood and tackling stereotypes, such as in  "I Don’t Smoke & I Don’t Drink."  When he started dabbling in songwriting in university, he took inspiration from artists including Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber and pop-punk bands Sum 41 and Simple Plan. 

MIN 

MIN first gained popularity as part of the dance and music group St.31, eventually becoming one of Vietnam’s top female soloists. She found success with her 2017 mid-tempo pop single "Có em chờ" with rapper MR.A. Later that year, her EDM-inspired track "Ghen" featuring ERIK from the V-pop boy band MONSTAR. 

MIN’s profile continued to grow internationally after Vietnamese-American singer Thuy asked her to sing Vietnamese lyrics on a remix of her viral single "girls like me don’t cry." On collaborating with MIN, Thuy wrote on YouTube that it’s "so important to me to show two badass Vietnamese women from opposite ends of the globe TOGETHER." 

Celebrate AAPI Month 2023 With A Genre-Spanning Playlist Featuring BLACKPINK, Yaeji, Olivia Rodrigo & More

Listen: Celebrate AAPI Month 2021 With This Playlist Featuring Artists Of Asian & Pacific Islander Descent

Yuna 

Photo: Timothy Norris/Getty Images

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Listen: Celebrate AAPI Month 2021 With This Playlist Featuring Artists Of Asian & Pacific Islander Descent

While the AAPI experience is far more vast than four letters can hold, AAPI Heritage Month provides ample opportunity to explore the infinite reaches of what Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander art can be—and this playlist can be your soundtrack

GRAMMYs/May 26, 2021 - 01:57 am

The experience of being Asian-American and/or of Pacific Islander descent cannot be contained in a word, phrase or corporate slogan. Each universe contains innumerable micro-universes; under a microscope, even more realms of identity and feeling emerge. 

That said, it is incumbent on each of us to recognize and appreciate the contributions of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) artists, even though the dialogue and introspection the term entails is astronomically larger than four letters can hold.

GRAMMY.com is proud to curate a playlist for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021. Uncontained by genre or racial identity within the Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas, the result is a sonic tour through wildly divergent genres: pop, jazz, classical and beyond. We've also compiled quotes from artists as well as Recording Academy staffers who self-identify as AAPI.

The aim of this playlist is not to artificially string together artists based on their appearance or perceived racial descent; rather, it is to demonstrate how artists within the AAPI world have enriched more styles of music than we can count.

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Picks From Recording Academy Staff Members Of AAPI Descent

Kobukuro — "Winding Road"
Golden — "Hate Everything"
Lee Hong Gi — "Still"

"I love that this month gives us an additional platform to celebrate the APIDA community. The Asian American experience is filled with a lot of complexity and richness, so I'm grateful we've been able to shed some light on that through food, music and art, history, advocacy, and a heightened sense of community. Always excited to keep the energy going beyond this month!" —Taylor Kimiko Saucedo, Project Manager of Ticketing and Event Operations, Production Department

BTS — "Butter"
Stray Kids — "Back Door"
Eric Nam — "Honestly"
Radwimps — "Nandemonaiya"
Pierre Fitz — "T'lah Berubah"
Gabe Bondoc — "Filler"

"I'm so appreciative of our community and all those who support it, in and out of this month. My Philippine culture has always been a part of me, and while I always try to bring it out in everything that I do, this month I feel more welcomed to show it! During this month, I'd also love to encourage everyone to support local Asian businesses; not only have they been affected by COVID, but also the Asian injustice acts happening throughout the world." —Thea Marvic A. Domingo, Executive Office Coordinator

Rina Sawayama — "Bad Friend"
Mitski — "Your Best American Girl"
Yuna — "Dance Like Nobody's Watching"
H.E.R. — "Focus"
Suzuki Saint — "Sunday"
Japanese Breakfast — "Be Sweet"

"To be honest, I am used to AAPI Month being ignored by non-AAPI entities, so it's been a little strange to see so much about it this year. I'm getting promotional emails from companies highlighting AAPI-owned products, etc. I have a feeling the increased celebration of AAPI month is unfortunately tied to the rise in hate crimes targeting AAPI people, and so I have mixed feelings about it—not about the month itself, but about non-AAPI folks suddenly acknowledging it when they haven't before."  —Jane Kim, Coordinator

Crush + Pink Sweat$ — "I Wanna Be Yours"
DPR Live — "Cheese & Wine"
Phum Viphurit — "Lover Boy"
NIKI — "Indigo"
Rich Brian — "Kids"

"I'm glad that many people have been promoting Asian American culture this month! From the food and languages to more serious issues such as discrimination and #StopAsianHate, it's been an enlightening few weeks." —Chris Chhoeun, Accountant, Business Affairs

Quotes From Artists Of AAPI Descent

Joey Alexander — "Under The Sun"

"While it's often customary in Asian culture to remain silent when faced with adversity, it is encouraging to see how all the Asian communities have banded together to speak out against the violence that's been inflicted on our elders, brothers and sisters, not just recently but systematically because of how we look. I am hopeful for a future of harmony where there is an open dialogue about our cultural differences and how as humans, we are all seeking peace, happiness and prosperity." —Joey Alexander

Read: Joey Alexander On The Primacy Of The Blues, Building Tunes To Last & His New Single, "Under The Sun"

Vijay Iyer Trio — "Children of Flint"

"It's not that any particular album is political, but at almost any moment in my musical life, I'm listening to what's happening outside and that is informing what I do, why I do it and with whom I do it. And for whom I do it. The first two pieces on the album [2021's Uneasy] are probably the most 'political.' But it's more like each of them was serving a specific purpose—serving a specific cause. And by serving, I mean literally serving. Trying to support an existing movement on the ground." —Vijay Iyer, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021

Bhi Bhiman — "Magic Carpet Ride"

"I'm happy to see it. I think it's important for the younger generation of kids—Asian kids, but maybe more importantly, non-Asian kids—to see that we are just a normal part of the country. We don't need special sections for our movies on Netflix or a temporary showcase on corporate retail websites. We just wish to be treated with the same respect as our European-American counterparts in real-life situations. We want to be judged on the content of our character, not the color of our skin. But there are some strong stereotypes in America about Asians, and in my case, Indians. My parents are from Sri Lanka, which floats on the edge of the Indian subcontinent. As a musician, I'm often on the wrong end of conscious and unconscious bias, unfortunately. The plight of the perpetual foreigner is that our superpower is invisibility in plain sight. It can be challenging, especially when I know I am one of the best out there at what I do. But I love seeing people embracing their heritage and culture and having pride in it. I see the world changing and stereotypes fading away, which is good news for the next generation." —Bhi Bhiman

Yo-Yo Ma — "Amazing Grace (Prelude)"

"I value the perspective that time can give as well as different disciplines. We can look at ourselves biologically. If we look at ourselves genetically, the huge chasms in racial-ethnic differences become minuscule." —Yo-Yo Ma, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021

Jihye Lee — "Struggle Gives You Strength"

"I sincerely appreciate the many organizations celebrating AAPI Month. I am thrilled to see some of the Asian musicians getting special exposure, including myself. I am beyond thankful for the support. Although I am aware all the actions come from genuine intention, I still want to be seen just as a composer. I hear the name Toshiko Akiyoshi as a comparison just because of my ethnicity. Even though I have tremendous respect toward her, I don't think it's my music that reminds them of Toshiko but my look—and I am not even Japanese. Maybe people want to name the same skin color of musicians they know as a nice and kind gesture, just like I hear 'Ni hao' on the street—and I am not Chinese. I am an Asian female composer, but when it comes to music, I wish my music to be heard without any preconception and wish to have AAPI support focused on our works—not on being Asian itself. We are in the middle of making changes, and I hope these efforts lead us to a world that doesn't need the word AAPI." —Jihye Lee

Jen Shyu — "Lament for Breonna Taylor"

"I'm an artist who really embraces my ancestry. I go deep into it. That's my path. But I know how frustrating it must be for other Asian artists who people might expect that of them. They just want to make music, you know? It's just being the other. I've never let it stop me because I'm so hard-headed. I just go forward." —Jen Shyu, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021.

Tomoko Omura — "Revenge of the Rabbit"

"They're stories you can relate to, those folk tales. They've been told for a long time for reasons, right? Because we're humans at the end. Those children's folk songs and folk tales have lived so long because the messages are strong. I think it's a great way to connect us as humans." —Tomoko Omura, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021.

Min Xiao-Fen — "Annica (Impermanence)"

"This world is small, you know? People should be open-minded." —Min Xiao-Fen, speaking to GRAMMY.com in 2021.

More Artist Picks By Recording Academy Staff

Jay Som — "Tenderness"
Mxmtoon — "Creep"
Tyler Shaw — "North Star"
Steve Aoki feat. BTS — "Waste It On Me"
TOKiMONSTA — "Bibimbap"
Giraffage feat. Japanese Breakfast — "Maybes"
RayRay — "Outer Space"
Yaeji — "Raingurl"
Peggy Gou — "It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)"

"As a person of color myself, I know the struggle of feeling foreign or being 'othered' in my own home country. Yes, I am of two lineages, but I am as equally American as I am Mexican. I feel the plight of my AAPI brothers, sisters and nonbinary friends during this difficult, scary time. And while we are celebrating AAPI artists and cultures all month long, we must keep the conversation going all year long. #AAPIAllYear." —John Ochoa, Managing Editor of GRAMMY.com

Raveena — "Tweety"
Hayley Kiyoko — "Found My Friends"
—Jenn Velez, Editor of GRAMMY.com

ZHU ft. Yuna — "Sky Is Crying" 
TOKiMONSTA ft. Yuna — "Don't Call Me"
Lastlings — "No Time"
Yaeji — "WAKING UP DOWN"

—Ana Monroy Yglesias, Editor of GRAMMY.com

ZHU Talks New Rave-Ready Album DREAMLAND 2021, Being Inspired By Hyphy Music & Asian Americans Finally Being Heard

GRAMMY U Reps Experience GRAMMY Week Like Never Before Thanks To The Recording Academy & United Airlines
GRAMMY U Reps and staff walk the red carpet at the 2024 GRAMMYs

Photo: Andrew Sankovich

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GRAMMY U Reps Experience GRAMMY Week Like Never Before Thanks To The Recording Academy & United Airlines

United Airlines flew the GRAMMY U Representatives out to L.A. for an unforgettable 2024 GRAMMY Week. The trip provided significant professional development in music, and the Reps savored every moment. Take a look at the GRAMMY U Reps’ inspirational week.

GRAMMYs/Feb 22, 2024 - 10:38 pm

Thanks to United Airlines' partnership with the Recording Academy, the students traveled from all over the country to Los Angeles and met in person for the first time. In past years, GRAMMY U Reps have only been able to attend a few select events in addition to the GRAMMY Awards on Sunday. But because of United Airlines, these National and Chapter Reps were able to experience the music industry’s most exhilarating week.

Come with the GRAMMY U Reps as they experience Music’s Biggest Night, behind-the-scenes tours, and events highlighting various initiatives within the music industry during GRAMMY Week 2024. Learn how to apply to GRAMMY U here.

Tuesday: Travel Day

The GRAMMY U group chat was exploding with excited messages as we arrived at the airport early Tuesday morning. Each Rep was about to meet their co-workers — many of whom had only connected virtually — and gain the experience of a lifetime. 

United flew all 14 Reps to Los Angeles with exceptional timing, service, and care — even though we were traveling to work at GRAMMY Week, it felt like we were getting celebrity treatment. Once we touched down in L.A., we ran to the United baggage claim to hug our friends and capture the experience to share with fellow GRAMMY U members.

Philly Rep Tamara Tondreau and Nashville Rep Della Anderson┃GRAMMY U

Philly Rep Tamara Tondreau and Nashville Rep Della Anderson┃GRAMMY U

After grabbing lunch near our hotel in downtown L.A., we made it to the Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter Office in Santa Monica for our first in-person team meeting. Sporting new custom GRAMMY U jackets, T-shirts, and hats, we prepared for our signature GRAMMY Week event, a Masterclass with actress/GRAMMY-nominated R&B artist Halle Bailey

Reps were briefed on plans for the week, then took an office tour where we spotted multiple golden gramophones. Since we work remotely year-round, this was our first time getting to see where all the magic happens.

Wednesday: Behind-The-Scenes & Behind The Music

On Wednesday, we were up bright and early to explore the Crypto.com Arena and learn about the behind-the-scenes preparation it takes to host the GRAMMY Awards each year. 

Jody Kolozsvari, Associate Producer of the GRAMMYs and a GRAMMY U alum, guided us around the arena. He also introduced us to the incredible audio, mixing, communications, and production teams as well as Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr

"Walking intoCrypto.com Arena and seeing the GRAMMY stage being built was a very surreal moment," said Sara Hudson, GRAMMY U's New York Chapter Rep. "Meeting so many of the people behind the show and witnessing the hard work that is put into producing the GRAMMY Awards made my passion for working in live music grow even more."

Later that night, Philadelphia Chapter Rep Tamara Tondreau and Los Angeles Chapter Rep Jade Bacon worked as GRAMMY U press at the A Celebration of Craft event, a collaboration between the Recording Academy Producers and Engineers Wing and Songwriters and Composers Wing. This was the very first time GRAMMY U Reps were invited to this exclusive event; Tamara, a songwriter herself, called this event "unforgettable."

"Since songwriting sparked my interest in the music industry, it was inspiring to be in the room with so many talented creatives," Tamara says. "Networking with professionals who hold multiple roles in the industry encouraged me and reaffirmed my goal of maintaining both business and creative aspects in my career."

Thursday: Fostering Community & Culture

Hosted at GRAMMY House, Thursday morning started with a beautiful luncheon at the inaugural A Celebration of Women in the Mix. This event made space for women in the music industry to gather and support one another, recognizing all of the strides made in a male-dominated field. 

Twelve of the 14 Reps identify as women, and this was a special moment to meet some of the industry leaders that we look up to as role models. Networking with female artists, managers, and producers who are laying the groundwork for our generation was a powerful moment we will never forget.

After delivering the keynote speech, Ty Stiklorius, the founder of management company Friends at Work, spoke with some of the GRAMMY U Reps.

"Having a conversation with such an established female in the music industry was incredibly inspiring," says Memphis Rep. Shannon Conte. "After this moment of mentorship and encouragement, I left the event feeling much more confident in my ability to one day succeed in becoming an artist manager."

Dressing up in our finest suits and gowns, we hit the town to attend the exclusive Black Music Collective’s 2024 Recording Academy Honors event, where legends Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz accepted Global Impact Awards. Sitting in the same room as these superstars was awe-inspiring, and it was an honor to see how the Black community was celebrated during GRAMMY Week.

GRAMMY U Reps Shaneel Young, Jade Bacon, and Chloe Sarmiento hosted interviews for our social media, highlighting the fashion of dozens of high-profile attendees including Adam Blackstone, Jordin Sparks, Flavor Flav, and Erica Campbell as they walked the signature black carpet. The excitement of the press line on the black carpet provided Reps with first-hand experience of what a career in press and publicity could look like. 

GRAMMY U DC Rep Shaneel Young aspires to work in music marketing. "Interviewing some of the most influential people in the industry about my passions: music, fashion, and culture, will be a moment I remember for the rest of my career," she reflects.

Reps at Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors┃GRAMMY U

Reps at Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors┃GRAMMY U

These two spectacular events immersed us in the initiatives the Recording Academy has implemented to celebrate diversity and representation in music, and we are so honored to be a part of the company’s continued mission.

Friday: Work Hard, Play Hard

After months spent planning our signature GRAMMY Week event, the GRAMMY U Masterclass with Halle Bailey, presented by Mastercard, we finally saw the fruits of our labor come to life. This year, we welcomed over 500 attendees in person, with members from every Chapter flying in to experience the event together at GRAMMY House.

GRAMMY U PNW Rep Chloe Sarmiento worked as talent lead and interacted directly with Halle Bailey and her team. "It was incredibly fulfilling to see the event come together on-site in Los Angeles after weeks of working on it from home," Chloe says. "Halle and her team were so great to work with, and I couldn’t have asked for a better speaker for the Masterclass!"

Working with experienced Recording Academy staff onsite further enlightened us about all things event production. From talent handling and partnerships to working radios and managing the stage, we were excited to execute a large-scale event with all of the Reps at GRAMMY House.

After a successful Masterclass, the Reps split up for the evening to conquer even more GRAMMY Week events. Half the group went to the #GRAMMYsNextGen party to spread the word about membership, host a photobooth, and interact with influencers and emerging performers. We met hip-hop duo Flyana Boss, and some of our other celebrity sightings included Laura Marano and Milo Manheim. It was inspiring to see other young professionals who have established themselves in the entertainment industry so early in their careers.

Mastercard surprised us with an entire seated table at the exclusive MusiCares Person Of The Year Gala honoring Jon Bon Jovi. It was an outstanding evening honoring the rock icon and the many ways he has given back to the music community. Following a live auction, Brandy Clark, Lainey Wilson, Jelly Roll, Shania Twain, and others performed some of Bon Jovi’s biggest hits — Bon Jovi even graced the stage with Bruce Springsteen for a special rendition of "Who Says You Can’t Go Home." 

The Reps were incredibly grateful to United and Mastercard for granting us the opportunity to witness these exclusive live performances. To see the music community come together to honor a legend while giving back and furthering the mission of MusiCares is a heartwarming aspect of the music industry we don’t get to witness every day.

Reps with Sabrina Carpenter at the Person of the Year Gala┃GRAMMY U

Reps with Sabrina Carpenter at the Person of the Year Gala┃GRAMMY U

GRAMMY U Chicago Rep Rachel Owen was one of the lucky attendees able to watch the thrilling performances while mingling in the crowd with other musicians like Sabrina Carpenter and David Archuleta.

"To even be in the same room as Shania Twain is an honor, she’s timeless and more exquisite than I could've even imagined," Owen says. "To see her perform live to Jon Bon Jovi is the type of moment you just never take for granted."

Saturday: Divide & Conquer

Saturday was jam-packed with events. Back again at GRAMMY House, a group of Reps attended the Best New Artist Spotlight, where nominees discussed their breakthrough years and what it means to be considered a "new artist." From upstarts Ice Spice and Gracie Abrams to the long musical journey of Victoria Monét, The War and Treaty, and Jelly Roll, these diverse perspectives all stressed that each person has a unique career timeline and reminded us as students to practice perseverance and patience as we navigate this industry. 

Various Reps continued at GRAMMY House, some working as press at the #GRAMMYsNextGen Ambassador Power Brunch and the first-ever Academy Proud event, celebrating LGBTQIA+ voices.

A handful of us worked as GRAMMY U press at the Special Merit Awards ceremony and subsequent celebration. Being a part of these exclusive events and witnessing historic moments like the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards was truly impactful. We interviewed nominees at the celebration, including boygenius engineer Owen Lantz (the supergroup would win their first three GRAMMYs the very next day.)

Hundreds of nominees attended the Special Merit Awards and Celebration, proudly displaying their blue medallions and glowing as they took their official GRAMMY nominee photos; the hopeful and energetic spirit of the event fueled our drive to succeed in this industry even more.

Sunday: And The GRAMMY Goes To…

Sunday morning was the day everyone had all been waiting for: the 66th GRAMMY Awards! After getting our glam on, the GRAMMY U Reps got to walk the red carpet for the first time ever. We took tons of photos and videos to commemorate this special moment and share our experience with friends and family.

While most of the Reps were posing on the carpet, Pierson, Jasmine, Rachel, and Chloe had the honor of being trophy presenters during the GRAMMY Premiere Ceremony. This was the first time GRAMMY U Reps from across the country were given the honor of being up close and personal during artists' career-defining moments.

Reps on the GRAMMYs Red Carpet┃Andrew Sankovich

Reps on the GRAMMYs Red Carpet┃Andrew Sankovich 

Moving into Crypto.com Arena to be seated for the telecast portion of the evening, the GRAMMY U Reps were ecstatic to watch the ceremony in person. As legends like Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Tracy Chapman, and Stevie Wonder blazed on stage, all the Reps were singing and dancing along, thrilled to be a part of Music’s Biggest Night. Phenomenal performances from nominees SZA, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, and Luke Combs were equally captivating. 

Witnessing the live telecast after experiencing so much behind-the-scenes production exemplified how rewarding the music industry can be, and how prestigious winning a GRAMMY truly is. The quiet suspense before a winner was announced and the roars that followed created a rollercoaster of emotions that took our breath away.

Immediately afterward, we were off to enjoy the official GRAMMYs After-Party  — and not even the constant showers could not rain on our parade. The Reps hit the dancefloor as soon as NE-YO took the stage, and hearing "Time of Our Lives" felt especially relatable. 

As we headed back home on our United flights, we reflected on an exhilarating GRAMMY Week. Not only were we able to be part of exclusive events, but we also interacted with artists, learned from experts, and grew exponentially. Experiencing these moments with the other Reps brought our team closer, while meeting members and peers showed the expansive community GRAMMY U is cultivating. 

Because of United, we witnessed all the Recording Academy does for the music industry. After GRAMMY Week, we feel more inspired and empowered than ever to lead the next generation of the music industry.

With additional reporting from Pierson Livingston.

2024 GRAMMYs: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

10 Ways TLC Shaped The Future Of R&B
TLC in 1999.

Photo: Ron Davis/Getty Images

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10 Ways TLC Shaped The Future Of R&B

As the trailblazing trio's blockbuster albums 'CrazySexyCool' and 'FanMail' celebrate milestone anniversaries, dig into how TLC's fearlessness changed R&B — and music as a whole.

GRAMMYs/Feb 22, 2024 - 03:12 pm

From the moment TLC burst onto the scene in 1991, they've tested the limits of what R&B is and can be. Formed as a tomboyish alternative to Bell Biv DeVoe, the Atlanta trio soon ended up eclipsing the New Jack Swing pioneers — and pretty much every other R&B act of the 1990s — with a sound and style that perfectly straddled the gritty and the smooth, the playful and the poetic, and the old and the new.  

Furthermore, each member of TLC brought something distinctive to the table. Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins had the kind of huskiness that could make the phone book appear seductive; Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas offered a poppier register tailor-made for radio; and the late Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes possessed a lyrical flow that flitted between the mischievous and socially conscious. They simply sounded like no other girl group who had come before. 

Of course, the four-time GRAMMY winners subsequently spawned their fair share of emulators — most notably Left Eye protégés Blaque — and inspired a younger generation to channel their winning brand of crazy, sexy, and cool: BLACKPINK, Little Mix, and Fifth Harmony are just a few of the more contemporary girl groups who have publicly acknowledged their influence.

In the same year TLC celebrate both the 30th anniversary of their diamond-selling blockbuster, CrazySexyCool, and the 25th anniversary of its chart-topping follow-up FanMail, here's a welcome reminder of why the three-piece were such a game-changer.

They Empowered Their Audience

Like their arguably most obvious predecessors Salt-N-Pepa, TLC weren't afraid to talk about sex. "Red Light Special" and "Let's Take Our Time," in particular, were steamy enough to leave your speakers dripping; the X-rated "I'm Good at Being Bad" almost makes Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B's "WAP" sound chaste. This was an admirably bold move in an era where male R&B performers were celebrated for being insatiable horndogs, and women were castigated for showing the merest sign of lust.

It wasn't just in the bedroom where TLC rallied against such double standards, though. Inspired by a blatant display of toxic masculinity on an episode of"Ricki Lake," "Unpretty" fought back against the ridiculous expectations imposed on women, ultimately setting a benchmark for every female self-empowerment anthem that followed.

They Delivered A Bold Message

The trio also opened up conversations on sex outside the pleasure principle. The video for debut single "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" saw all three members attach condoms to their bright, baggy outfits, with Left Eye famously sporting one on the body part that inspired her nickname to further promote the issue of safe sex. 

Their second No. 1, "Waterfalls," highlighted the need for such protection with a subtle reference to HIV ("Three letters took him to his final resting place," T-Boz warns in the second verse). And the remix of their first chart-topper, "Creep," saw Left Eye spell out more explicitly the dangers of messing around on the downlow. For those who grew up in the early '90s, TLC were arguably more effective than any sexual health initiative.  

They Gave R&B The Blockbuster Treatment

Ah, the '90s, a time when music executives thought nothing of giving artists music video budgets akin to a small country's GDP. Luckily for Arista Records, TLC always delivered plenty of bang for their million-plus bucks.

Interspersing gritty depictions of both the drug and AIDS epidemics with groundbreaking performance footage of the trio in liquified form, "Waterfalls" picked up four wins at the annual VMAs, including Video of the Year. The GRAMMY-nominated visual for "Unpretty" tackled the issue of body image, racism, and gang violence in another highly dramatic mini masterpiece, while "No Scrubs" saw Hype Williams work his usual cyber-futuristic magic on the world's coolest space station. As a result, TLC became the defining R&B act of MTV's second generation.

They Merged The Worlds Of R&B And Hip-Hop 

While Mary J. Blige is often dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, it could be argued that the title should be shared amongst TLC. The trio were plausibly the first major outfit to blend the beats and rhymes of rap music with the melodic sensibilities of R&B without any outside assistance. They scored almost as many No. 1s on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as they did on the Hot 100 as proof.

Left Eye, a firecracker of an MC whose lyrical flow was every bit as flamboyant as her fashion sense, was undoubtedly the group's secret weapon, allowing them to bounce between slow jams and party anthems with ease. An inspired choice of producers — ranging from established hitmaker Babyface to fellow Atlantans Organized Noize — also helped them to reflect both the sounds of commercial radio and the sounds of the streets.

They're The Queens Of Survival 

While there have been plenty of resilient pop stars, TLC repeatedly proved that they were experts in bouncing back. After all, the trio were forced to deal with near-insurmountable hardships in between nearly every album campaign. Following 1991's Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, T-Boz became severely ill with sickle cell anemia, a condition she'd previously kept under wraps. On the other hand, Left Eye gave the tabloids a field day thanks to a turbulent relationship with Andre Rison, which involved numerous physical altercations and, most famously, the rapper burning the NFL star's house down.

Despite selling 23 million copies of 1994's CrazySexyCool, the group found themselves filing for bankruptcy after discovering they'd been the victim of an exploitative record contract. And then most tragically of all, 2002's 3D had to be completed as a duo when Left Eye lost her life in a car crash. After years of studio inactivity, T-Boz and Chilli once again proved their indomitable spirit with 2017's eponymous LP, particularly on opener "No Introduction" and the Boney M-sampling "It's Sunny" ("Don't be trippin' all over your fears/'Cause the good comes after bad/First you cry and then you laugh/As we head into another year").

They Pushed R&B Into The 21st Century 

After incorporating everything from classic Philly soul to '80s Prince on the retro-leaning CrazySexyCool, TLC decided to push things forward on follow-up FanMail, a thrillingly futuristic record which essentially reshaped the R&B scene for the 21st century. Skillfully interweaving all kinds of Y2K sounds (most notably, the dial-up modem), the opening title track and "Silly Ho" perfectly reflect the album's cyber artwork. Way ahead of their time, meanwhile, several spoken word interludes are attributed to a talking android named Vic-E.

If all this sounds a little gimmicky, then FanMail also had substance to its technological style, with the disconnect between the online and real worlds a recurring theme. "No Scrubs," meanwhile, essentially set a new feminist agenda, spearheading a wave of useless man-dragging anthems from the likes of Destiny's Child ("Bills, Bills, Bills"),Pink ("There You Go"), andToni Braxton ("He Wasn't Man Enough").

They Were Great At Harnessing New Talent 

One thing TLC don't get enough credit for is how they recognized and utilized talent that had only just started their path to world dominance. Take André 3000, for example. Having just released their fabulously titled debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Outkast were still largely unknowns when the flautist unleashed his laid-back drawl on CrazySexyCool closer "Sumthin' Wicked This Way Comes." Within a year, the duo were runners-up on the Billboard 200.

TLC were also the first major label outfit to draw upon the production skills of Jermaine Dupri ("Bad By Myself"), the So So Def founder responsible for 10 Hot 100 chart-toppers, and Kevin 'She'kspere' Briggs ("No Scrubs"), the hitmaker whose partnership with former Xscape vocalist Kandi Burruss set the blueprint for turn-of-the-century R&B.

They Broke Down Barriers 

There are plenty of stats to back up TLC's game-changing status, too. In 1995, they achieved a feat that had remarkably eluded Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Prince: the first act of color ever to win Video of the Year at the MTV VMAs.

In 2000, they became the first female act to win GRAMMYs for Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and Best R&B Album in the same year. And having shifted an astonishing 65 million records worldwide, they're second only to the legendarySupremes when it comes to America's best-selling girl group. If that wasn't enough, CrazySexyCool's 10 million domestic album sales means they joinDixie Chicks as one of only two all-women outfits to receive an RIAA Diamond award.

They Were Able To Evolve Their Style 

TLC could never be accused of playing it safe. After gatecrashing the New Jack Swing scene with their playful 1991 debut, the trio transformed into soulful seductresses on the timeless CrazySexyCool before capturing the sound of the millennium on the innovative FanMail.

And while their 21st century releases haven't been quite as game-changing, 2002's 3D and their 2017 self-titled LP still highlighted TLC's ability to move with the times (see the Pharrell and Timbaland productions on 3D and social media clapback "Haters" on TLC).

They've been equally adaptable when it comes to their sense of style, from the Day-Glo overalls of their early years, to the slinky pajamas and sleek crop tops of their mid-'90s phase, to the striking space-age fashions of Y2K. And their sartorial vision has continued to make waves, with Vogue magazine declaring in 2017 that labels including Gypsy Sport, Valentino, and Balenciaga had all borrowed from the group's 'glam-leisure' look in recent years.

They've Continued To Pervade Pop Culture 

Although their recording output has been relatively slim over the last 20 years, TLC have still remained a part of the pop culture landscape. One of the 21st century's most streamed hits, Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You," was deemed so similar to "No Scrubs" that the Brit was forced to acknowledge its influence in the songwriting credits.

Drake, Zendaya, and Kaytranada are just a few of the contemporary names who've either sampled or covered the trio, while rapper J. Cole managed to persuade T-Boz and Chilli themselves to join him in the studio on 2013's "Crooked Smile." A 2023 Lifetime documentary special and appearances on various nostalgia tours have further kept the TLC name in the spotlight.

And could we soon be seeing their eventful story played out on Broadway? At the 2023 '90s Con, the duo revealed they'd been working on a new stage musical with the team behind award-winning phenomenon Hamilton.

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What Is Trap Gospel? How A New Generation of Christian Rappers Are Grabbing The Attention Of Believers & Non-Believers
Christian rapper Alex Jean

Photo courtesy of the artist

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What Is Trap Gospel? How A New Generation of Christian Rappers Are Grabbing The Attention Of Believers & Non-Believers

Christian rappers such as Wande, BigBreeze, Mike Teezy and Alex Jean are big on sonic relatability, and are using familiar hip-hop sounds to spread the gospel. Their message is resonating in and out of the church.

GRAMMYs/Feb 22, 2024 - 02:05 pm

When Christian artist Mike Teezy released his single "Communion" in 2020, he didn’t expect his song to influence a listener in New York to stop practicing witchcraft. 

The catchy rap track, which details the importance of the Christian sacrament, was pouncing through a taxi's radio speakers when it dawned on the listener that she needed to take her faith more seriously. 

The North Carolina rapper spits: "Before you even take a bite of the bread / And proceed to drink up all the juice / Better make sure that your soul is clean / And I ain't talking bout no shoes." 

After hearing the lyrics the listener immediately reached out to the rapper with her testimony. "From that moment on she threw away her tarot cards and made a decision to actually try to follow Christ," Teezy, born Michael E.J. Tyree, tells GRAMMY.com.

While this experience might be unique, Teezy is one of many gospel artists whose trap tributes to Christ are resonating with listeners both in and outside of the faith by speaking to their own experiences. 

Christian artists have "crossed over" for decades, though GRAMMY-winning rapper Lecrae may be the earliest example in hip-hop. In 2014, Lecrae secured a No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and gospel charts with his religiously-influenced Anomaly. His success would influence a generation of artists, including labelmate Wande, whose songs have appeared in commercials and TV.

Gospel Across Borders

As the son of a preacher, Teezy grew up listening to church elders using rap as a way of appealing to the younger congregation. Their failed attempts (along with Teezy wanting good non-secular music to dance to in church) is why the 32-year-old became a musician. "I was like this is corny…if I ever do [music], I would do it a different way," he says. 

Teezy believes wholeheartedly in the healing power of God. The rapper was involved in two freak accidents as a child and was told that he would never be able to walk, let alone dance, again. But within minutes of the diagnosis, the rapper was doing flips out of the hospital. 

"Miracles are real, that's why I try to share [the gospel], as much as I can — even through my music," he says.

Pulling inspiration from musical artists like Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes, and even fellow North Carolina rapper DaBaby, Teezy creates Christian remixes to popular songs, as well as make original music such as "Forgive ‘em" which gained traction when Christian podcast Know For Sure shouted it out, and of course, "Communion."

"I feel like a lot of [Christian rappers] now are approaching [music] that way too," he says, adding, "we're preaching the same message about Jesus Christ but approaching it differently to reach different people, areas, and cities."

Two-time GRAMMY-nominated Christian artist Yewande Dees, known as Wande, has had her faith-based rhymes reach the likes of people at Apple and Netflix. One of her top three most Shazamed songs, "Blessed Up," even found its way onto Michelle Obama’s 2020 playlist.

"What I hope to do is provide people who like rap music with something they can listen to without sacrificing their values." 

Wande’s music led her to being cast on Oprah Winfrey’s unaired reality series "Young & Gospel" as well as TBNx "Girl Talk," a YouTube series featuring prominent young women influencing the faith. The 27-year-old says her music helps those making a transition and seeking to change their life.

Likewise, Atlanta-based rapper Markel Stenson, known as BigBreeze, uses trap sounds like "ratchet drums" and distorted 808s to rap about Jesus. 

"When it comes to where I came from and spreading the gospel to people [living] in poverty, the trenches, or just low-income family housing," BigBreeze who’s big on relatability and has accumulated a following of believers searching for a sound similar to trap artists like Future and Young Thug. "I know what type of music attracts their ears and I know what they like to hear."

Trap music originated in the southern U.S. and many of its pioneers hail from Atlanta. Artists like BigBreeze are taking that influence and using trap's familiar beats to replace the often negative messaging in secular hip-hop with words and messages of hope. 

Read more: A Guide To Southern Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From The Dirty South

"People are tired of hearing about [sex and violence]," says BigBreeze, who was raised in hopeless conditions before finding God. "If I can push this sound and get [the word] to them, then maybe it'd be a stepping stone to them wanting to open the [Bible], step in church, or wanting to just see who Jesus is."

BigBreeze and his cohort both know their audience and are reflective of larger trends. The American Bible Society’s "State of the Bible 2023" study found that 64 percent of Black people were "far more likely to be committed to Christ than any other racial or ethnic group."

Crucifying The Messenger

The use of familiar or "worldly" beats and samples in the Christian music world isn’t a new practice. In fact, a handful of Christian artists have long explored the concept of meeting listeners at a relatable place. 

Notably, Kirk Franklin and gospel group God's Property, along with Salt-N-Pepa’s Cheryl James, made "Stomp," which sampled Funkadelic’s "One Nation Under a Groove." The song snagged them two GRAMMY Awards in 1998: Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Rhythm & Blues Song. That same year, Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation also received a GRAMMY Award for Best Gospel Choir Or Chorus Album. 

Franklin later revealed that he was ridiculed by the church about "Stomp." He also confessed to purposely missing out on attending the ceremony (where he’d win his first GRAMMY) in the previous year, out of fear of being judged or seeming too worldly. "There was a time that anything that didn’t look like church was the devil," Franklin shared on Shannon Sharpe’s podcast "Club Shay Shay." 

Although intellectually outdated, this is a plight the new generation of Christian artists still grapples with today. 

For these reasons, BigBreeze was advised to switch up his sound early in his career. "When I first started [making music], it was so different from [typical Christian music]," he recalls, adding,"If God is behind it, people are going to realize where your heart is at." 

Florida-based Christian artist Alex Jean has similarly faced detractors. The 24-year-old has dealt with everything from devout Christians attempting to shut down his shows, to his comment sections being flooded with shady religious remarks. 

"If they truly knew what God's will was, then they would understand what I do and actually know why music exists," Jean says.

A New Wave Of Followers

Many Christians believe the original purpose of music was intended to minister healing, peace, and inspiration to believers. Like most Christian artists, Jean samples popular rap songs and beats while using lyrics that glorify God. His heavy-bass voice recalling the late drill rapper Pop Smoke initially grabbed the attention of people; the message is what made them stay around. 

"Music started in heaven, God created music and then it became twisted," Jean tells GRAMMY.com, adding "whenever I hop on a song or a sample, that's me introducing [listeners] to how music started and what music is."

In a little over a year, Jean’s songs "Walking In Peace" and "Forever In Faith" accumulated over 1.5 million views on TikTok. Jean even became the first Christian artist to perform for On The Radar Radio, a hip-hop platform notorious for viral freestyles from Drake, Central Cee, Ice Spice, and other influential rappers. 

Jean believes the world is craving this type of "kingdom music." 

"It fulfills human needs, it gives purpose, kills worry, adds real confidence, keeps you secure, strong — all the stuff everybody wants," says Jean, adding that spiritual music " gives you control over your life."

With over 130,000 posts with the hashtag Christian rap on TikTok, this genre continues to grow as listeners spread the holy versions of their favorite sounds. Yet, artists like Wande say none of these achievements surpass the moment when her Muslim father put aside his own religious beliefs to support her career. 

"I feel like God used my gift of music to get me closer with my father who’s not with that Christian stuff," she says. "Now he comes to my shows that are at churches…it's been cool seeing how music can even transcend that barrier with us."

Wande has not only broken barriers within her family but she’s also breaking barriers within the predominantly male space, as she was the first female Christian rapper to perform on the main stage in 2022 at the Stellar Awards Gospel Music Show in Atlanta.

Though it hasn’t been easy for the Nigerian-born Christian rapper to break into this space, she says it's beautiful to see how much Christian rap has "grown and expanded." 

"I think TikTok has been helping the genre tremendously, with so many different Christian artists going viral now," says Wande.

As far as representing her female Christian audience, Wande makes empowering songs such as, "Don’t Worry Bout It" that include stand-out lines like: "It's no division in the buildin', got the same goal / We on some different, we flowin' to save souls" and "if He said it, then it's done / Called it holy girl summer 'cause we chillin' with the Son." 

Wande and her peers encourage people who aren't fans of trap or rap to focus on the message and how it’s changing the lives of believers and non-believers. 

"I always say look at the fruit and how many people are being uplifted by the songs," she says. 

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