meta-scriptPress Play: XTIE Reclaims The Power In Her Relationship With Eczema During This Performance Of "Skin" | GRAMMY.com
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Press Play: XTIE Reclaims The Power In Her Relationship With Eczema During This Performance Of "Skin"

On her single "Skin," Hong Kong native XTIE refuses to let her eczema hold her back any longer — and this powerful live rendition is a testament to that.

GRAMMYs/May 11, 2023 - 05:00 pm

Growing up with severe eczema, Hong Kong native XTIE has struggled with body image issues her entire life. But on her single "Skin," she's ready to embrace what she once believed were flaws.

"I just want to heal on my own/ To take care of my skin," she declares in the chorus, later revealing, "Fighting all of my insecurities/ Stop judging by looking at my skin/ I just want to lift up my chin/ Telling me there's a world to win."

In this episode of Press Play, XTIE delivers a live performance of "Skin," constructing the song with a MIDI controller and keyboard. She wears a vest that exposes her neck and arms, emphasizing her growing comfort in her body.

Chatting with EnVi Media, the singer/songwriter called "Skin" the "most important song" in her catalog. Before her debut, she considered staying behind the scenes as a producer due to her eczema battle. 

"I felt like no one wanted to hear me sing," she explained. "When people consume music, they also consume your singing and your appearance."

Click on the video to see XTIE promote body positivity with her performance of "Skin," and be sure to check back to GRAMMY.com every week for more new episodes of Press Play.

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Alex Ritchie, Emily Vu, Myra Molloy, Alex Aiono, Brooke Alexx in collage
(From left) Alex Ritchie, Emily Vu, Myra Molloy, Alex Aiono, Brooke Alexx

Photos: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images; Robin L Marshall/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Disney/PictureGroup; Sam Morris/Getty Images

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10 Exciting AAPI Artists To Know In 2024: Audrey English, Emily Vu, Zhu & Others

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, get to know 10 up-and-coming AAPI artists — including Alex Ritchie, Curtis Waters and others — whose music spans geography and genre.

GRAMMYs/May 13, 2024 - 01:16 pm

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have made strides in the music industry for many years. Every year, more AAPIs enter executive roles in the industry, increasing their visibility and impact.

Artists in the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora — including Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak), Olivia Rodrigo, and H.E.R. — have graced the stage and won golden gramophones at Music's Biggest Night. During 2024 GRAMMY Week, the Recording Academy collaborated with Gold House and Pacific Bridge Arts Foundation to create the Gold Music Alliance, a program designed to foster meaningful connections and elevate the impact of Pan-Asian members and allies within the Academy and wider music industry. 

Yet, AAPI groups are significantly underrepresented in the music industry. Pacific Islanders are often forgotten when it comes to lists and industry due to their smaller percentage in the population.

Despite the lack of representation, social media and streaming platforms have introduced fans to new and rising artists such as Chinese American pop singer Amber Liu, Japanese American singer/songwriter Mitski, and Hawaiian native Iam Tongi. Others are showcasing their sound on the festival circuit, as San Francisco-based indie rocker Tanukichan and Korean American guitarist NoSo did at last year's Outside Lands festival. With AAPI-led music festivals, such as 88 Rising’s Head in the Clouds and Pacific Feats Festival, artists in this community are given opportunities to exhibit their talent and, often, their heritage. 

For many emerging artists, a like, reshare, or subscribe can help them gain the attention of mainstream studios and bolster tour attendance. So, in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, check out these 10 up-and-coming AAPI artists performing everything from pop to soulful R&B and EDM. 

Alex Aiono

Maori-Samoan American singer Alex Aiono moved to Los Angeles from Phoenix at 14 to pursue a music career. After going viral for his mashup of Drake's "One Dance" and Nicky Jam’s "Hasta el Amanecer," Aiono now has over 5.73 million YouTube subscribers. He was then cast in several popular films and television series, including Netflix’s Finding Ohana, Disney Channel’s "Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.," and "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin."

But, for the 28-year-old R&B/pop singer, music has always been his calling. Aiono released several singles and, in 2020, a full-length album, The Gospel at 23. Inspired by his experience in Hollywood and his relationship with his religion (as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), The Gospel at 23 plays on the simplicity of a piano, drums, tambourine, and a choir, beautifully fusing modern soul with the old-fashioned gospel. Since then, the artist has released tender medleys – with his most recent heartbreaking single "Best of Me."

"I view this as a very, very lucky life that I get to express myself and that's my job," he told AZ Central. "My quote-unquote job."

Alex Ritchie

L.A.-based singer/songwriter Alex Ritchie has been honest about her journey as a queer mixed-Asian woman in the industry. The Filipino-Japanese-Spanish artist said she was constantly overlooked or told she wouldn’t be commercial enough in the American music industry.

"I’m the only musician in my family, and I came from a family of humble means; so even though I had conviction in what I wanted from a young age, it wasn’t realistic," Ritchie told GRAMMY.com in 2019. said. "Pursuing something like entertainment was so risky. I couldn’t afford to fail. We couldn’t afford to dream like that. BUT I had unrealistic dreams anyway, and after my first gig at the Whisky I knew that was it."

Ritchie has been thriving in the industry, becoming the youngest sitting committee member in the history of the Recording Academy’s Los Angeles Chapter, advocating for LGBTQ+ and Asian American representation in music. After her experience with GRAMMYU in 2019, the alternative rock singer released 404 EP and several sultry singles, including a melodious and fervent love song, "Blueprint," released this January. Ritchie plans on releasing more music and on her terms. 

"Time and people have finally caught up with the vision that I always had for myself, even if they didn’t see it before," Ritchie tells the Recording Academy. "One of the things I’m most proudest of is that I never really changed. I’ve stayed exactly who I am to the core. I think when you do that and when you realize there’s no one else like you, you become the most powerful person in the room."

Audrey English

**You may not have heard of Audrey English, but you have heard her music on "America’s Got Talent," "American Idol," and Netflix’s "Love Is Blind." Her songs are featured on the shows during the most prominent moments of the contestants’ lives on screen: In "AGT" and "American Idol," English’s rendition of "Lean On Me" played during golden buzzer moments and emotional arcs; er song "Mama Said" went viral after being played during Ad and Clay’s wedding scene in season 6 of "Love Is  Blind."

Inspired by Etta James, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse, the Samoan American artist swoons audiences with her soulful, powerful tone with songs that focus on relationships, empowerment, and love. English also showcases her culture in her videos; in the music video for her harrowing ballad "Happy," English featured the beauty of Samoa alongside a Samoan romantic love interest. She hopes one day to write a Samoan song. 

In her latest single "Unapologetic," released on April 25, English wrote the song as an anthem for others to live without shame. "In a world where we are so influenced by others, social media, and being our own worst critics - sometimes we need to take a step back to realize it all doesn’t really matter," English wrote on Instagram. "Regardless of your beliefs, background, and passions, this is a call to be authentically you, however, you define that!"

Brooke Alexx

**Brooke Alexx’s bubblegum pop personality is infectious, and her catchy hooks, including her latest pop-rock single, "Hot Like You," are fit for everyone’s summer playlist.

Alexx has never shied away from revealing intimate parts of her life. The Japanese American artist writes her music from her experiences as the oldest child, being best friends with her exes’ moms, and her connection to her Asian roots. 

In her 2022 gentle ballad, "I’m Sorry, Tokyo," Alexx reveals the shame she once felt for not wanting to learn about her Japanese heritage, as well as the guilt she feels for never learning the language and culture. "There’s so much about the culture that I don’t know and missed out on that would be so cool to be a part of my life now," Alexx told Mixed Asian Media. "So, I’m trying to return to those roots a little bit these days."

She is now making up for lost time. Alexx embraces her Japanese heritage and will visit the country in August with a select group of fans

Curtis Waters

Curtis Waters doesn’t care for commercial success. Despite going viral on TikTok in 2020 for his raunchy, satirical, catchy song "Stunnin," the Nepalese Canadian-American alt-pop artist was unhappy with his career trajectory.

"I made some songs that I don’t fully love, hoping they would catch the same success as 'Stunnin’," Waters told Atwood Magazine. "But doing that made me depressed, so I had to stop and remind myself why I started making music in the first place."

Water's new album, Bad Son, was released on March 27. His press release says it is "a true immigrant story, a reflection on a young, brown creative being thrown into the mainstream overnight while navigating deep issues of self-doubt and cultural identity along the way."  

Waters didn’t intend to share his immigrant story but struck inspiration as a way to cope emotionally and be honest with himself. Filled with high-energy beats, elements of indie rock, and experimental hip-hop, Waters reveals an ardent part of himself through his breathy vocals and introspective tracks.

Emily Vu 

Vietnamese American pop singer Emily Vu has accomplished much in her 22 years: She amassed over 1.2 million followers on TikTok, her song "Changes" was featured in the 2023 Netflix film A Tourist’s Guide to Love, and is part of the Mastercard Artist Accelerator program. Her catchy pop tunes, including the recently released single "Heartsick," are inspired by personal moments in her life.

Vu has always been open and sure about her identity as a queer Asian woman. She came out in her 2020 music video for "Just Wait," which featured numerous women symbolizing her previous relationships. "The music video reflects how my past relationships are still burdens to me and how I still carry those experiences with me wherever I am," Vu told Stanford Daily, "I see myself being really happy with my life in a few years. I want to be happy with all that I’ve been doing and all the people I’m around."

Four years later, Vu still releases music and captivating fans on TikTok with her earthy vocals and angelic covers. Vu tells her followers on TikTok, "I just want to let you all know that I’m back. I’m going to be annoying you all every single day until I get bored."

Etu

Fijian American artist Etu is ready for the new era of the island industry, which is expanding far beyond island reggae and into different genres. "We got artists who do pop, R&B, and country. We’re going to embrace the things we bring into this," the island pop singer told Island Mongul.

Inspired by artists like Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and Fiji, etu's hypnotic and haunting vocals fuse beautifully with traditional island music. The dreamy track "Au Domoni Iko" ("I love you" in Fijian), from his 2022 EP Spring Break, lays smooth harmonies over Fijian beats. The EP itself is filled with memorable melodies, upbeat pop styles, and uplifting lyrics. 

Etu has released singles for the past two years, including island renditions of Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors" and Rihanna’s "Lift Me Up" in February. He’s set to release his debut album, SZN I,this summer. 

Etu believes Pacific Islanders are on the cusp of greatness in the music industry. "This is our moment right now," he continued to Island Mogul. "We’re moving into this era, in this season, where we get to make history… Come join this part of history or they're gonna tell it for us."

Myra Molloy

Thai American singer and actress Myra Molloy was merely 13 years old when she won "Thailand's Got Talent." She continued working in Thailand on Broadway productions and landed in the Top 6 of ABC’s Rising Star. As she pursued a music degree from Berklee College of Music, she found her love for music production and songwriting.

In 2021, Molloy dropped the sweet acoustic "stay." During the pandemic, she decided to apply the skills she acquired from college to her EP, unrequited. Released in November 2023, the album blends Molloy's soulful vocals with organic and electronic dance beats. It also marks her producing debut. 

"The hardest part for me was overcoming this impostor syndrome that I couldn’t be a producer (who was taken seriously, haha)," Molloy told Melodic Magazine. "Or that I wasn’t good enough to put out music I self-produced. I always give myself a hard time. But I feel like once I got into this "flow state," things just kind of came to me very quickly and naturally, and I would come out of a producing trance. Top ten best feelings."

As an AAPI advocate, Molloy has long called for more inclusion in television, film, and music. "I just want to see more. We are coming along slowly, but I want that to be faster. It should be more. I just want to see people taking more initiative." 

Shreea Kaul 

R&B singer Shreea Kaul embraces her Indian heritage by fusing her silky falsetto and soulful pitch with South Asian and Bollywood sounds. Her "Tere Bina" and its accompanying music video are heavily influenced by her cultural upbringing.

Kaul wanted to be a crossover artist for Western and Indian audiences but found the lack of foundation for South Asian music challenging. 

"There's so much power in community, especially in the South Asian community. We stick together. We support one another. The talent is undeniable. It's only a matter of time before people are going to catch on," she said on the "DOST" podcast. "What a lot of platforms are doing right now by bringing South Asian talent to the map is exactly what we need. So I've been trying to get myself into these spaces or just be around the community more because that's what it's going to take."

On her 2021 single "Ladke" (Hindi for "boys"), Kaul contacted fellow South Asian singer REHMA to collaborate on the song. The harmonious R&B track smoothly fuses Western elements with South Asian languages. Kaul received an overwhelmingly positive response for the song, which motivated her to keep going.

"There’s a spot in the market for artists like myself—for South Asian artists, in general," says Kaul. "Whatever degree of South Asian you want to be and incorporate into your music, there’s space for it."

ZHU

Chinese American experimental EDM music producer ZHU recorded his fourth studio album inside the historic Grace Cathedral. Released in March and fittingly titled Grace, it blends trap, gospel, dance, rock, and pop with synths, organs, and strings to create a sinister, sensual tone that perfectly complements his signature sultry vocals.

Grace pays homage to the legacy of the Bay Area and its impact on his life. "The recording of this project, as well as the whole purpose and design and visuals, has a lot of tribute to [San Francisco] thematically. I think a lot of people don’t even know that I grew up there," ZHU told EDM Identity.  

At the end of the recording, ZHU and his team donned black cloaks and held a concert in the cathedral, sharing the new album with thousands of lucky fans who could attend. Like the symbolism of the cathedral, ZHU’s album represented the themes of religion and his connection to home.

"I’ve never really shared a part of the city, but I think it’s time to pay some tribute to some of the great influences that have come through the area," says ZHU

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Abby Sage performs at home
Abby Sage

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Press Play: Watch Abby Sage Feed Her “Hunger” In This Acoustic Performance Of Her Single

Rising indie star Abby Sage performs “Hunger,” an unapologetic track about sexual liberation from her debut album, ‘The Rot.’

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 03:56 pm

With "Hunger," rising indie star Abby Sage takes autonomy of her body. It’s a story of shameless self-discovery as she submits to her natural desires while simultaneously breaking down the toxic ideas she learned about sex in her adolescence.

"Feed my hunger/ No shame, I'm just a beginner," she croons in the chorus. "It's my own wonder/ Don't press, I'm just a beginner."

In this episode of Press Play, watch Sage deliver an acoustic performance of the single from her debut album, The Rot, which she released on March 1. According to a statement, the project is largely about "the decomposition and reconstruction of everything I was taught," including sex, anxiety, and more.

Sage said "Hunger" is "the most important song to me on the album" adding, "I wish I heard a song like this when I was first exploring my sexuality and my sexual journey, and for that reason, I hope it reaches people."

This May, Sage will embark on an international tour that begins in Los Angeles and concludes in London, with support from gglum, spiderblush, and Jayla Kai.

Watch the video above to hear Abby Sage's empowering performance of "Hunger," and remember to check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Press Play.

Watch Genia Narrate The Pain Of Heartbreak In This Raw Performance Of "Dear Life" | Press Play

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Genia (right) performs for Press Play.

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Press Play: Watch Genia Narrate The Pain Of Heartbreak In This Raw Performance Of "Dear Life"

R&B singer Genia offers an acoustic rendition of "Dear Life," one of the singles from her forthcoming mixtape, '4 AM In The Ville,' out April 19 via Def Jam.

GRAMMYs/Apr 9, 2024 - 05:00 pm

On "Dear Life," R&B singer Genia pens a farewell letter to her lover — while simultaneously reflecting on how the intense saga crumbled her.

"I can't take anymore/ Put my pride aside, thought you could save me," she cries in the first verse. "These days, I don't know what I need/ You destroy me from the inside out/ If I go off the deep end/ You'll be sure not to bring me back."

In this episode of Press Play, watch Genia deliver a stripped-down performance of the vulnerable track alongside her guitarist.

The California native released "Dear Life" on Nov. 10, via Def Jam Recordings. She has also dropped three more singles — "Like That," "Know!," and "Let Me Wander" — leading up to her sophomore mixtape, 4 AM In The Ville, on April 19. 4 AM is a sequel to her debut, 4 PM In The Ville; both projects are inspired by Genia's experience of growing up in Victorville, California.

""[The songs] explore the different stages of grief in a relationship," she revealed in an interview with Urban Magazine. "The second tape is really me touching on falling in love, betrayal, anger, and rape."

Watch the video above to hear Genia's acoustic performance of "Dear Life," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Press Play.

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Kenya Vaun

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Press Play: Watch Kenya Vaun Reminisce About "Yesterday" In This Sentimental Studio Performance

Philadelphia native and R&B newcomer Kenya Vaun honors the beauty of childhood in this stripped-down performance of "Yesterday," a track from her new EP, 'The Honeymoon Phase.'

GRAMMYs/Mar 26, 2024 - 05:01 pm

Now in her early twenties, R&B rookie Kenya Vaun would give anything to return to her childhood adolescence — the days of block-turned-house parties and no bills.

"Feels like it was only yesterday/ And life was so easy yesterday," Vaun raps in the chorus of her new song, "Yesterday." "If I had the chance to do it again/ I'd do it the same/ The joy and the pain/ The coldest of winters/ The summertime rain/ No, I wouldn't change my yesterdays."

In this episode of Press Play, watch Vaun deliver a live rendition of the track, straight from the recording studio.

"Yesterday" arrives on Vaun's latest EP, The Honeymoon Phase, which dropped March 22 via 300 Entertainment. She also released an accompanying music video, filmed in her hometown, Philadelphia.

"'Yesterday' talks about my experiences when I was younger because that is a huge part of what made me who I am today," Vaun said in an interview with Rated R&B. "Seeing how times are today, it's kind of like, 'Dang. Imagine if I grew up during this time.' I don't know how I would be, like, for real."

Watch the video above to hear Kenya Vaun's nostalgic performance of "Yesterday," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Press Play.

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