With the recent explosion of K-Pop in the Billboard Hot 100, U.S. audiences are finally seeing the mainstream success of Asian artists. The international success of Korean pop music is something to celebrate. However, there are tons of incredible musicians from Asia who deserve just as much attention.
They’re famous in their home countries, but we would love to see more support from around the globe. There are far too many talented individuals to include on the list. We’ve limited entries to one artist per country/region. Not every nation could be represented, but we hope this list can serve as a jumping-off point for your musical exploration. In no particular order, here are 10 Asian Musicians that deserve just as much attention as K-Pop Idols.
10 Namewee (Malaysia)
Wee Meng Chee known by the stage name of Namewee is a Malaysian rapper and hip-hop artist from Johor. He’s incredibly controversial in his home country, known for political activism through his music. He describes many of his songs as satirical social commentary. Namewee has been arrested twice – once in 2016 for his video for Oh My God and once in 2018 for his music video for Like a Dog.
However, he has found a lot of success outside of Malaysia (specifically in Taiwan, where he went to university). His albums Cross Over Asia and All Eat Asia see him collaborating with superstars from all over the region – including such big names as Wang Leehom, G.E.M, Ho Quang Hieu, and Meu Ninomiya.
9 World Order (Japan)
The members of World Order come off as a hyperbolic depiction of Japanese officer workers – and this is entirely intentional. Founder Genki Sudo wanted to satirize the Hollywood perception of Japanese people. Their dances are robotic, synchronous, and perfectly times with electro-pop.
Despite the serious expressions, suits, and glasses, World Order is a fun-loving group. They dance in public and bring smiles to onlookers – all while attempting to prompt introspection about politics. With titles like Imperialism, Informal Empire, and Last Dance, it’s clear the group has a message to spread.
8 JJ Lin (Singapore)
39-year old Lin Junjie has seen smashing success since his 2003 debut. Singing in Mandarin, English, Hokkien, and Cantonese – Lin has won a lot of awards. He’s the recipient of the Golden Melody Award for Best New Artist, The Singapore Hit Awards for Best Local Male Singer, Best Singer-Songwriter, Best Local Composition, and Best Performing Male Singer, among many others through 2018.
His success is well-deserved. Not only does he perform in multiple different languages and writes his own songs – he plays piano, guitar, harmonica, and the drums. He is both hardworking and talented.
7 Son Tung M-TP (Vietnam)
Nguyen Thanh Tung is known as the Prince of V-Pop due to his overwhelming popularity in Vietnam. His career launched back in 2012 when he was only 18 years old. Before the success of Blackpink’s Kill This Love and later BTS’s Boy With Luv, Son Tung M-TP held the Asian record for the most Youtube views in 24 hours with his song Run Now.
In 2018, he unseated the K-Pop giant BTS’s DNA by receiving 1.9 million more views on its first day. He’s handsome with a smooth voice and fun videos, what’s not to love?
6 Jay Chou (Taiwan)
Anyone who knows anything about Mandopop knows Jay Chou. The Taiwanese singer is an absolute legend in the industry. He’s one of the best-selling artists of all time in China – having sold tens of millions of albums. His 14 studio albums are incredibly diverse with stellar rap, rock, hip hop, and pop tracks.
If you haven’t heard his music, you may recognize him from the movies The Green Hornet or Now You See Me 2. Not only has he starred alongside Seth Rogen playing Kato, but Rogan also featured his song Cowboy on The Run in his 2014 film The Interview.
5 Regine Velasquez (The Phillipines)
Born in Manila, Regine became known for her incredible singing voice after winning 1984 Ang Bagong Kampeon and the Asia Pacific Singing Contest in 1989. Although she has recently transitioned her career towards reality television, she is still the best selling Filipino artist of all time – selling more than 7 million albums in the Philippines and 1.5 million more around Asia.
She’s got a beautiful voice and credentials a mile long.
4 Fatin Shidqia (Indonesia)
Fatin Shidqia Lubis rose to fame after winning the first season of The X Factor in Indonesia when she was only 16 years old. After being signed to Sony Music Entertainment, she released her debut album For You, which charted #1 on iTunes Indonesia.
Her album won 5 AMI Awards. Her last single was released in 2017, and we hope to see more of her soon.
3 Eason Chan (Hong Kong)
The Cantopop scene is huge. Artists from the genre could make up several lists so it was difficult to narrow it down to one. Although Cantopop was arguably at its biggest in the 90s, we wanted to focus on a more modern artist. Eason Chan is considered by many to be Jacky Cheung’s successor as the “God of Songs.”
That is incredibly high praise. Jacky Cheung is considered to be the best of the Four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop and the first singer without Taiwanese citizenship to win the Golden Melody Awards. Eason Chan was second (and also the only singer to win both Best Male Singer and Best Album of the Year in the same year). He had big shoes to fill starting his career in 1996, but he has forged his way in the industry.
2 Lang Lang (Mainland China)
Lang Lang is the classical pianist prodigy who won his first competition at the age of 5 and was admitted into the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music at only 12 years old. He went on to continue studying Piano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania when he was 15 years old.
The man has been breaking boundaries everywhere he goes. He was the first Chinese pianist to play for the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and many American orchestras. His performances garnered many awards and commercial success.
1 AR Rahman (India)
Born in Tamil Nadu’s capital city of Chennai, Allahrakka Rahman was born into music. His father composed scores for Tamil films and his son would often help him in the studio. Like Lang Lang, Rahman was a prodigy.
He played in M.K. Arjunan’s orchestra when he was 11 years old. If you’re unsure of who he is, he’s one of the brilliant minds behind the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire – for which he and Resul Pookutty won three Oscars.