Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month 2022 With Hayley Kiyoko, Keshi & More

AAPI Heritage Month is upon us, and Billboard and Nissan are proud to celebrate the influential, game-changing and forward-thinking creators on the scene. Joined through their heritage, the artists featured on our playlist embody the richness and diversity of the AAPI community. They’ve told their stories through their own distinct lyrics, melodies, and production — and we couldn’t be more excited to shine light on their impact across popular culture.

From Hayley Kiyoko’s true-to-form songwriting to Keshi’s hypnotic sounds and the ever-so-slick bars from AUDREY NUNA, our playlist in honor of AAPI Heritage Month dives into the expansive reach of art with throwbacks, catalog highlights and their most recent offerings. Take a look below!

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1. Hayley Kiyoko, “Found My Friends”

Identity remains a prominent part of Hayley Kiyoko’s music and her road to self-discovery inspired 2021’s “Found My Friends.” During the three-minute slice of dream-pop, which she produced alongside Kill Dave and Pat Morrissey, the singer, who is half Japanese, comes face-to-face with being her own worst enemy in a pool of isolation. It’s a hardship that eventually helped the pop star enjoy her own company. “I found my friends, I found my friends/ Can’t feel my hands, can’t feel my hands,” she sings on the hook to the synth-pop single.

2. keshi, “TOUCH”

For the March drop of his debut album, Gabriel, Keshi opted to push the project with the release of “TOUCH,” a brooding four-minute ode to forbidden love and mixed messaged. With his soft and lush vocals, the Vietnamese singer puts his talents on display during the hypnotic, Lo-Fi-charged track and it’s that slow burn that helps make this an instinct repeat.

3. AUDREY NUNA, “damn Right”

AUDREY NUNA knew she was onto something when she dropped 2020’s “damn Right” and the concept remains timeless. People will forever talk their mouth, so the Korean rapper delivered a satirical take on gossip, flexing and the always-present hater. “Everybody talkin’ sh*t, and they damn right/ Damn right, damn right, yeah, damn right,” she spits on the high-energy cut, name-dropping Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Anita Baker in the process.

4. Olivia Rodrigo, “jealousy, jealousy”

As a highlight off her blockbuster debut, Sour, “jealousy, jealously” hears Olivia Rodrigo shine a spotlight on the unrealistic standards for today’s youth, particularly through the lens of social media. In just under three minutes, the track, which was produced by Dan Nigro and Jam City, hears the singer, who is half Filipino, complain about the pitfalls of Gen Z in the catchiest way possible. “Com-comparison is killin’ me slowly/ I think I think too much/ ‘Bout kids who don’t know me,” she sings with a drawl.

5. H.E.R., “Damage”

Utilizing a sample of Herb Alpert’s 1987 hit “Making Love in the Rain,” H.E.R. puts vulnerability on the frontlines during “Damage,” the second single off her 2021 debut album, Back of My Mind. The R&B titan, who is half Filipino, acknowledges what could be a risky path for her heart, but it still feels oh so good. “Careful what you take for granted, yeah/ ‘Cause with me know you could do damage,” she admits on the rich hook, and the messaging resonates loud and clear.

6. Yeek, “Back N Forth”

Four cuts into his 2021 LP, Valencia, Yeek offers a hazy tribute to indecision, with minimal, yet effective R&B production to pair. On the self-produced track, the rising Filipino star flirts with the idea of crossing his partner, singing, “Girl, you got someone/ So why you acting like you don’t?” Perfectly confusing and borderline somber, the offering eventually hears Yeek find a resolution, but it doesn’t seem like a happy ending. “Now I’m alone,” he admits at the end of the chorus.

7. Jhené Aiko, “B.S.” featuring H.E.R.

Stunting is the game for Jhené Aiko and H.E.R. on their collaboration, “B.S.” The fifth single from the siren’s third studio album, Chilombo, hears producer Fisticuffs set up a moody scene as Aiko, who is part Japanese, sings about recovering from a failed relationship and bounces some much-necessary confidence off her featured guest. “I just seen your new b*tch, it boost my self-esteem,” the two sing in tandem at one point.

8. Japanese Breakfast, “Be Sweet”

Lifting a page from all things ’80s, Japanese Breakfast rejoices in happiness upon first listen of “Be Sweet.” The lead single from their third studio album, Jubilee, hears Korean frontwoman Michelle Zauner profess optimism for her significant other, yet includes mentions of the fantasy of her lover leaving her. Sassy and joyous, particularly during the hook, the cut easily takes listeners a few decades back during the three minutes of synth pop.

9. Sofya Wang, “Found Love”

On 2018’s “Found Love,” Sofya Wang makes sure to stay true to herself, pairing bold songwriting with alternative rock elements. As the title states, the song hears the Chinese singer/songwriter offer a thorough take to, well, finding (and losing) love and it’s a run-through of all stages in the process. There’s confusion. There’s aggression. There’s sensuality. “This feelin I can’t explain/ Pleasure then feel the pain,” she croons repeatedly towards the end of the cut.

10. Saweetie, “ICY GIRL”

Way before her breakthrough, Saweetie used the instrumental to Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” for a freestyle to enter the mainstream rap scene. After uploading the track to Instagram, her bars went viral and a studio version was born. If you listened closely to the two-minute track, you learned a lot about the then-budding star, who is part Filipino and Chinese. She was always about her bag, looking for investments and made moves, alongside her team.

11. Run River North, “Pretty Lies”

Released during the summer of 2020, “Pretty Lies” hears Run River North jump through ponds of genres, only to leave us with something that feels nostalgic, warm and rebellious all at once. In a tale about conflicted romance, the Korea three-piece confess to their ugly truths. “Tongue-tied around the bitter fruit/ Who am I after tasting you/ Little fires on the passenger side,” the indie/rock trio sing on the hook.

12. Toro y Moi, “The Loop”

Toro y Moi deals with the perils of the digital age on “The Loop.” The song, which appears on the Bay Area star’s album, Mahal, hears the Filipino act playfully sing about his difficulty in keeping up with friends on the subdued funk cut. “East Coast friends fill me in/ I know you get the early scoop/ Online trends that border cringe start to feel overused,” he sings — and you know he’s not wrong.

13. mxmtoon, “victim of nostalgia”

Just a few seconds into “victim of nostalgia,” mxmtoon’s intent to soak up the room with the recollection of our younger years begins. As the third track on her upcoming album, rising, which drops May 20, the Chinese pop star takes a quick visit to her adolescence years — even at just 21. It’s simple, relatable and impacts just the way that recollection should. “It’s the panic of growing up/ It’s the fear of fallin’ down/ And if life ain’t what you want/ It don’t come back around,” she sings on the chorus, only to realize that she along with everybody else becomes, yes, that victim of nostalgia.

14. Raveena, “Secret” featuring Vince Staples

Hypnotic is just one way to describe Raveena and “Secret,” the second cut on her new album, Asha’s Awakening. On the track, which features Vince Staples, the singer blends 2000s pop principles with the sound of Bollywood, and the pairing hears her flourish. “To me, ‘Secret’ is a song about love that traverses through different dimensions. People on Earth are starting to have sensual dreams ignited in them by a space princess,” the singer said in a statement.

15. Steve Aoki, Leony and Marnik, “Stop The World”

On Steve Aoki’s pulsating “Stop The World,” the dance heavyweight teams up with global names like rising German pop star Leony and Italian progressive-house duo Marnik. As one of the latest in the Japanese super-producer’s catalog, the track hears the trio join forces for a three-minute ode to living in the moment. Pair the light, airy vocals of the singer with the frantic production and you have an earworm made for EDM festivals around the world.

16. Mitski , “Glide”

“Glide” lives up to its name from beginning to end. The latest offer from the Japanese singer, which happens to be a cover of the fictional band that produced music for the 2001 Shunji Iwai film, All About Lily Chou-Chou, flows and slides exactly as it. On the rocky ballad, the singer’s angelic delivery yearns for escape. “I, I wanna be/ I wanna be just like the sky/ Just fly so far away,” she sings and by the end, listeners have been transported.

17. Audrey Mika, “Strangers”

We know the feeling behind Audrey Mika’s “Strangers” all too well. The person that you once knew inside and out has become a distant memory — and the rising star, who is half Japanese, encapsulates that nostalgia on the radio friendly cut. “When did we become strangers, strangers?/ Felt it like it was overnight/ You were my second nature, nature/ Swear that it was us for life,” she sings on the perky chorus, simultaneously offering one important takeaway: at least, you get to dance away the pain.

18. Cecilia Gault, “Kira Kira”

Shiny, sparkling, and full of energy, Cecilia Gault’s “Kira Kira” nods to her Japanese descent. While the title of the track translates to the word “shining” in Japanese, the song dips its toes into the hyperpop territory as the act unapologetically sing-talks, “Wearin’ cheetah, I’m a diva in my D-cups/ Tryna see ’em/ He wanna meet up, tellin’ me that I’m a keeper/ Not like I need him.”

19. NoSo, “Honey Understand”

NoSo’s urge for escapism comes to life on their 2022 single, “Honey Understand,” which clocks in at four minutes. The track, which was the result of a lengthy break from music, hears the Korean act pull inspiration from characters from their screenplay. The mid-tempo cut is smacked in the middle of their debut album, Stay Proud of Me, which is set for release on July 8.

20. TOKiMONSTA, morgxn, “Loved By U”

For her latest release, TOKiMONSTA takes listeners into a radiant space of vulnerability, alongside singer/songwriter morgxn. The euphoric cut, which was written by the indie/pop act prior to the pandemic, found its way to the Korean producer, and celebrates togetherness, a concept that we can all resonate with after the lockdown. Fun fact: The team-up was birthed by the two acts at a Halloween party hosted by Charli XCX.

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