Sunday, April 20, 2008

Asian American Songs: Commercial Innuendo?

The two songs that I found were not written and sung by Asians, but rather used themes that the artists try to associate with all things Asian. The songs are "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors and "China Girl" by David Bowie and Iggy Pop. The former was a hit in the UK and performed modestly on the US charts. Though David Fenton, writer, vocalist and guitarist for the Vapors, denied any implicit sexual innuendo associated with the song (claiming it was just another love single), many listeners interpreted the phrase "Turning Japanese" as a euphemism for ejaculation; the song subsequently became something of an odd to masturbation. David Bowie, in "China Girl," refers to her multiple times as "my little China girl." He goes on to say he'll give her things like television, implying that the China girl has never been exposed to modern culture; this makes her seem more foreign as she and Bowie seem to be from different worlds. The song performed well in both the US and UK, peaking at number 10 and 2 on the charts respectively. Seeing as how both songs were hits, I was wondering what to make of the public's reception towards these songs, and in turn, whether it parallels the general public's perceptions towards Asians in general.

Some other songs/music videos I came across that mentioned/portrayed Asians were "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and "Girls Girls Girls" both written by Jay-Z for his album "The Blueprint." In the latter he uses the line,"Had this Chinese chick// had to leave her quick// cuz she kept bootleggin' my shit" and in the "Izzo" video we see an Asian American teen rocking out in a convenient store. Again, these songs were also hits, causing us to wonder what is the impact of seeing these popular portraits of Asian Americans in the media

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