By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
John Kim Faye says his “15 minutes of fame for three years in the 90s” happened when he recorded as the frontman and lead singer on A&M Records for the alt-rock band, the Caulfields.
As one of the few Asian American leaders of a band in his day, he’s watched with excitement the increasing visibility of Asian American talent at the Grammys and in the music scene.
“Can you name any Asian American frontman from the 70s and 80s? I mean, it’s so much different now, in a great way, which is beautiful to see,” he told AsAmNews. “But back then, there were hardly any Asian people in mainstream entertainment period.”
Fast forward from the 90’s to 2023 and this Sunday’s Grammy Awards. Steve Lacy, whose father is Filipino American and mother is African American, received Grammy nominations in four categories. His song Bad Habit has been recognized as a nominee for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. On top of that, he’s also up for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Progressive R&B Album.
Filipino American Grayson Villanueva received a nomination for Nobody Like U in the category of Best Song Written For Visual Media. It’s featured in the Disney Pixar film Turning Red.
Gabriella Wilson, better known as H.E.R., performs Good Morning Gorgeous alongside legend Mary J. Blige. The pair is nominated for Record Of The Year, Best R&B Song and Album of the year.
H.E.R is also featured in Intimidated with KAYTRANDA, a nominee for Best Dance/Electronic Recording.
“BTS is nominated again, for their third time, and maybe the third time’s the charm for them,” said Faye. “I guess they haven’t won quite yet. But maybe this is the one that’ll do it.”
The super KPop group is up in the categories of album, music video and pop duo/group performance.
The 2022 Grammys will go down as a banner year for Asian Americans. Silk Sonic featuring Filipino American Bruno Mars and Korean American Anderson Paak won four awards. Olivia Rodrigo won three Grammys. H.E.R. won for Best R&B performance, her fifth Grammy win.
“I can tell you from my own experience with my college-age daughter that Olivia Rodrigo has been a huge presence in her life,” said Faye. “And, you know, when you see that kind of representation for a generation that’s beyond your own, it really hits home. Because you realize, I didn’t have that. I didn’t have a singer like that, who was, at least in my racial wheelhouse, who was succeeding at that point.”
He’s seen firsthand the progress that has been made in the last three decades. His Caulfields had the top 40 hit, Devil’s Diary. He recalls the typical reaction when fans saw him perform.
“A very common reaction was surprise. People come up to me and be like, oh, man, you sound great. You got a great voice, I would never expect that sound to come out of somebody that looks like you. You know, it’s a very backhanded compliment. And I heard that all the time,” he said.
(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Devil’s Diary reached the top of the charts. We apologize for the error)
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