Can Our American Idol Be an Asian Man?

27.1.12 ShaSha LaPerf 15 Comments

So American Idol season is upon us again. I was a big fan of the show in it's earlier days, but lately it hasn't really peaked my interest. That was until I saw this audition:

Although the show has had a diverse group of contestants in their Top 20, in the past few years it hasn't been so kind to those who aren't male and for the most part white. The show did yield to black female winners: Fantasia Barrino and Jordin Sparks. However the last female of color to even make it to the top three was Syesha Mercado from season 7. A lot of this is perhaps due to the shows voting fan base which has rumored to be mostly made up of young white women. Last season is the first time ever to white women were even in the Top 3 and both lost to Scotty McCreepy--I mean McCreery. And it's even worse for Asian men.

One of the popular aspects of American Idol are the horrible auditions. You get a good laugh out of people that seem bent on making fools of themselves and the commentary that Simon Cowell would give them (since I didn't watch any of the last season I don't know how mean Jennifer Lopez or Steven Tyler get). Although we see terrible auditions from whites, blacks, and Latinos, it seems that even years later, the one person who's horrible audition everyone remembers is William Hung. Yes, I really am posting this:

His performance is cringe worthy. The bad things is he actually got a record deal afterwards, giving him an extra 15 minutes of fame and left him even more open to mockery.

After William Hung, there were other Asian men that showed that Asian men could be very good looking at have vocal talent. Let's take a look at them:

Paul Kim
Season: 6
Elimination: Made it to Top 24 but cut before Top 12

Before Paul Kim was singing about the History of R&B with David So, he was on American Idol. His auditions was superb, which Randy Jackson saying it was one of the best auditions of the season. However, he didn't give a great performance when he hit the live show.

I chalk it up to nervousness. At any rate he was booted off by the judges. After listening to his Post-Idol work, I have to say that the man can seriously blow. Take a listen to these covers:

Sanjaya Malakar
Season: 6
Elimination: Made it to the Top 7

Thanks M for reminding about this one! Sanjaya Malakar actually auditioned with his sister Shyamali and made it to the live show. Sanjaya made headlines not so much for his singing but his wild style, like the Mohawk he wore on one of the live shows:

Sanjaya's wackiness eventually wore off on people, and he was eliminated from the show. He took a non-musical route when he appeared on the show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! However he continued to still release music. He released an album last year titled Life ~ Love ~ Music which featured a cover of the song "Tempted" by Squeeze.

Anoop Desai
Season: 8
Elimination: Made it to the Top 7

Anoop Desai I think is the only is the second Indian-American to make it on American Idol. He's also important because his addition to the show was the first time they added a 13th person to the pool, going up one from their standard 12. Anoop has a rocky road on the show, getting high praises one minute and terrible reviews the next. Here's on of his more popular performances:

Anoop had trouble getting votes and often found himself in the bottom 2. Eventually he was canned in a double elimination with a black female contestant named Lil Rounds. Anoop hasn't given up on singing though as he released his first album last year titled All is Fair. Here's a video from the album:

John Park
Season: 9
Elimiation: Made it to the Top 10

John Park is probably memorable because of how hard Shania Twain tried to get into his pants during his audition. But he also wowed the other judges as well. John made it to the live show, and was able to get one two songs, one of them being God Bless The Child:

However John was blasted for his lack of connection with the audience and not chossing the right songs to sing. He was then eliminated. John reappeared on a singing show, but this time a Korean one. He was runner-up on the TV show Superstar K12:

All of these guys I think Paul Kim had the most vocal talent and it's really a shame that he wasn't given a chance to really perform. It's also unfortunately that these men still couldn't really erase the images left by William Hung.

This is where Heejun Han comes in. Although he was not the only Asian men to make it to Hollywood--others include So You Think You Can Dance alum Alex Wong got through along with Elijah Liu and Paris Lo--Han has been getting the most press so far. He's quickly becoming a fan favorite and is already being considered to make a big impact on the show. The show is still in the early stages, so we don't know how far Han will be able to go. LOL maybe the K-Pop boom in the states will work to his advantage and get him some extra votes.

At any rate, let's hope to see him or some of the other Asian men get to the live show. Maybe I'll even start watching the show more regularly.


  1. I haven't watched AI in ages.To me , it has gotten too cheesy and predictable.

    I definitely agree with you about Paul, I remembered listening to his singing and he really got my attention. I sincerely thought that he was going to win because of it, but you know AI and the rest of these shows these days, they have their picks and they usually be people who are just there. Mind you that there were Kelly, Fantasia, Chris( Doughtery) and they are really good singers,but most shows like that are looking more for their Britney Spears real singing talent.

    Who could remember William Hung? OMG! Dude was really serious about being a musician. I found it funny how he was able to win. Let's also not forget about Sanjaya? Now I will say one thing about him, he was a pretty hot looking guy ,but that was it. He had the potential to be more,but he couldn't master his singing very well.

    There have been too much talent that has been slipping through the cracks. AI and shows claim that they are looking for something unique about these people. Don't get me wrong, I'm the same way when it comes to this. It's one thing to be unique,but it's another to be talent. Uniqueness without talent is dead.

    1. I forgot all about Sanjaya! Thanks for reminding about him, I added him to the list up there!

      I thought the opposite about AI in terms of finding a pop star. When the show first came on, I jokingly saw it as a way for non-conventional pretty, yet talented people to become stars. Kelly, Jordin and Fantasia aren't ugly, but they were not the stick thin girls that would shake their butts in videos. And that's one thing I likes about the show. However the last three guys have all been the conventionally good-looking, guitar playing types, so I think people are becoming more shallow when it comes to voting. The problem is people aren't buying music from these guys after they win. I don't think any of the recent winners have come close to earning the fame of Carrie Underwood or even Jennifer Hudson and Daughtry. They might be okay singers and okay looking guys, but they do lack the charisma and "it" that many earlier winners and contestants had.

      While I think Hung might have been seriously about being on the show, the show exploited his poor talent. It's sad that he took such advantage of it, because he's left a nasty legacy for Asian men on the show.

    2. Sanjaya popped up on my mind when you mentioned AI. It's unfortunate that he didn't have the voice as much as he did the looks.

      I also agree. I don't know if Wil was thinking at the time,but at the time all he was thinking about was being a musician and not thinking about the other half. I also feel that along with Wil, they did that with Sanjaya,but to certain extent. The difference being was that young girls liked him( who could blame them?) and he didn't sound as bad as Wil,but bad enough where he should have been off that stage after the second try(. Now that was one time where I thought that the phones wasn't being,)Far as the show itself, I smell the same exploitation with him as I did with Wil. The last time I haven't heard anything about Sanjaya. It was said that he was supposed star in an insurance commercial. Maybe I missed out on it or something,but I haven't seen it as of yet.

      That is unfortunate that Wil did that because he may not have realized the damaged he may have caused other great Asian male singers. I can imagine that for the ones that come on the show.. people waiting for the next Asian male singer to screw up so they can make a joke out of them.

  2. I remember Angry Asian Man was none too pleased with William Hung, and I can't say I blame him. His cooning definitely did not add to Asian men's cache here in the states.

  3. Ugh, so slow with replying! Thanks agin M for reminding me about Sanjaya. LOL Shen and I were watching some TV show called Celebridate or something similar. It was like a speed dating show with "celebrities" and Sanjaya was on an episode! So random!

    @joyful: I don't think anyone was pleased with Hung. When I see black women doing terrible auditions on those shows it doesn't bother me because even though they may not do win those shows all the time, it's a pretty easy to find a lot of black women that are talented and get the spotlight for it. But it's not the case with Asian men. Outside of America's Best Dance crew and maybe Top Chef, Asian men haven't faired well AT ALL on TV, or in general media for that matter. Hung is probably the biggest hot mess of them all.

  4. I was really rooting for Anoop after his initial audition I searched for him on youtube and found a bunch of performances from his college acapella group. Great voice but most of his performances after his initial audition were boring.

  5. Paul Kim has released a single/video in Korea.

    John Park has also

  6. my favorite Anoop song from his college days

  7. Thanks for the about Anoop and John. I'd seen Paul Kim's video. It's a cute video and made me curious if now K-pop is the way Paul will try to go. As for Anoop, I agree that he seemed to be lacking in charisma, and honestly it was something I felt with John as well. Both guys are vocally talented, but I didn't really feel so connected with them on the show. Looking at their newer work it looks like the guys are more confident, and more interesting to watch.

    And on a random note, Heejun performed again on this week's Idol. I know he passed the first Hollywood audition, but I didn't see if he was a part of any of the group routines yet. I think Heejun has a bit more charisma than the other guys and I'm hoping he continues to do well.

  8. So...I've been thinking and thinking, and I realize how hard it is for Asian Americans to be popular as singers (pop and RnB music). I used to say that they should just work harder but guess I was wrong, there's a real discrimination against Asian people in the American media, probably in other Western media as well.

    I don't think that Asian singers should go to American idol but do their own thing and use the internet and get attention on their own, maybe go to Europe if America still doesn't give them their time of the day.
    Also, I think that Asian soul/RnB/hip hop singers/rappers are really discriminated as the black community doesn't seem that welcoming, though some rappers like Lil Kim or Snoop Doggy Dog did featurings with Asian Asian singers. Look at Toshi Kubota's hair. At fisrt I thought that he just lvoed afro hair but now I realized that he doesn't have it easy in the US at all and is trying to look a bit Afro American in order to sell more CDs, including black women in his music videos too. Toshi acutally said he finds it hard to make it in the US.

    1. Your statements are problematic for many reasons. You are assuming that the black community are the deciding factor in who gets a record deal, how much music they sale, or if they win awards. If that were true white artists that imitate black people would not be more famous, make more money and win more awards than the black people they imitate. The popularity of Elvis, Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse are prime examples of this phenomenon. Asian American artists cannot get record deals in America because white executives will not hire them. Going to Europe is not the answer, their track record on racism is no better. Many of the Asian American artists discussed have pursued record deals in Asia. As far as your comment on hair styles, many Asian artist in Asia have worn African American inspired hair styles. It was not done to break into the American market because it was for music only marketed in Asia. I assume they did it because they found it attractive.

  9. Thanks for clarifying the situation in the US.

    I didn't say that going to Europe was the answer but an interesting alternative, Billy Crawford managed to make it in Europe, not in the US. Sometimes you don't get famous in your own country and have to move. Europe= smaller market and less tough, it's a bit different. I'm European so I know how it is in my country. So yeah, I can't really speak for the US but just assume stuff. Also, I did read Tiger JK complain about how it was hard for him to be recognized as a good rapper in the black community. I'm not attacking black people specifically, whites are also discriminating of course, I was just saying what I've heard about soul and hip hop music.

    I'm well aware that in Japan, wearing wigs and getting a tan is kinda popular for some people (gyaru, and also singers into black music like Miss Monday or PANG or lecca who like braids and wore fake dreadlocks). I was talking about a specific thing: America and Asian artists. Not Asia.

    Thank you again for your reply.

    1. Jay Sean, Bruno Mars (though only-half Asian), Chad Hugo, and Dan the Automator (a member of the duo Handsome Boy Modeling School) are all Asian men who were pretty well-received by the black community. I'll through in Jin as well...he wasn't a commercial success, but he definitely made an impression with his 106 and Park appearances. And none of these men I think were trying to look or act black (though Jin is probably "environmental").

      But moddess is right, it's not up to us in terms of who is successful. For the most parts, blacks aren't even the largest group buyers of music; it's a commonly known fact that it's white males that are buying the majority of hip-hop music. However, Asians (and Latinos for that matters) are often faced with haters from everyone, blacks, whites, even people of their own races. Despite the growing population of Latinos in the states, I can't think of many mainstream Latino artists...they have a boom every now and then. Meanwhile, Asians haven't even gotten their boom yet, unless you count Bruno and the Far East Movement (Jay Sean's success was a little earlier then these two so I couldn't count him being around the same time).

      I missed last week's Idol eps, but I think Heejun is still in the running.

  10. I didn't know about Chad Hugo and Dan the Automator but I get your point, now I have a clearer perspective now. My bad.
    (I don't count Bruno Mars...)
    Thanks for the information both of you.

    Also, I didn't say it was impossible for Asians to be well-received in black music in the US. any of you know what happened to Asia Cruise? A philipino singer...who got "famous" with her song "Selfish".

  11. The lack of Asian men (and women) on TV really affected me as a child. William Hung became "famous" when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Before then, the only famous Asian man I knew was Jackie Chan. When I heard him sing I made up my mind: Asians were incapable of singing. Of course I was a kid. I don't believe I was being racist, but WH was the only singing Asian man I'd ever heard of and I didn't hear of any others until I was about 13. Thanks to Youtube I was exposed to handsome, talented Asian men and came to the realization that I was wrong. It took the internet to expose me to things that TV still hasn't.