Offensive “Asian Girlz” by Day Above Ground angers Asians with sexual & racist stereotypes

asiangirlz

Los Angeles-based rock band Day Above Ground made a big deal of its July 27 debut video release of “Asian Girlz,” but it’s backfired and led to intense condemnation from Asian and Asian American groups and individuals. Add me to the list, please.

This song and accompanying video is offensive on so many levels I’m practically speechless. It traffics in lowbrow racial stereotypes and low-bro sexual braggadocio about its subject line, Asian women. The combined IQ of the group must be abut 10, given their pre-teen horniness and neanderthal attitudes. It’s hard to imagine any other intent — social satire commentary, a criticism of sexual objectification of Asian women, clumsy attempt at post-racial parody — than a bunch of dudes who fantasize about Asian women and their “creamy yellow thighs… slanty eyes” and other body parts.

I hate the ching-chong wonton font that’s used for the title credits. I hate the ching-chongy intro melody that evokes Asia Hollywood-style which crops up at various points in the song. It’s an aural code as immediately identifiable as buck teeth and squinty eyes. I hate the smug white privilege that oozes from the singers’ faces as they croak “You’re my Asian girl.”

And I hate the creepy strip tease participation of model Levy Tran as she goes from enjoying these pint-sized pinheads’ attention as they sing to her from a birdcage to letting them jump into the bathtub with her and swim between her legs. Yuck. I mean, really yuck.

I actually don’t hate Tran, but I’m damned disappointed. I do wonder about her role in such a train wreck of offensiveness, though. I can only hope that, like the Asian American extras hired for the famous “Evil Chinese Professor” political TV commercial a few years back, she only acted out her part without knowing how her role would be used in the finished video. I’d love to see an interview with her about it. Maybe she thinks it’s fine and funny. Maybe she’s dating one of the guys in the band and hears this stuff all the time in casual conversation or in the heat of passion (more yuck). But I’m hoping she didn’t know how the video would turn out.

For their part, Day Above Ground has feigned shock and surprise (the “we’re not racists” defense that comes so easily to people caught in this situation) and posted this comment on the video to pacify haters:

We appreciate all the criticism and support. Our song “Asian Girlz” was not written with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent. We know it is racy and does push the boundaries further than other songs out there. Understand that we do not promote or support racism or violence. We love everyone no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation. Please respect our decision to delete any violent, insensitive, or hurtful comment and also one that supports racism. We hope that we can continue with our lives with much love and peace.

Yeah. Right. Sure.

Here’s the video… you decide whether it’s offensive or not (definitely NSFW, so keep the volume down). I’m putting it at the bottom of the post in the event that the band does the right thing and kills the video altogether:


I’m late to the party, because lots of better bloggers than I have been posting about “Asian Girlz:”

Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man was justifiably really angry over this.


Racialicious wrote righteously about the song.


Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal and Secret Identities has proposed a Kickstarter campaign to get House of Blues in LA to host a performance of all-Asian American women. The idea was to counter an August 10 show at HoB in which Day Above Ground was scheduled to play (on their website the band made a big deal of playing the new video on a giant screen in front of the stage). But now, hopefully because of the stupidity of the video and the community outcry, HoB seems to have scratched Day Above Ground off that night. Woo hoo. I’ll update this post if there is a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for an Asian womens’ music project, or if LA’s AAPI women play a concert to make a statement, I’ll post an update.


Mee Moua, of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, has put out an eloquent call for Day Above Ground to remove the “Asian Girlz” video altogether and apologize to the Asian community. I’m guessing the video won’t get yanked because someone — the band’s families, management, label — paid a fair amount of money for the clip.

Here’s the full text of Mee Moua’s letter:

August 1, 2013

Dear Mr. Joe Anselm, Mr. Drew Drumm, Mr. Marcelo Lalopua, Mr. Steve Reese, and Mr. Mike Tourage:

We recently became aware of the release of the music video for “Asian Girlz” and write to express our outrage about the content of the song and your continued promotion of the song. Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, based in Washington, DC, works to advance the human and civil rights of Asian Americans, and build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. We are one of the nation’s leading experts on issues of importance to the Asian American community, including anti-Asian violence prevention and race relations.

Your song perpetuates harmful stereotypes about Asian American women and our entire community. Although you have issued a statement that “‘Asian Girlz’ was not written with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent,” the song, in effect, is malicious, hateful, and hurtful. Similarly, while you may actually “not promote or support racism or violence,” the song, in effect, promotes racism and violence caused by racism. The enthusiasm with which you have defended the song and video as “endearing & submissive,” “a tongue-in-cheek tribute to some of the most gorgeous women on the planet,” disregards the deeply troubling impact of “Asian Girlz.”

The song’s lyrics are primarily composed of references to food, language accents, physical features, jobs, behaviors, and cities that are among the most common generalizations of the ways Asian Americans live and work. The opening verse is just the first of many that demean Asian American women and cast mockery on all Asian Americans. In particular, your association of these intentionally chosen words to an “Asian girl,” which is mentioned over 30 times throughout the song, perpetuates the notion of Asian American women as sexually servile and perpetually foreign. Asian American women have long confronted this stereotype and its consequences, which have
been anything but innocuous or “endearing.” As just one example, the “happy endings” referenced in your song discounts the reality that many massage parlors employing Asian American women—precisely because of the perceptions embodied in your song—are centers of human trafficking and sexual slavery. By now, you are well aware of the outpouring of disappointment, hurt, and anger that your song and video have generated across the country—not just among Asian women.

The fact that your video casts an Asian American woman, that your band has an Asian American member, and that your band is “multicultural,” does not remove or distill the offensive nature of the song’s lyrics. Any benign intentions should not excuse the actual
malignant effects of your work. Abusing your ability to exercise creative freedom as you have here sets back the progress our communities have made towards racial and gender equality.

Considering the harmful effects of “Asian Girlz” and its video, we ask that you publicly apologize for the release of both the song and video, remove both the song and video from your band’s website and affiliated websites immediately, and discontinue further promotion and public performance of the song. We hope you will understand why this song is offensive, and that your understanding from this incident will inform your future creative efforts. We look forward to hearing from you and would like to have a conversation together to further discuss this.

Sincerely,

Mee Moua
President and Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Washington, DC


UPDATE: Levy Tran, the model in the video, apologizes on her Tumblr (she earlier had apologized on Twitter in four separate tweets):

To anyone who is willing to listen: I am truly and deeply sorry for my actions pertaining to the video. I meant no disrespect and it was not my intention to offend anyone. And being an adult, I accept full responsibility. And to all those whom I have let down, I am so so sorry


UPDATE (Aug. 5): Day Above Ground has officially pulled their video off YouTube but I’ve replaced the video above with a clone shared on Lybio.net. lybio also has posted the full lyrics to the song, so you can enjoy the group’s deep thinking even if the video gets yanked from all sites:

ASIAN GIRLS

[Chorus]
Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, You’re my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
Yes, my Asian girl, You’re my Asian girl

[Verse 1]
I love your sticky rice (love it)
Butt fucking all night
Korean barbecue
Bitch I love you
I love your creamy yellow thighs
Ooh you’re slanted eyes
It’s the Year of the Dragon
Ninja pussy I’m stabbin’

[Chorus]
Asian girl, You’re my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
Yes, my Asian girl, You’re my Asian girl

[Verse 2]
Superstitious feng shui shit (what?)
Now lay your hair by the toilet
I’ve got your green tea boba
So put your head on my shoulder
Huh! Your momma’s so pretty
Best nails in the city
Pushing your daddy’s Mercedes
Girl you drive me crazy

[Chorus]
Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, You’re my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
Yes, my Asian – You’re my Asian girl

[Bridge]
New Year’s in February (February?)
That’s fine with me (I guess)
Yeah, shark soup (What? Fuck it, we’ll eat it)
Oh, tradition, tradition, tradition, yeah yeah
Baby, cause you’re my Asian girl
You’re legally (best kind)
So baby marry me
Come on sit on my lap (right here baby)
Or we’ll send you back
And you age so well
I can barely tell
17 or 23?
Baby doesn’t matter to me

[Chorus]
Asian girl, You’re my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
You’re my Asian girl, She’s my Asian girl
Yes, my Asian girl yeah, You’re my Asian girl

Let ‘em know:
Alright!

[Outro]
Arcadia
J-Town
Alhambra
K-Town
Temple City
Don’t forget Chinatown
Get down
Happy endings all over
Bruce Lee
Toyota
Spicy tuny
Sashimi (yeah)
Tasty Garden
Fried Lice
Sailor Moon
Wonton soup
Spring roll
Tibet
Foot rub rub a down down down
Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra pa ra ra ra
Woooo!
Tofu
All over you all over me
Yeah
Love you wong
All the Asian girls
We love you
Keep smiling


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10 Responses to Offensive “Asian Girlz” by Day Above Ground angers Asians with sexual & racist stereotypes

  1. phil says:

    Yes, it’s very offensive. I know that some people are offended a bit by the racial stereotyping in the old David Bowie song “China Girl”, but this song (“Asian Girl”) makes the Bowie song look totally mild and innocuous by comparison…what do you think, Gil? Thanks.

  2. Gil Asakawa says:

    Hi Phil. I admit, I’ve grown over the years. I used to like Bowie’s “China Girl” but now it bugs me because it celebrates the stereotype of Asian women as sex objects. Plus it has that ching-chongy “Asian” riff that has come to bug me a lot. But you’re right, it’s very mild and inoffensive compared to “Asian Girlz.”

  3. phil says:

    Ric Ocasek (lead singer of the Cars) had a song called “Mystery” on his 1980’s solo album “This Side of Paradise.” The song sounds sort of ching-chongy, but in the lyrics, there is no indication that the singer’s (or character’s) girlfriend is Asian; there are not references no race or ethnicity, period. So, I don’t really feel offended by it. IMO, the whole album is rather mediocre except for “Emotion In Motion,” which is a nice ballad.

    I hear what you’re saying about Bowie’s “China Girl”, as I feel much the same way about it. I also used to like the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar”, but now I feel that the song objectifies black women. As far as the “Asian Girlz” song goes, however, it seems as though Day Above Ground is trying to emulate past musical acts such as 2 Live Crew, in terms of offensiveness.

  4. Gil Asakawa says:

    I barely remember Ocasek’s solo LP… though I do remember “Emotion in Motion.” I agree too on “Brown Sugar” though I do still like the music if not the lyrics. And you’re probably one of a handful of people who remember 2 Live Crew. When I was the music critic for Denver’s alternative weekly I wrote a scathing piece on 2 Live Crew, still have their album someplace….

  5. phil says:

    Believe it or not, 2 Live Crew have reunited and are touring as a club act in certain cities (the Georgia Strait paper in Vancouver announced their tour dates in Canada earlier this year, I think). Do you think you could reprint your article if you still have it around somewhere?

    One of their members, “Fresh Kid Ice” is half Chinese, and he called himself “The Chinaman.” I recall that they constantly used the n-word, plus tons of sexual obscenities…however, one critic wrote, “The problem with their album ‘Nasty As They Wanna Be” is not that it’s about f**king, it’s mainly that it’s f**king boring.” The obscenity trial in Florida gave them a notoriety which they didn’t deserve. Also, the only song which they had which was sort of a “hit” (for want of a better word) was “Me So Horny.”

  6. Gil Asakawa says:

    It was the first time that someone used the audio clip from the scene in “Full Metal Jacket” of Vietnamese prostitutes (“me love you long time” is the other half of the line) as a digital sample. Blechhh. I don’t have the article anymore, though it’s available somewhere in the Denver Public Library’s microfiche archives of the newspaper Westword…. This was 1989, pre-Internet. Wish I had my old articles saved on Word somewhere on a hard drive! 🙂

  7. phil says:

    Gil: thanks for the replies. While we’re on the topic, how about the song “Latin Girls” by the Black Eyed Peas on their album “Elefunk”? Again, I think that while the song has a bit of stereotyping about Hispanic/Latina women, it’s not too bad overall. Black Eyed Peas are often risque, but seldom offensive. Their biggest controversy was probably over the song “Let’s Get Retarded” (the radio version was “Let’s Get It Started.”) I’m a big fan of most of their music.

  8. Gil Asakawa says:

    Interesting point about “Latin Girls.” I think of Black Eyed Peas being pretty worldly (and diverse)…

  9. phil says:

    Gil: recently, I’ve become aware of a song that’s even more offensive: “Asian Hooker” by the glam-rock parody band Steel Panther. Their justification is that their songs are supposed to be over-the-top satire and exaggerations of 1980s-style hair metal. Are you familiar with them at all? Thanks.

  10. Gil Asakawa says:

    I haven’t heard the song — I’ll check it out, thanks!

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