Download Kina Grannis’ free single “Valentine” & pre-order her new CD “Stairwells”

I downloaded my copy. You should too. Kina Grannis is letting you download a free copy of “Valentine,” the catchy folk-pop track that’s captured in the lyrical video above, as a preview of her new full-length album, “Stairwells,” which is available for pre-order. You can get a signed copy of the “Stairwells” CD, which officially releases on Feb. 25, for a mere $12. I pre-ordered. You should too.

Grannis, if you don’t know, is a talented hapa singer-songwriter whose prolific work is available on a YouTube channel that includes her hummable originals and tons of interesting covers. Back in 2008 I wrote about her when I stumbled upon and was enchanted by her breezy cover of “Sukiyaki.”

She’s part of a growing list of Asian American musicians who are making a mark on the mainstream pop scene.

One of these days, Grannis, or one of the other musicians in this circle, which includes the likes of Dawen, David Choi, Meiko, Tim Be Told, Vienna Teng, Mia Doi Todd, Cynthia Lin, Wendy Woo, Hello Kavita, Dwight Mark, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Rachael Yamagata, Phyllis Heitjan, Dengue Fever, Priscilla Ahn, Goh Nakamura and others, is gonna break out with a big hit.

Then, maybe everyone will get more of the attention they deserve.

‘Sukiyaki,’ Kina Grannis’ music and the random magic of YouTube

hapa singer-songwriter kina grannis Surfing YouTube videos can be like the early days of surfing the Internet. Following links to random Web pages is a leap of faith, a trust in kismet, that what you’re about to see is both somehow related to what you were seeking in the first place, and hopefully entertaining.

In the midst of one of my YouTube forays, following related videos then backing up and taking another path to other videos, I came across one of my favorite songs of all time, “Ue O Muite Arukou” by Kyu Sakamoto, the Japanese pop star who had a worldwide #1 hit with the song in 1963.

You probably know the song better by the name put on it by its American label, “Sukiyaki.” It’s been covered in English by a number of artists, most notably Taste of Honey in the ’80s and the Viet pop singer Trish Thuy Trang more recently. She sings both English and Japanese in her version. (See Sakamoto’s, Taste of Honey’s and Tran’s video versions below. They’re all available on YouTube.)

From there, I clicked to a cover version of the song by a hapa musician named Kina Grannis and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, cool, understated quality of her version of the song — which she sings in the original Japanese — as well as the scope and depth of her talent on other videos. Here’s the video:

Grannis is from Southern California, and won a songwriting contest sponsored by Doritos with the catchy song, “Message from Your Heart,” which was aired during the Super Bowl in February. The contest led to a deal with Interscope Records.
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