Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is Asian. Among those 4.5 billion people are some of the finest musicians on the planet.
In this article, we reveal the best Asian musicians of all time, as well as the hottest up-and-coming artists of that category.
The 15 Best Asian Musicians of All Time
15. Jay Chou
Taiwanese singer Jay Chou is known as the King of Mandopop and is one of the biggest stars in the Chinese language market.
Chou has sold 30 million records across 15 studio albums and can sing, rap, and play multiple instruments to a high level.
One of the best Asian musicians to hail from China, some of Chou’s most popular songs include “What Kind of Man,” “Cold Hearted,” and “Fearless.”
Beabadoobee is one of the hottest up-and-coming Asian music artists. The Filipino-British singer certainly has a unique approach to her songwriting.
One of the youngest people to make our list of the best Asian musicians, the 22-year-old indie rocker became known for her low-key bedroom pop tunes but has continued to explore various genres.
She’s already racked up almost 12 million monthly streams on Spotify. Some of her most popular songs include “Tired,” “The Perfect Pair,” and “She Plays Bass.”
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13. One OK Rock
Japanese pop-rock act One OK Rock has crafted some of the most popular rock songs in recent years since their formation in Tokyo in 2005.
The four-piece has sold three million records and also broke in the US in 2015 with their seventh album, 35xxxv, which is also certified Platinum in Japan.
Some of the group’s hits include “Wherever You Are,” “Save Yourself,” and “Stand Out Fit In.”
12. Yvette Young
#12 on our list of the best Asian musicians is guitarist Yvette Young.
Second-generation Chinese American Yvette Young is one of the brightest talents in guitar-based music this century, making waves with her three-piece band Covet and her solo releases.
Young was trained in classical piano as a child, and she took this approach to create her unique two-handed tapping playing style on guitar.
She’s also a skilled vocalist, violinist, and visual artist as well, as evidenced by her work creating her own album covers and guitar designs.
Young, who initially became known for playing math rock, has branched out stylistically into various genres and created such popular songs as “Shibuya,” “Ares,” and “Parachute.”
Related: The 16 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time
Japanese creative George Kusunoki Miller initially made it big as infamous comedy YouTuber Filthy Frank in the 2010s following his move to the United States.
He branched into music with his comedic Pink Guy project, but in 2015 he transitioned to more serious music under the name Joji, which stylistically is often described as trip-hop and lo-fi.
You could say it’s worked out pretty well for him, as he currently has 31.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and has created hits such as “Die For You,” “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” and “Like You Do.”
10. James Iha
Hugely talented Japanese-American guitarist James Iha is best known as the co-founder of The Smashing Pumpkins, which is one of the most successful rock bands of all time, with 30 million albums sold.
He’s also been a longtime member of Maynard James Keenan’s project A Perfect Circle, working alongside some of the best musicians in the business.
In addition to his guitar skills, Iha wrote and/or sang on a number of Smashing Pumpkins songs, such as “Take Me Down,” “I Am One,” “Soma,” and “Mayonaise.”
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9. Kirk Hammett
A shoe in for any list of the best Asian musicians, pretty much every kid who ever picked up a guitar tried to learn some Kirk Hammett licks at some point.
The Metallica lead guitarist, whose mother is Filipino, became one of the most famous Asian musicians due to his fleet-fingered and melodic guitar playing.
Hammett joined Metallica just two weeks before the recording of their debut album Kill ‘Em All in 1983 and has been an indispensable part of the 125 million-selling metal act ever since.
While everyone knows James Hetfield is the riff-writing genius of Metallica, Hammett co-wrote quite a few of the band’s biggest songs, including “Enter Sandman,” “Creeping Death,” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”
8. Steve Aoki
American DJ Steve Aoki, who is of Japanese descent, has built up a massively dedicated fanbase who clock in 21 million streams on his Spotify each month.
He’s one of the most talented Asian musicians in the world and is a real songwriting and production wizard.
He’s collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business. Some of his popular singles include “Waste It On Me” (with BTS), “Just Hold On” (with Louis Tomlinson), and “Cult” (with Jasiah).
Related: The 15 Greatest DJs of All Time
7. Jay Park
Jay Park is one of the biggest Asian pop stars in America. The Korean-American talent is also one of the most popular Asian musicians internationally.
He made waves straight out of the gate, with his 2012 debut album New Breed going to number one in Korea.
Park’s vocal style is a pop-tinged rap and R&B flow. Some of his best-known songs are “All I Wanna Do,” “Me Like Yuh,” and “Mommae.”
Related: The 10 Best K Pop Songs of All Time
Who is the most popular Asian artist? Pop rock duo B’z have to be in consideration. They are the best-selling Japanese act and, by some accounts, the best-selling rock act in all of Asia.
They dropped 49 consecutive number-one singles in Japan and can boast worldwide sales of 100 million.
Their classic songs include “Ultra Soul,” “Love Phantom,” and “Bad Communication.”
K-pop nine-piece Twice are some of the most famous Asian musicians in the world.
Since their second album Eyes Wide Open went double Platinum in Korea, the group has pumped out a non-stop stream of hits such as “I Can’t Stop Me,” “What is Love,” and “Fancy.”
The group is known for its superb visuals, intense dance routines, and catchy vocal lines.
Related: The 10 Best K Pop Bands in the World
Are there any Asian rock stars? Indeed there are, and X-Japan leads the pack.
The Chiba-based rock and metal five-piece are some of the most talented and successful Asian musicians in the industry.
Known for their visual kei aesthetic and consummate musicianship, the group’s most popular songs include “Jade,” “X,” and “Say Anything.”
3. Mike Shinoda
What American bands have Asian members? Linkin Park is one of many, with Japanese-American rapper Mike Shinoda adding a huge part to their success.
A talented singer and rapper, Shinoda is certainly one of the most famous Asian American musicians.
Linkin Park’s huge list of modern classics include “In the End,” “Numb,” and “Faint.”
Related: The 25 Best Punk Songs to Help You Stick it to the Man
K-pop four-piece Blackpink are some of the most famous Asian musicians on the planet, having blown up non-stop since their debut in 2016.
The group’s members, Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa, are all in their mid-20s. Their music has broken a long string of records.
One example of this is their YouTube clip for “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” being the first music video for a Korean group to hit one billion views and also two billion views.
It is currently the most viewed clip from any Korean artist on the platform as well. .
Blackpink are known as style and beauty icons for their charismatic performances and their catchy and memorable vocal parts.
Blackpink hits include “Kill This Love,” “Shut Down,” and “How You Like That.”
Related: BLACKPINK Members: Everything You Need to Know About the Sensational Korean Girl Group
Who is the most popular Asian artist? That’d be massively popular boy band BTS.
The seven-piece K-pop act features some of the most talented and commercially successful Asian musicians on the planet.
Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook are the highest-selling Korean act in history. They were the most popular act in the world in 2021, judging by sales, streams, and downloads.
BTS’s global reach has even sparked a renewed interest in South Korean tourism, with almost 800,000 visiting the country in 2020 for BTS.
The group’s members are famed for their work ethic (being known to dance 12 hours a day in the lead-up to concerts), their detailed choreography, and vocal skills, and their songwriting abilities.
BTS’s megahits include “Life Goes On, “Butter,” “Yet to Come,” and “Dynamite.”
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