By Mark Reynolds
Pop star LaLa is embracing her Asian culture. She is blending eastern and western traditions that speak to an entirely new generation of dance music fans.
“I incorporate Asian motifs into my music,” she says. “I’m inspired by drums in Indian culture, and their jewelry and veils. I would love to find a way to meld them into my performances. Who knows how audiences will react,” she laughs, “they will just have to get used to it.”
Launching a career as a pop star today is difficult for any singer. But making it big as an Asian artist has historically presented its own challenges. Until now. An Asian invasion is hitting gay dance clubs, led by LaLa and other talented artists.
“My introduction to music was through Bollywood,” explains LALA who was born in Hong Kong from Chinese parents and raised in Canada. “Even though my home life stuck close to our Chinese roots, I found myself drawn to East Indian traditions.” As a young singer, she experimented and exposed herself to all types of music. “In my teen years, I was deeply entrenched in hip-hop.”
She crafted lyrical Hip Hop rhymes that spoke to her culture and Asian influence. “But people saw it as cultural music and I wanted to be more mainstream.” Feeling she would never find true acceptance in Hip Hop, she explored other genres. “I was drawn to dance music because I love to perform and the reaction from the crowds in clubs is instantaneous.”
She hooked up with the remix/production team Maniacalm on the single “Never Forget You”, a song that would become her first Billboard charting hit.
The single caught fire in dance clubs and on radio, rising to #5 on the Dance Radio Airplay charts. LALA and Maniacalm quickly followed it with the sonically stirring “I Miss You” (co-written by LALA) and their latest track releasing to clubs this winter, “Don’t You Want Me”.
“I am so grateful for the gay clubs,” says the openly bi-sexual artist. “They were the first to really get me and understand my desire to be loved for my differences. When I’m on stage in front of my gay boys and girls, I feed off their positive vibe. I swear I would shower in it if I could.”
It’s a sentiment shared by punk music valley doll Josie Cotton.
Cotton crashed onto the world stage in the early eighties with the song, “Johnny, Are You Queer?”. When it catapulted on to the airwaves, it sparked a meteoric rise in fame for Cotton that quickly went down in flames. “Johnny” was the first time the word ‘queer’ appeared in a Top 40 song and no one knew how to take it.
“It was hilarious to me at the time,” reflects Cotton. “I was lambasted by the religious right but I considered it a badge of honor. What I didn’t expect was the backlash from the gay community.”
The Advocate, the most popular LGBT magazine at the time, labeled Josie Cotton homophobic. New York’s alternative weekly, The Village Voice, asked on its front page headline, ‘Josie, Are You a Bitch?’.
“America is a much different place today,” she says, crediting the change to media and shows like Modern Family and Glee. In fact, “Johnny, Are You Queer?” was featured on Glee last season. “I love that we live in a world where girls don’t only have to worry about ‘the other woman’. Today, girls also have to watch out for ‘the other man’.”
Since Johnny, Cotton has released several hit records including Convertible Music, Invasion of the B Girls and the critically acclaimed, Movie Disaster Music. But it’s her new song, the Asian inspired “See the New Hong Kong”, that is her first since Johnny to hit the top ten on the Billboard club charts. The record mixes bubbly top‐40 and Japanese new‐wave into an exploding post‐punk cocktail.
“Maybe it’s good Asian fortune or maybe it’s that America is finally broadening its view on world music,” she says. “The Brits invaded America in the 70s. Latino beats were all the rage in the late nineties.
“It’s about time we saw an Asian Invasion on the dance floor,” says Cotton. “Get ready because it’s already happening.”
For more of LALA visit her online at www.lalathemusicartist.com. Her singles “I Miss You” and “Never Forget You” are available on i-Tunes now. For more information on Josie Cotton and her new album, Pussycat Babylon, please visit http://www.josiecotton.com.