Asian singers like S'pore's JJ Lin dominate soundtrack of superhero flick Shang-Chi

(From left) Mandopop star JJ Lin, rappers Warren Hue and Rich Brian, and singer Niki are featured on the soundtrack of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.
(From left) Mandopop star JJ Lin, rappers Warren Hue and Rich Brian, and singer Niki are featured on the soundtrack of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.PHOTO: JJ LIN/ INSTAGRAM, 88RISING

SINGAPORE - Singaporean Mandopop star JJ Lin has a song on the soundtrack of Marvel Cinematic Universe's first Asian superhero movie, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.

The 40-year-old, who performs the electropop tune Lose Control in English, is among the host of Asian acts featured on the soundtrack - fitting for a film that is led by an Asian cast such as China-born Canadian Simu Liu, rapper Awkwafina and Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung.

A huge chunk of the talents hails from the roster of Asian-American music company 88rising, including singer Niki as well as rappers Rich Brian and Warren Hue - all of whom have roots in Indonesia and are now based in the United States.

In a recent online press conference with the South-east Asian media, the trio point out that, like the film, the music plays an important role in Asian representation.

Hue, 19, says: "We just wrote from our perspective of our culture and it's always going to resonate with the movie, because we're obviously Asian artistes and we're speaking from the point of view of how we grew up."

Niki adds: "It's been a career high for all of us, and it's awesome to be a part of a project where you feel directly represented and seen as an Asian person."

Brian, who is based in Los Angeles, adds: "I'm really happy that we're part of something so historic."

The 22-year-old says the film's director, Destin Daniel Cretton, a Hawaii native of Japanese descent, gave the musicians free reign to write their songs.

"I feel like Destin gave us a lot of freedom to do whatever we wanted. And it was awesome, it was just really organic and really just up to us to figure out, 'Okay in this scene, what kind of mood do we want?'," he adds.

It was not easy to come up with the music as the artistes did not get to watch the film before it was released earlier this month (September). Brian says they were given only the themes to work with, so they had to figure out how the songs would fit into the movie scenes.

"But the whole time we were doing it, we would show it to the director and then Marvel and they'd be like, 'Alright, cool, good job'," adds the rapper, who made headlines in 2018 when his debut album, Amen, became the first by an Asian act to top the iTunes hip-hop chart.

"Looking back and listening to the album now, it actually fits really well and I'm really glad."

He appears in several songs on the 18-track album, including opener Always Rising, a collaboration with Niki and Hue, as well as Run It, where he teams up with French electronic dance music star DJ Snake and American rapper Rick Ross.

Due to the pandemic, most of the acts had to work remotely instead of getting together in the music studio.

Niki, for example, recorded her vocals in a guest room in her house in Los Angeles.

The 22-year-old sings on tracks such as Every Summertime and Clocked Out!, a collaboration with American singer Audrey Nuna.

"I have a spare room that's also kind of my studio and I just plugged in a USB mic to my computer and tracked my vocals here," she recalls.

"It's ironic that we're doing like this gigantic global Marvel soundtrack and it was sort of done DIY."


(From left) Meng’er Zhang, Simu Liu and Awkwafina in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

Brian was blown away when he finally saw the movie.

"Looking at the credits and seeing our names on it and everything is just as wild, it's insane," he says.

"Three Indonesian artistes being a part of this huge Marvel movie soundtrack and it's just, I don't know, I would never expect something like this to happen."

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings: The Album is available on music streaming services.