In “Paprika,” the whimsically fresh, alternative-pop jam by Michelle Zauner - the brilliant, queer, half-Korean half-Jewish singer-songwriter - and her band Japanese Breakfast, Zauner explores the wild delight she’s experienced as her songs have found their way into the hearts and minds and conversations of her fans and admirers - and the twisty path it’s taken to arrive at her moment in the spotlight.
“How's it feel to be at the center of magic
To linger in tones and words?
I opened the floodgates
And found no water, no current, no river, no rush
How's it feel to stand at the height of your powers
To captivate every heart?
Projecting your visions to strangers who feel it
Who listen, who linger on every word
Oh, it's a rush
Oh, it's a rush”
In her memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” Zauner recalls how Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lit the spark for her, noting she was the “first icon of the music world I worshiped who looked just like me.” Despite her initial concern being that, perhaps, since Karen was already doing it, there might not be space for herself in the rock scene as an Asian-American woman, in recent years Michelle has joined many of her peers, such as Mitski, Hayley Kiyoko, and mxmtoon (all three also queer) as part of a bright wave of Asian women to rise up and take their rightful place in indie/alternative pop-rock.
Michelle has explained that the name is intended as an ironic mashup akin to her own bi-racial identity and experience, with “Japanese” as a representation of what many Americans might stereotypically think of as anything Asian or exotic, and “breakfast” representing a mundane, ordinary American experience.
Like many of her peers, with every track to her name, Zauner seeks to increase visibility and normalize persons like herself being in the spotlight, hoping to inspire other Asian-American artists to embrace their own talent and passions, and pursue their own dreams.
Pride is about celebration.
Singing your song.
And the “rush” when others
Stand by you and
Sing YOUR song with you.
Pride is about solidarity. About community, and about us finding ourselves in one-another's stories.
You are beautifully unique and gorgeous.
Your story is important - and the world needs to know it!
May you shimmer and shine brightly, and
May you know the “rush” of
Finding YOUR song, and hearing others gleefully sing it back to you.
Make sure to tune in to Ascent’s Pride Month playlist, which includes “Paprika,” as well as “Be Sweet” and “Posing In Bondage,” also from the fabulous, “Jubilee,” to check out the rest of the album on your preferred streaming platform, AND to pick up a copy at your local, independent record store. Also, check out this incredible stripped down version of “Paprika” in the video below, performed as an AAPI Heritage Month tribute on the Asian American Foundation channel!
Jonathan Bristow - Ascent Creator & Director.
Hey friends, welcome to the Ascent Radio Blog! A space in which we discuss all things music, as well as the happenings on the station. We're convinced of one thing around here: