On January 6th, LEX the Lexicon Artist AKA Alex Liu released her music video for the song “Artist Anthem.” After a conversation with a friend that made her realize she is not as “normal” as she pretends to be, she began construction on “Artist Anthem” in late 2016 and finished it early 2017. She first programmed a demo of the song herself, teamed up with producer Klopfenpop from Seattle and then shot the music video with her friend Jordan Rose. We here at YLWRNGR had the opportunity to interview LEX about her and her latest music video.
“Artist Anthem” focuses on the idea of loving exactly who you are. LEX states that she wrote the song believing “that we are all artists in our own way.” LEX hopes the song can be a “message of solidarity” that artists need to keep sustaining their artistic careers even if they don’t love their day job. LEX says that the song is “also an Asian Artist Anthem” and felt it was important to reach “the weird Asian kids” like herself who feel like they don’t belong. “Many of them are artists, and I want them to see this and know that there are people like them…given the stigma of discussing mental health in both Asia and Asian America, Jordan and I also wanted to make a video that promoted therapy. I hope that it encourages Asian folks struggling with mental health issues to seek help, possibly professional,” says Liu.
The song makes LEX reflect back on where she grew up. Growing up in Taipei, Taiwan culture was focused on the idea of the collective versus the individual. Collectivism is where group cohesion supersedes individual needs. While it can maintain social harmony, it causes anybody who falls out of the status quo to feel like a black sheep. LEX says she was bullied for not fitting into what society expected of her. She was called a freak by peers and had difficulty loving who she was. Lex was able to manifest her experiences of being ostracized, what she calls a “penchant for the offbeat,” into “Artist Anthem.”
The chorus boasts, “I am an artist and I hate myself.” Her therapy session scene in the video normalizes mental health treatment and encourages both artists and people to seek professional help to ameliorate self-hatred. LEX herself opens up about seeking therapy and finding the right therapist. She has “been to therapy for many things, including disordered eating throughout high school and part of college, job stress, and interpersonal issues.”
LEX goes on to explain that she writes music without focusing on what genre it will fall in. She’s written music that could fall under punk, industrial, metal, electropop, and funk. While “Artist Anthem” sounds like rock meets rap, LEX admits she did not actively fuse the two genres. Her “music taste is actually very rock-heavy” and she draws “a lot of inspiration from childhood favorite bands like Linkin Park and Avenged Sevenfold, as well as [her] current friends in the Bay Area rock scene.”
When asked what her ultimate music-industry dreams were, LEX proclaims: “I have a few. I want to go viral. I want to be self-sufficient and pay all my bills with music. I want to be able to tour nationally first, then internationally. I want to normalize an Asian woman in media who isn’t sexualized, heavily accented, or overly edgy with a streak in her hair. I eventually want to be so big that I can buy my parents an apartment in the Bay.” Her dreams aren’t without merit: with multiple singles released, an album out and a hunger for performance, LEX will only continue to grow as an artist.
As an artist, LEX describes herself as “funny and often ridiculous” and someone who never loses sight of her authenticity. Just like her music attests, LEX will “never pretend to be someone I’m not.” She also goes on to explain that she “at first pushed the Asian female rapper schtick, but then [she] realized that it’s already obvious that I’m an Asian woman; it’s the first thing you see and hear” and that she “can write songs about my butt and body image issues and hookup culture and other topics that make sense coming from me, without having to claim that I’m the best female rapper all the time.” In other words, LEX is working to create authentic music that does more than just address her racial identity: “Artist Anthem” is a perfect example of that. LEX also acknowledges that her psychology major factors into how she writes music as well.
LEX drops some knowledge for up and coming female Asian American rappers. She self-identifies as a rapper, an Asian and a woman so she knows what it’s like to create “using all three identities to discuss issues that affect people in these communities.” LEX also admitted that the stereotypical response “‘I didn’t expect that from you’” more than she would like, which translates into “I didn’t expect an Asian girl to rap.” Above all else, LEX advises female Asian American rappers to “stand your ground and show them that you’re the shit.” Perhaps the true message of “Artist Anthem” is to learn how to believe in yourself and love exactly who you are.