Hyphen's San Francisco Bittersweet Issue Release Party
Date: Friday, June 3, 2011
Place: 111 Minna Gallery (SF)
Bay Area, get ready! Hyphen is putting on one big party to celebrate the release of our Bittersweet Issue (and Angry Asian Man's 10th anniversary!) -- we've got plenty of surprises in store, including an all-star list of entertainers like Bay Area native R&B singer Michelle Martinez.
Do not let her effervescent personality and petite looks fool you -- Michelle Martinez packs a powerful punch. Singing since she was two, the San Francisco-born Martinez has a soulful yet fun musical style that she playfully dubs “electro R&Pop.” Citing musical influences ranging from old school crooners such as Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Brian McKnight to more recent global megastars, including Beyonce and Alicia Keys, Martinez is keen on blazing her own path. Debuting her first YouTube video in 2007, Martinez quickly garnered a following of over 55,000 subscribers along with an impressive 3 million video views.
Growing up, Martinez looked up to and emulated artists like Christina Aguilera and her fiery brand of womanhood, something that Martinez incorporates her into her own craft. “I am a very girl-empowering kind of artist,” she says. “I like to put on the sexy attitude but I also want to be respected.” Drawing upon her own adolescent growing pains and combining a potent mix of truthful lyrics and catchy beats, Martinez hopes to teach young women that they don’t need a man to feel confident, young and beautiful. “Make your own life before you begin one with someone else,” she advises.
Martinez cut her teeth by entering the music industry the “old-fashioned way” -- flying to auditions and performing in competitions. YouTube was not even on her radar. Martinez was hesitant, perhaps even a little stubborn about the idea of using the medium. “As an artist, it stabs you a little bit in the heart. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I was killing myself [with auditions], and someone gets out their webcam and [becomes] so much more popular than I am.’ It was very frustrating in the beginning.”
Not only did she warm up to the idea, she quickly embraced it. “I did one video just for a friend,” Martinez says. “I put up a video, and it got a lot of views and comments requesting for me to do more, and I gave in.” As an independent artist, she credits YouTube and other social media as tools for getting her name out there.
As Martinez gained popularity, a Japanese record company came knocking on her door, inviting her to their studio to hone her skills. She spent five months in Japan improving her vocals and perfecting her stage presence. “It was the biggest and scariest thing I have ever done in my life, ever,” she admits. “But that was how much I wanted it."
Martinez has faced some barriers in her career. Some producers chose not to work with her because they believed it would be difficult to market an Asian American artist. Although she understands that the industry is geared towards making money, she says that it was very sad to miss out on a lot of opportunities because of her ethnicity. “It felt like a battle I would never win. ... I cannot change that I am Asian. It was very, very disappointing and some days, I felt like giving up,” she says.
Nevertheless, Martinez says she feels the times are changing. She credits sites like YouTube, which have provided an alternative platform for other Asian American artists to emerge. “I feel that Asian Americans are really banding together and saying, ‘Look, we are here, we are just as talented and we are not going anywhere,’" she says.
Through all her trials and tribulations, Martinez pays much respect to the friends and family who have sustained her throughout the years, although her family has expressed mixed emotions about her career goals. “Obviously, coming from an Asian background, education is always their number one goal," she says. "It was really hard for them when I left school to pursue my dreams.” Martinez admits that her family was at least partly right, which explains her decision to re-enroll in college and pursue a major in broadcasting.
“I look at myself now as a woman and I am very proud that my parents stuck to their guns," she says. "Yes, I want this badly, but not at the cost of not being able to look at myself in the mirror the next day. And I get that from my family, I get that from my culture. I feel that is something to be proud of.”
Martinez is hungry for change and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. “The point is that I want to bring something different, something fresh [to the music world]. That is definitely where I find my inspiration.”
Michelle Martinez joins The Soonest and other great performers at our Bittersweet Issue Release Party in San Francisco this Friday! For a taste of her impressive vocal skills, here's a video of her singing "Nobody But U":