On nights where everything feels like too much and my brain is exhausted, there are few artists that I turn to, and very little music that I can bear. One of these artists, I have realized– when I turn on Spotify right before I fall asleep– has very quickly become mxmtoon. Despite discovering her music only a little over a year ago, she has quickly climbed her way onto my favourites list, and shows no sign of leaving.
At the mere age of 19, mixed-race Asian-American musician and singer Maia, alias mxmtoon, has achieved stellar success and an audience that adores her for both: her music and her personality. There is something distinctive and captivating about her music– maybe it is the gentleness of it, or simply the sound of her voice– every song of hers is comforting and soft, feeling like content nights spent alone, fairly lights, and being wrapped into a hug by a friend.
Starting out as a musician just three years ago, Maia’s evolution as an artist is apparent to anyone who listens to her discography.
From her debut EP plum blossoms in 2018, to her first album the masquerade in 2019, and most recently, her new EP dawn, Maia’s style has changed quite a bit, something that is clearest in the production of her music. From soft ukulele music to more upbeat and poppy tunes, this development showcases her willingness to experiment and grow as an artist– without compromising the quality or integrity of what she does.
Identifying as a “young bisexual woman of colour from a family of immigrants”, Maia claims that her bisexuality isn’t something that she thinks about too much on a day to day basis– that being said, she is proud to be a member of the LGBTQA+ community. She is lucky to be surrounded by people who accept her for who she is, she adds, and will always try to be a safe space for those who don’t have the same luxury.
Being Chinese-American on her mother’s side and German and Scottish on her father’s, Maia has mentioned how being mixed race has sometimes been tough when she grew up, even as she lived in an area where it wasn’t exactly uncommon.
“Being mixed is a really tough thing, where maybe someone understands your experience, but no one ever fully understands your experience because everybody’s slightly different,” she explained to Lauren Engel on Sidewalk Talk Pop, “Like, there’s commonalities between, I think, a lot of people who grow up mixed race, but everything varies so greatly between people’s individual lives. The only kid that would fully understand what my upbringing was like, is thankfully, my brother. Even then, our skin tones are different, so we each had different experiences growing up.”
Even today, though, as a public figure or influencer of sorts, it is hard to escape the grasps of racism– on the 5th of May, Maia shared screenshots on Twitter, of racist DMs that she received, explaining that she receives messages like these all the time, and it is one of the reasons why she’s so adamant about expressing her identity or beliefs as a mixed race Asian American.
“It’s exhausting to constantly justify who I am and have spent my entire life feeling confident enough to claim my heritage and speak on my experience,” she tweeted, “All this to say, if you’re a mixed race person, you are completely valid despite what people will say. You are more than enough.”
Plain to see, Maia aims to use her experiences and identity to create a safer, happier world for other mixed race people struggling with an identity crisis.
On her social media, Maia is purely herself– an artistic teenager with a brilliant sense of humour, someone who is full of feelings and eager to connect with others. She has mentioned several times how grateful she is for being able to create the music that she loves, and to have so many people enjoy it, and attend her shows. It is on social media that one can see a different side to Maia: a side that loves comedy, memes and posing awkwardly.
On Spotify, Maia has almost 7 million monthly listeners, whom she declares she has undeniable solidarity with. Her lyrics, which she describes as “rhyming diary entries” come across as honest and effortless: the amount of effort that goes into this simplicity is something only she can tell. Mostly writing about love, growing older and other such feelings, Maia captures the essence of youth, something that many listeners relate to.
Maia’s most popular songs include Falling for U with Japanese lo-fi producer peachy!, prom dress, which recently celebrated its one year anniversary with a happy video and 1-800-DATE-ME the first song she ever uploaded. It is classics like feelings are fatal and cliché that represent Maia– but her latest EP dawn, the first of two EPs, is just as stunning, though a little different from her earlier work.
With dawn, Maia wanted to be more hopeful and cheery, and lift people up by reminding them that things will be okay. This is not a permanent departure from sad songs, she reassures– she only wanted to try making something refreshing and different.
dawn has clearly been a success, achieving its goal of spreading optimism, with beautiful songs like fever dream, lessons, quiet motions and– my personal favourite– almost home.
Since November 2019, mxmtoon has been signed on to Kobalt Music Group, and has been presented with the likes of Billie Eilish and Shawn Mendes, as a model for potential super-stardom.
With her determination, positivity and integrity, the best of it all awaits her, and she sure deserves it.