Mike Pont/WireImageYuna thanks Jhene Aiko for helping her break out of her shell.
The 29-year-old Malaysian singer says Aiko, who is featured on her Chapters album, encouraged her to be more assertive.
“She inspired me to kinda just be blunt, say it how it is, don’t hold back, Yuna tells MTV News. ”My previous songs, I held back — I didn’t want to be too obvious or too open.”
Yuna’s style is more aggressive now than early in her career, when her ballad-heavy songs made her a star in Malaysia.
“That’s why I had a successful start, because I put out something that was just kind of laid-back. I sang it like I was falling asleep,” she says. “Now that I’m here [in America], I get to really do what I want to do.”
Yuna says it is important to her to be a role model for artists in Malaysia.
“It’s really tough, because they get molded into something very early, and it’s kind of hard to break from that,” she comments. “If they do do something different, they get criticized for it. Like me — I get criticized all the damn time for doing this.”
She adds that her success is important to aspiring artists back home.
“They see [my work] as a little glimmer of hope,” she says. “I’m probably the first Malaysian to ever do this, really get myself into the American music industry.”
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