Sunday, March 22, 2009
Big in America?
March seems to be the month of J-pop and enka stars who are already big in Japan that now are trying to make it in the United States. Boa and Hikaru Utada (the latter goes by Utada in the U.S.) are mega-stars in Japan, but can they make it here? Utada has tried before, but garnered lackluster sales, while this is Boa’s first try. Both have albums out now. Utada is a solid songwriter at least, while Boa’s strength is her dance moves. Utada rarely performs live on TV or on the radio in Japan, but she's making an exception here.
A few Japanese singers, including Akina Nakamori and Seiko Matsuda from the 1980s have released music in the States, but none have ever found success here. Mostly they seem like pale imitators of Western music. I wonder when someone who is strictly J-pop will release a J-pop record in the U.S. and be proud of the Japanese sound? Wouldn’t all the American otakus and anime fans snap that up?
In the meantime we have Jero, a traditional enka singer, making an appearance at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. I know first-hand how Japanese freak out when a white girl sings enka, but Jero is African-American and was actually named Best New Artist in last year’s Japan Record Awards. Don’t know if he’ll release a song in the U.S. but I think he’d have a better shot if he stuck to enka then if he made a haphazard attempt at hip-hop.