The Veteran Jpop Singer Spills The Beans On New Album and Possible Kpop Collabos
The true K-pop fans among us will already be familiar with Crystal Kay, the J-pop phenom who’s been hitting the Japanese charts with number ones since she debuted as a tween in 1998. The bi-racial beauty — her dad, a bassist and Navy man, is African-American and her mother is a third generation Korean resident of Japan – has spent over a decade as a familiar face on the Oricon hit list from her first single, “Eternal Memories,” to her seventh studio album, All Yours, which debuted at number one in 2007. Her latest album, Vivid, is out in Japan on June 27th on Delicious Deli Records, a Universal Japan sub-label.
On the eve of her twelfth album release, we got to ask the 26-year old dead ringer for Janet Jackson all our burning questions. Via email, and with many lols, Kuri-chan shared with us her thoughts on her musical idols, her friendship with K-pop mega-star BoA, and what’s left for an artist who’s already sold two million copies of her music. A lot, judging from her answers. Read on for the rest!
You debuted as a singer when you were just 13. Did you grow up performing, and how did you get in touch with a record label at such a young age?
I’ve always loved to sing and dance in front of people. I started singing commercial songs when I was four. At 12 one of the commercial songs I sang got me noticed and that was my debut single, “Eternal Memories.”
You made the effort to graduate from university while juggling a music career. What did you learn in college that you didn’t learn in the music business?
Math. Lol. No, college was a great experience because I learned a lot, as well as challenged myself trying to do school, while performing simultaneously. The friends I made and the memories I have from college are as enriching to me as the friends and memories I’ve obtained from my music career.
Your music draws from pop, but also R&B and dance music. Who are your musical heroes and inspirations?
I love Michael Jackson. I grew up wanting to be him! I also grew up listening to records my parents played at home like Earth Wind and Fire, The Miracles, Rose Royce, a lot of soul music. I also love Janet, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, and TLC.
Your album VIVID is out on June 27th on a sub-label of Universal Japan. If you could describe the album in one word, what would it be?
Hmm…If I could describe it in one word it would be: “Superawesomeamazingextremedopeness.”
In December you released a single called “Superman.” Do you have a superman in your life?
Yes. My mom.
We love your Instagram photos of your outfits. How would you describe your style, and who are some of your favorite designers?
I don’t really have a style. I love to wear whatever’s comfortable and complements my body and skin tone. I love to play with colors, especially during the summer. I love Diesel, Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, Phenomenon…
Your collaboration with Far East Movement, “Where the Wild Things Are,” is great. The song is fun and party-oriented – are you a party girl in real life?
I literally spend 95% of the day on the couch. Every now and then I party at home with my cat and dog.
You’ve had great success in Japan, selling over two million copies of your many records. What is left for you to do?
Everything. I feel like I’m just getting started. I want my music to reach more places, as well as get the chance to work with more artists. I would love to win a Grammy someday.
In recent years, we’ve seen more Korean singers visiting Japan and becoming popular, and you even did a duet with BoA (“Girlfriend”) in 2010. How do you think that K-pop is different from J-pop, and do you ever think of crossing back to Korea and working there, since you are ethnically Korean?
K-pop inspires me quite a bit. I’ve always been impressed how Korean artists master their skillsets. I’m always blown away when I watch K-pop music videos and see how well they sing and how sharp their dance movements are. My girl BoA is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I would love to sing and work in Korea. Might even be a song sang in Korean in my future. ;)
Who are some other J-pop artists who you think we should know about?
You should check out Southern Allstars. They have been around for over 30 years. Great lead vocalist and great songs!!!
You must have faced discrimination as a singer who was half African-American working in Japan. Do you think that the barriers are less now than when you started, maybe thanks to your influence?
I haven’t really felt discrimination as a singer. I was intimidated when I first came out and felt as if i wouldn’t be accepted because of my ethnicity and music style, as well as the majority of singers being all Japanese. To my surprise Japan welcomed me with open arms. I feel like many more bi-racial and foreign artists are now receiving the same warm welcome from Japan as I did.
You’re fluent in English and Japanese. How do you think the languages are different, and which do you prefer to sing in?
They’re very different. The English language is far more direct verbally and it flows more with the melody whereas the Japanese language is a bit more divided, in a way that there are more syllables so the melody doesn’t flow as much. Also, Japanese people really put their focus on the lyrics so the emphasis on each word is really important. I prefer to sing in English.
Is there anything you’d like to tell English speaking fans of your music?
I guess to be prepared! lol I plan on trying a bunch of new things with my music. There will probably be quite a few more songs in English. And like I said earlier, possibly a couple in Korean. :)