take on internationalism
At one point in her debut concert at Shibuya AX on August
31, Crystal Kay paused to ask everyone how their summer vacation
went. The high school student went on to say that she hadn't
had much of a break at all, but that was OK. To roars of approval
from her classmates who formed a cheering squad in the balcony,
she said that this concert was the high point of her vacation.
With a single, "Hard to Say," omnipresent on
the charts this summer and her face plastered over billboards
around Tokyo, the winsome 16-year-old-born in Yokohama
to African American and Korean parents-is J-pop's
latest answer to R&B stars Janet Jackson et. al. She's
got a winning voice that bears much in common with the "lite"
soul stylings of Hikaru Utada, matched to an exotic look that
belies the sweetness of her demeanor.
Kay also has a record company, Sony's Epic imprint,
in overdrive to promote what it no doubt hopes will be its
riposte to Toshiba EMI (Utada) and Avex Trax (Ayumi Hamasaki).
In keeping with Sony's international flavor, Kay truly
looks the part of world citizen, but crucially, this bright
young thing happens to be fluent in Japanese.
She's also a natural with a crowd, working the packed
house of 1,000 or so delirious fans with unpretentious ease,
and moving gracefully with her backing dancers as she previews
tracks from her forthcoming debut album.
Due out at the end of this month, the fate of Almost Seventeen
and the trajectory of Crystal Kay's career will be
a good indicator as to what extent Japan is ready to accept
a singer who doesn't necessarily look Japanese-but
is fluent in the critical currency of Japanese youth culture-as
not just an exotic oddity as has been the case in the past,
but as one of its own. With someone so disarmingly sweet,
it's hard not to wish Kay the best of luck.
Almost Seventeen will be released
October 23 on Epic Records. Info: www.sonymusic.co.jp/C-Kay/
Photo courtesy of Epic Records