This post is part of an ongoing series about Asian pop.
I think we may have reached my favourite category out of all of the categories so far!!! I love the singers in this category because not only are they incredibly talented, but their music is so unique, it’s almost hard to pinpoint their genre. I’ll give you an example, if Britney Spears randomly decided to incorporate opera into her music, people would freak out. If Rihanna randomly decided to incorporate heavy metal AND pop into her latest single, people in the west would be shocked. This concept is rarely seen in the west where artists will experiment with several genres just within one song. I love it because it is so fun hearing what hard rock and bubble pop can sound like. If you are majorly confused, don’t worry! I will definitely explain this when I show examples of songs and it will become very obvious what I am talking about. These artists have all been around for awhile and know their craft. When you hear their music, you know it’s Asian just from the musical style, but it’s also western at the same time. These guys are incredible, because they are great singers, fantastic performers and amazing at creating music that is oh so unique. Let’s start with looking at my personal favourite, Ayumi Hamasaki, whom I actually saw live in 2011.
Ayumi Hamasaki (Japan)
Ayumi Hamasaki loves to use strings and heavy guitar; it’s like her signature. She loves to get really heavy and then bring the mood down drastically with strings with very strong emotions throughout. She is the first Asian artist I ever heard back in ’03 (I believe) and I fell in love with her style. I had never heard anything like it in the west, and it led me to check out other artists from Asia, especially Japan.
Bold and Delicious (2005)
Another classic featuring a full choir mixed with very upbeat pop and funk vibes.
Love Song (2010)
So much emotion in this one. An upbeat light rock ballad with acoustic and electric guitar throughout again with a beautiful orchestral arrangement. I would love to hear some western artists crank out some epic ballads with full orchestras.
Duty (2000) live at her 2015 Arena Tour
She has a wonderful stage presence and an amazing live voice (did you know she was deaf in one ear?). She sings live, puts on amazing shows, and tends to sing songs from her whopping 18 year career with 16 studio albums to choose content from. She may not be as popular as she once was in the 2000s, but everyone gets older and new artists emerge. Ayumi Hamasaki is still one of Japan’s best selling artists and still boasts the title of best selling female artist in Japan with over 50 million albums sold. Her music ranges from electronic to pop to rock to anything really with influences from all genres including traditional Japanese folk. Definitely check her out!
Koda Kumi (Japan)
No Man’s Land (2012)
Koda Kumi, like Ayu, uses many different styles in her music. I would say she leans towards pop and R&B, but like in No Man’s Land, she uses funk and hard rock with elements of pop. With artists like Koda Kumi and Ayumi Hamasaki, there are no rules and no main formula!
Pop Diva (2011)
One of her more stereotypically poppy songs, but nonetheless a really fun track!
Pink Spider (2013)
Although this is from her cover album, she put her own spin on the song with a heavy dance and electronic focus mixed with her signature pop sound.
Hurry Up! (2009) Live at her 2009 Tour
Another fun track with heavy guitars and distortion; definitely one of her more rock infused songs. Still poppy, but definitely rock and roll.
Ayumi Hamasaki is definitely the most diverse on the list because she mixes so many genres and does so consistently. Ayu’s signature sound is heavy guitar and strings, whereas Koda Kumi does tend to stick to a more poppy sound. I do find that the two of them use guitars prominently; in the west, the guitar has taken a decline from pop music. Let’s take a look at another country now…
A-Mei / Amit (Taiwan)
A-Mei may be known as being a famous pop star, but sometimes she takes on her alter ego ‘Amit’ and definitely strays from the norm. I’ll show you a few examples…
Jump In (2014) – A-Mei
A-Mei gives us a track full of electric poppy vibes that is club ready. Nothing crazy here, just normal A-Mei…(also keep in mind that A-Mei is 43!)
Freak Show (2015) – Amit
Now we have something a little different. A-Mei switches to Amit and thus switches genres from pop to opera metal. Not all of Amits songs are opera metal, but they generally a lot different from the content that A-Mei comes out with! She isn’t afraid to experiment with different vocal styles and sounds (hear that accordion?). Amit is also very different looking than A-Mei (who generally looks polished and pretty) with a very avant-garde style.
What D’ya Want (2015)
Here Amit keeps her metal sound but combines it with a more electronic and industrial sound similar to the likes of Marilyn Manson and Turmion Katilot. Not only does A-Mei change to Amit and bring us some metal, Amit brings us different sub-genres within metal.
Heading Utopia (2014)
I personally prefer Amit over A-Mei due to my musical preferences, but it’s interesting to see an artist create such different music but to also do it the way that she does by using an alter ego. I love that she has a dark side and makes makes completely different music under ‘Amit’. Really cool concept – can you imagine if Britney Spears did metal on the side and went under a different name?
Since these guys are still pretty rare, I don’t have a list to share, but I do have a fun list coming up in the next post of all the Ultimate Pop Stars! There are A LOT! There were a few I was considering putting in this category, but their genres are too much the same all the time. Stay tuned!
Image Credit: http://nihongogo.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Koda-Kumi-Celebrates-15th-Anniversary-by-Hitting-the-Top-Spot-on-the-Oricon-Charts-620×400.jpg