Stronger, intimate, and superb: Ken Hirai

Singer Ken Hirai (平井堅) will hold the 15th Anniversary of Ken’s Bar, a special live concert, celebrating his most memorable and influential songs on both May 29th and 30th in the Nippon Budokan (日本武道館). Since his discovery in a SONY singing competition in 1993, Ken Hiria has released songs showcasing himself as a devout romantic singer unafraid of exposing his sentiments to his fans.

Hirai’s most notable song 瞳 を 閉じて (close eyes) describes an enduring devotion to a past love. The song’s focus is on overcoming a once blossoming affair that provided comfort and an impalpable certitude that the person lying opposite him every morning would remain present in his life forever.  His dream is shattered but he lingers between hopefulness and disparity that his loved one will someday return. In other words,  the memory of his lost love is sufficient to carry him forward: ひとみ を 閉じて を 描くよ それ  だけ で いい. Hirai illustrates what everyone confronts once a relationship ends: the yearning to salvage a wonderful time of being in love forever. He brings this emotion forward through his raw vocals that he refuses to disguise in synthetic electronic sounds.

With effortless vocals and accompanying instruments meshing well together, Hirai and the members of his band easily portray strong and even subtle emotions in every song–gloomy or cheerful. 

Ken Hirai will not be appearing on any gossip website for his party ways, love affairs, promiscuity, or raunchy behavior any time soon. He is foremost devoted to improving his artistry, while composing albums that are simultaneously different and fresh. Hirai is definitely an artist who deserves recognition for his current trajectory as he doesn’t rely on dance electronic hits or synth voices to cement his “talent” in the music industry. Instead, Hirai has earned fame for his heart felt singing and signature serene vocals that make you believe his songs are for you alone, a secret for you and him to share.

Click the link below
A Heart Warmed Ken Singing

Otaku band AKB48 is showing that nothing can stop it

What if the vice president of your university were a genius producer who had put together an insanely successful pop group of 90 singers and then approved the creation of identical doll versions of them?

Weird? Not for Kyoto University of Art and Design and Yasushi Akimoto, the Steve Jobs of otaku (supergeeks) in Japan. The school just hosted a hit exhibition of dolls based on the gals in the band he produces, AKB48.

At 90 members, AKB48 is the Guinness-certified world’s largest pop band. Its members are all females in their teens and early twenties, and all its bubble-gum singles top the charts on the day of their release.

Read the rest of the story: Otaku band AKB48 morphs into $200M business.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Can This Idol Save J-Pop

A recurring theme in the Strange Boutique column has been the question of what has gone wrong with pop music in Japan. Amid discussions of the pernicious influence of advertising agencies, record industry conservatism in the face of declining sales, and the faceless, self-replicating Eurobeat monstrosity from out of Akihabara, there was one fundamental thing that Japanese pop seemed to have lost: The ability to make you go, "Wha…?"

For many, however, a pinprick of light emerged from the shade of not-quite-as-influential-as-it-was Tokyo fashion hub of Harajuku this July with the release of "Ponponpon," a song by fashion model-cum-singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (her label, Warner Music Japan, refuses to confirm her real name). Largely passing underneath the mainstream media’s radar at first, it was a viral smash hit that annoyed people who deserved to be annoyed but delighted teenage girls, Belgians (where, along with Finland, it topped the iTunes electronic charts) and bemused netsurfers everywhere with the Technicolor blizzard of candy canes and eyeballs that made up its video, and its idiotically catchy "pon pon wei wei wei" chorus, courtesy of capsule/Perfume producer Yasutaka Nakata.

Read the rest of the story: The cute ‘n’ kooky world of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Japan’s newest pop idol.

Edward Entertainment says Oranje comes after GReeeeN

A new singer-songwriter is ready to make her debut, under the same management agency as the popular group GReeeeN. Going by the name Oranje. (read in Japanese as “orenji,” the same reading as “orange”), she will maintain the same veil of secrecy as GReeeeN by never publicly showing her face.

Oranje. is said to be a resident of Sendai who had no past music career but sent in a demo tape to Edward Entertainment (GReeeeN’s agency) at the end of last year. A producer instantly fell in love with her voice, and contract talks began the next day.

Oranje.’s debut song will be released digitally on September 14, titled “100 Mankai no ‘Aishiteru’.” It is being described as an “answer song” to Rake’s hit song “100 Mankai no ‘I love you’,” which reached 1 million downloads earlier this month. Rake composed and wrote the new song as well.

Oranje. will actually be the first female artist from Edward Entertainment, which also manages groups like Kimaguren and MONKEY MAJIK. She is expected to make her CD debut before the end of the year as well.

Taiji Sawada, Japanese rocker dies in Saipan

A Japanese rock musician who tried to hang himself after being arrested for unruly behaviour on a flight to the Mariana Islands has died in hospital, reports said Monday.

Rocker Taiji Sawada, who was best known as the former bass player with heavy metal group "X", died on Sunday when medics at Saipan’s Commonwealth Health Centre turned off his life support, the Saipan Tribune reported.

The Marianas Variety newspaper reported that Sawada, 45, had been in intensive care since July 14 after he tried to hang himself with a bedsheet in a jail in the US-administered Pacific territory.

Read the rest of the story: Japanese rocker dies in Saipan.

Dreams Come True to Tour U.S.

DREAMS COME TRUE has just made two announcements about upcoming live performances. In August, they plan to perform a series of free acoustic mini-concerts in the Tohoku region, and in October, they will hold their first U.S. tour since 9 years ago.

DREAMS COME TRUE just started their “DREAMS COME TRUE WONDERLAND 2011″ tour on June 24 at Sapporo Dome, and it is scheduled to end in Okinawa on September 23-24. In the middle of their tour, they are planning to do free acoustic performances in 4 of the prefectures heavily affected by the Tohoku earthquake. They are currently looking to visit Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki on August 19-21. Details are still being determined and will be announced at a later date.

Then in October, after their Japan tour, they will be heading to the United States for a short tour called “DREAMS COME TRUE WONDERLAND 2011, THE NIGHT WITH DREAMS COME TRUE in the USA supplied by POCARI SWEAT.” They are scheduled to perform in Los Angeles on October 1, Seattle on October 5, and New York on October 9-10. It is reported that unlike their previous U.S. performances, they will include Japanese songs in these concerts.

More information about the U.S. tour can be found on their website.

L’Arc~en~Ciel 24-hour show on Nico Nico Douga

The members of rock band L’Arc~en~Ciel are still celebrating their 20th anniversary, and their latest project is a 24-hour broadcast on video website Nico Nico Douga. Titled “Nico Nico L’Arc Station,” the show will feature their songs, music videos, and concert footage, plus a one-hour live segment with all of the members appearing.

The program will begin at 8:00pm JST on June 27. It will include 123 songs, ranging from their indie days to their latest, “GOOD LUCK MY WAY.” They will also air music videos for 44 songs, including the first-ever broadcast of the “Fullmetal Alchemist” version of the “GOOD LUCK MY WAY” music video. Footage from their “TOUR 2008~L’7 Trans ASIA via PARIS~” will also be shown.

For the final hour, starting at 7:00pm on June 28, all of the L’Arc~en~Ciel members will appear live to talk about “GOOD LUCK MY WAY” and their 20 years together. In addition, there will be a special segment in which L’Arc will communicate directly with their fans, using the “Nico Nico Denwa” (telephone) feature.

At some point during the program, there will also be a “L’Arc~en~Ciel Quiz” with a special present up for grabs.

At the upcoming Japan Expo in Paris (June 30-July 3), the Nico Nico Douga booth will replay the L’Arc~en~Ciel broadcast, though details are currently unknown.

The live broadcast will be available on both the Japan version and the international versions of Nico Nico Douga. The broadcast page can be found here (Japanese) and here (English).

“Blues in the Night” musical stars Jero!

Enka singer Jero (29) is tackling his first role in a stage musical this fall. He will star in a Japanese production of the Broadway musical “Blues in the Night,” along with singer Mori Kumiko, former Takarazuka star Kozuki Wataru, and AKB48 members Sato Amina and Katayama Haruka.

“Blues in the Night” takes place in a rundown Chicago hotel in the late 1930s, telling the story of a blues-singing playboy (known as “Man”) and his relationships with three different women – a black former blues singer known as “Lady” (Mori), a beautifully stylish “Woman” of unknown age (Kozuki), and an energetic young “Girl” (Sato and Katayama, double-cast).

The musical was first performed off-Broadway in 1980 and got its first Broadway run in 1982, leading to a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Kikkawa Toru is in charge of this new production, which will begin its run at the Tennozu Galaxy Theater on September 30, 2011.