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Friday, Dec. 26, 2008

2008 in Double vision

A leadingJ-pop diva reflects on a very busy year

Special to The Japan Times

Since well before R&B became established in Japan I've been championing it through all my activities. This year was the 10th anniversary of my debut, so for me it was a celebratory year — with a "Best Of" release ("10 Years Best — We R&B"); a special collection celebrating all the collaborations I've done ("The Best Collaborations"); and finally a tour that culminated in a very special live DVD release ("We R&B Tour Final @ Studio Coast").

News photo

In the fast-changing Japanese market, to stick with R&B and really develop it has required a persistent attitude on my part. And even if I do say so myself, there is no other way to express how amazing it is to have come this far.

In the wider picture, 2008 has seen several notable developments. The digital-music sound has come to the fore: A lot of hit songs put vocals with heavy Auto-Tune manipulation over a 4-beat rhythm (such as Perfume). It seems that traditional hip-hop and R&B are passing to the next generation and black music is transforming. I also felt that such music simultaneously became more international and standardized in 2008.

My favorite producers of the year were the duo Stargate, from Norway, who fashioned tracks for Ne-Yo's "Year of the Gentleman" as well as Usher, Mariah Carey and Rihanna. Ne-Yo's characteristic heart-rending melodies and his individuality as a person created a wonderful fusion.

2008 was a period of change for black music, so what can we expect to land in 2009? Will further exploration in the digital direction bring it to a natural plateau? Or will the simple beauty of melody make a comeback? One thing's for sure, discovering the trends of the next 12 months is going to be very exciting indeed, and I can't wait!

Other Music this week

High notes, low tones


A turbulent 12 months


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