11.18.2012

Soapbox Sunday: What is the obstacle preventing Crystal Kay from success?

What is the obstacle preventing Crystal Kay from success? | randomjpop.blogspot.co.uk

In Japan there is an artist who goes by the name of Crystal Kay. Some of you J-Pop aficionados may have heard of her. Signed to Sony at the tender age of 13 and still releasing music now.

Crystal Kay shares the same linguistic trait as Hikaru Utada in that she speaks fluent English and Japanese. But unfortunately Crystal has not reached anything even remotely close to the meteoric levels of success that Hikaru has enjoyed, despite being active for the same amount of time, embarking on more tours, starring in a J-drama and releasing more material. Fans have spent many years speculating as to why Crystal's success has not been bigger than it probably should be. But after 12 years, a label change and an amazing album which fell to the bottom of the charts quicker than a cinder block in the Yokohama bay we need to address the elephant in the room and ask the question: Is Crystal Kay's lack of success in Japan down to her ethnicity?

It's unfortunate that not every artist who puts out consistently solid music (I will cross Spin the music off the discography) gets the recognition and sales that their fans feel they deserve. I'll give you a Western example of a non-seller I love. Brandy. I love her. But she's constantly been a commercial flop for 7 years straight despite releasing stellar albums and showing a clear form of evolution between each release. All the while lesser talented chicks like Rihanna manage to be one trick ponies, exhibit lesser musical talent and yet get hit singles, hit albums and enjoy global stardom in a third of the time. The examples are interchangeable. But everybody in music knows that talent does not equate to success. There are many other factors which fall into the equation of an artists success. But in this case, you cannot help but wonder if Crystal Kay's lack of success is down to the colour of her skin, seeing as she's not faltered with her image and music in the time she's been active.

We all know that image is a large part of music. For an industry where it's about what the ears see, a huge emphasis is placed on image. After all, it's the album covers, the magazines and the music videos that the eyes see before the ears hear the music. Japan is not as heterogeneous a society as the West, despite their musical range disclaiming as such. Crystal Kay is labelled as Japanese, but looks black. Her mother is Korean, her father is a black American. To Japan and as her ancestry would have it, Crystal is not Japanese at all, regardless of her being born in the country, speaking the language and having a Japanese passport. Being 'Japanese' is a huge part of the Japanese music business; whether it's an ideal or a representation of a sub-culture. The country is proud of its heritage and in most cases would always support 'their own' in favour of whomever they'd deem an 'outsider'. And it's unfortunate that it may just be the case that Japan sees Crystal this way; regardless of her proficiency of all things Japanese and the country having always been her home. Hikaru Utada has always openly stated she feels like an alien because of her life being evenly divided between New York and Tokyo. But when Japan sees Hikaru Utada, they see a Japanese girl. When Japan sees Crystal, they don't.

Artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki has not helped matters for Crystal, oft seen as being the Japanese ideal of beauty. A round head, large child like eyes, pert lips and smooth hair. A look which Pamyu Pamyu has taken to bolder extremes and a template which Kumi Koda has famously followed to a tee to secure her own successes. Even Hikaru Utada fits into this bracket. Naturally conforming to this ideal, as opposed to actively chasing it and adhering to it as her peers had done. Big dark brown eyes, smooth hair and a round face - something her album covers have always highlighted. Your cute Japanese girl next door. Identifiable to the masses. Crystal on the other hand looks foreign. Crystal's skin is darker, her face is not round, her eyes are smaller, her hair is of a different texture. And despite speaking perfect Japanese and being Japanese by birth rite, to the nation's eye she isn't. Whether it had been a subconscious effort or not, a couple of Crystal's album covers had gone to lengths to downplay her ethnicity. Color change! had her look essentially white. As did her Best album, alongside a lightened hair colour popular amongst Japanese girls at the time. A stark contrast from Call me miss... and All yours which had Crystal looking much more au natural and playing up her ethnicity if anything.

What is the obstacle preventing Crystal Kay from success? | randomjpop.blogspot.co.uk

It seems what was once seen as a hook for Crystal (the exotic mixed race girl, with the black voice who can speak Japanese) now seems to be acting as a blockade against her. The early 2000's saw a surge in popularity with R&B which reverberated throughout the world and set a trend in Japan, which is when Crystal notably became a more prominent force in music than she was prior. But now, female acts in Japanese are reverting back to a more pure-bred conformist ideal of pop. The hair is getting blonder. The skin is getting whiter. The correlation between females in anime (in Perfume's case) becoming more of a way point to ensnare male music buyers. The paradigm has shifted, but in a direction to which Crystal can't adjust to. And as a result she is not selling and is becoming irrelevant in the grand scheme of J-music history, despite being an integral part of it.

Crystal Kay's media promotion has always been minimal in comparison to her peers. Where her contemporaries appear regularly on TV shows, variety shows, enjoy a slew of endorsement deals and have morning news segments dedicated purely to 30 seconds of their latest music video, Crystal is lucky to get a spot on a music show where she can just perform her shit. Her biggest endorsement deal is a brand of coffee which nobody in Japan drinks and wouldn't even bother to pick up if it were on a timed sale for 5 yen. Meanwhile Namie Amuro is the face of cosmetics, Ayumi Hamasaki is the face of Panasonic camerasand every other act is endorsing a beverage from Suntory, a car or Nintendo. Crystal may just be too dark, too different and too 'gaijin' to be the face of a brand which is catered to the Japanese. A country which buys into what it can identify with. It speaks a lot about Crystal Kay's method of promotion too. Being pushed extensively through radio, despite radio airplay meaning nothing in Japan on the whole. The one form of media engagement where appearance means nothing. A conspiracy? Far from it.

To chalk ones lack of success down to race is a card oft avoided because it is a touchy subject and very much a grey area. But in Crystal Kay's case, we can no longer deny it plays a part into why she's continued to struggle her ascent to higher levels of success than the continual flat-line she's been on for years. Crystal always seems to have to fight that extra bit harder in her career purely because the nation refuses to just accept what she does based on the fact that she doesn't look like them. For all of the Japanese Crystal can speak and the 26 years she's lived in the country, this means nothing. As she will always be seen as non-Japanese. Not one of them.

Many thought Crystal's defection from Sony would fix everything and give her career the boost it needed, as we all thought Sony were the ones holding Crystal back from national success. But at Universal the same thing is happening. Granted, many more doors are opening for Crystal now and she's more active than she's ever been, but Crystal's success is still stifled. Which tells us outright that Crystal's lack of career upswing is bigger than Sony.

What is the obstacle preventing Crystal Kay from success? (photo courtesy of tokyofashion @flickr) | randomjpop.blogspot.co.uk

You would think after 14 years things would change. They are changing slowly, as more black / mixed race artists make their way onto the ORICON charts and established Japanese artist feature non Japanese talent in their music videos and live performances. Crystal Kay has paved the way for artists such as Emi Maria and Thelma Aoyama and is a beacon of hope that you can be mixed raced and be a pop star in Japan. It's just a shame that Crystal Kay's sales and mainstream media attach rate isn't backed by big numbers to really drive this message home and show younger mixed race boys and girls in Japan that there is racial equality in the industry. As the current conviction is that you can have a career, but you won't ever be as big as somebody who were pure Japanese or Korean and doing the same, despite being less talented.

What is the obstacle preventing Crystal Kay from success? | randomjpop.blogspot.co.uk

So how can Crystal fix this? One would be to try and seek other markets. The UK would be a viable place to start. It's a smaller market, but a versatile one in which anybody can have a hit single or album if the song is right. Crystal performing at the London Distant worlds event was a foot in the door and she's sure to get some European exposure as a result - much in the way that Europe woke up to Hikaru Utada as a result of her being tied to the theme song to Kingdom Hearts. Another may be to not conform to the Japanese ideals, but go against it. Play up the fact that she is by all Japanese accounts 'Western'. Release a cover album as lesser hoes such as Beni and Thelma Aoyama are doing and sing the shit out of Western classics. If Japan won't take note of you singing in their language, hit them with amazing renditions of songs in your second tongue! Embrace the digital market. If your physical release in Japan is going to get thrown straight into bargain bins. Ease up on it. Go digital. Release your singles via iTunes worldwide. Go one better and record each of these singles in English and Japanese. Put yourself up for the themes of video games. Play up to the fact that you are bilingual. Hit up Square Enix to sing the theme of the next Final Fantasy game for the Japanese and NTSC and PAL releases. Ayu, Kumi and Sayuri Sugawara could NEVER! Do select small venue gigs outside of Japan. Announce an intimate venue tour of Europe, or select dates in the US. Leave your footprint on the world, not just in Japan. Seek other audiences you feel will be into you, instead of focusing energies into one which couldn't care less and hope this has a halo effect. Seek endorsement deals with global brands who aren't so fussed about skin colour. Coca cola. Nintendo. H&M.

Crystal may not want to admit that Japan seems to be ignoring her due to the colour of her skin. But it's time to address this now, as process of elimination by the way of losing Sony is revealing this could very much be the case. And going down this same road and releasing amazing albums on their own is not going to fix things. Crystal still has options, but she and her team need to make the call whether they are willing to call the shots on them and look further than Japan for the sake of bigger success.

Album reviews: All yours | Color change! | Flash | Spin the music | Vivid

50 comments:

  1. Thank you, J, for this brilliantly written post. Crystal's ethnicity has been in the forefront of my mind for the last few years as the reason why she is not succeeding. The worst part of it all is that people are starting to equate this lack of success to her talent as an artist, which is a horrible correlation to make. I also find it disheartening that to even show open support for the girl leaves you shunned and shaded like a red headed step child, but that is a topic all within itself.

    My love for Crystal goes beyond some basic concept of being a stan. As a person, I generally stand for the underdog with a good heart. I commend effort despite adversity because I feel like that is part of my heritage as an African American. Also, what people may not know is that I am a Special Education Teacher, and it is in my nature to encourage people to keep trying in the face of adversity despite whatever setbacks life has thrown you. It is this very reason that I don't get why it is such a crime to support someone who is clearly a talented individual who is fighting against an industry that is not designed to facilitate her success. I can only imagine how it must feel to grow up in a country that is unwilling to accept me in their heritage.

    You brought up great ways for her to try to get her life together, so to speak, and if there was a way for her to read this, I am sure that she would agree with you. Crystal may not have the acclaim and fame of Koda, Ayu, Namie, and Utada, but it definitely doesn't mean that she hasn't done enough to earn it. It may make me sound like a vapid Kpop stan to say this, but Crystal will forever be in my top three J-pop divas even if she is reduced to releasing mixed tapes for free like JoJo or giving them away out the back of her trunk. She has forever earned my admiration and respect, not just as an artist, but as a person.

    Hopefully, someone will forward your post to Crystal and we can start to see some changes in her career trajectory in the near future. I'm personally all for her just pulling out of Japan altogether and focusing on an international demographic.

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    1. This is so true and a nice comment too, I'll be a fan of hers together and the fact she works so hard and puts so much effort in despite the fact she is unfairly slept on makes me love her even more.

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  2. This article is so good but so sad... I do get the feeling that most of Crystal's success (which is nothing small despite not being on the level of Utada etc) was back when R&B was big and people were big on the whole black culture etc and now I do feel as if that's working against her although to be fair to her it seems like she's just thought "fuck it!" and been a lot more natural with her look since "Spin the music".

    We all thought Sony was the problem but in the back of my mind at least I always had this nagging issue of ethnicity despite the fact that Sony were playing a part in the flopage too, look how many more doors Universal have opened for her.

    I agree that CK needs to expand outside Japan and the UK is the perfect launch pad. She's hot, Can sing and has a great voice and she probably has connections so she should do as you said and get her ASS over here and make a mark and then maybe once they see her doing well elsewhere Japan may wake up to what it's sleeping on.

    It must be hard for her though because even though she doesn't look Japanese she is and she probably doesn't want to admit her home country are largely not here for her atm and try other places.

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  3. More than being 'mixed' it has to do with her being black. There's no skirting around it.

    Other mixed artists like Che'nelle (BITCH DON'T EVEN SPEAK A WORD OF JAPANESE) and the recent success Beni are doing just fine; but the key difference is they are WHITEEEE. Hell, even Utada was regarded by the Japanese as 'speaking funny' when she first debuted.

    Girl has to just move on, being black in Japan is more of a novelty. And for CK, the novelty is long gone.

    Repackage VIVID with a less nasty cover and release it in the UK/US and done.

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  4. That vitiligo pic had me rolling! But, I agree wholeheartedly with your stance, J. CK has got to take the wheel before her career ends up like the front of that truck, and she's forced to become a songwriter like singers tend to after their careers abruptly end.

    Even BENI did a show on the West coast of the States this year... CK keeps popping up in New York (she IG'd a pic today from there), but for pleasure. Do you know what I would give to see this chick sing!? Even if I have to cop mid-range seats like J, but at least give me a damn opportunity!

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  5. I have to agree with David that this is less about the fact that she is mixed, and more about the fact that she is black. I have spoke to people who are mixed race(half black and half Japanese) who have lived in japan, and they have told me that there are VERY few black celebrities in Japan, and that the few that do exist are regulated to being singers and dancers. They did say that there are many mixed celebrities, but all of the ones that are celebrated and showcased on television are all white.

    I admire Crystal's passion for music and her determination. I think that the amount of effort that she is putting into her career is something to be commended. Despite all the flops she's keeping it moving, and if she never achieves massive success at least she can say that she gave it her best effort.

    Also, I'm not writing off Sony just yet. I still think that they hindered her for a LONG time, not only in terms of success, but musical direction as well. This is something that Crystal has stated herself (although vaguely).

    Also I can't help but LOL at the fact that her only major endorsement was with Coffee, hahahaha I wonder what Sony was thinking when they snagged her that deal. Who better to promote coffee then someone with coffee colored skin? lmfaooo

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    1. The whole black thing was very much addressed and highlighted. I even meme'd that shit. MEME HOMIE! Is you BLIND!? ;)

      Sony definitely held Crystal back and gave her a raw deal post 'All yours'. I'm not even disputing this. They f**ked a ho over. But her lack of sales and commercial success is so much bigger than Sony and we all know that.

      Crystal is at a better label now, for sure. You can all see how much of a positive effect it's had on her personally and musically. But her nationwide promotion, album sales and endorsements are at a stand still. Just as they were at Sony. Japan are still pretty much boycotting her on the charts. Because, dem 'Vivid' sales were just... Lawd.

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    2. I didn't mean to say that you didn't address that issues, I was just stating my opinion. It's a bit sad that even though Crystal was born in Japan, raised in japan, is fluent in Japanese, and has known no other home her whole life, she will always be considered foreign because of her appearance.

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  6. A Rather Well Written Obituary, Random J.

    Will there be an open casket or just merciful incineration ala cremation so that finally in death she can appear white via her ashes thus being the pale Asian woman she's always aspired to be and ultimately becoming worth a d@mn for the first time in her entire non-factor life.

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    1. ^Lmao Don't even feed this troll.

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    2. @ Mel R & David: The black issue was very much addressed. Please direct yourselves to the section of the article where I mention Crystal Kay's skin tone. It's around the section where Crystal goes from black to white across 3 album covers.

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  7. Ive loved Crystal for a solid 6 years. I thought VIVID would be immensely successful. (VIVID was actually the first album to have all of its songs on my top 50 on my ipod not just because it was Crystal.)

    I asked a few kids myself in Japan while I was there on exchange as to why nobody likes Crystal Kay, and I pretty much got the answer that "Well she was really popular a few years ago but noone likes her anymore." I then went on to grill the Japanese about their music tastes and I was also told that they like "new" and "fresh" music. (How the f*ck AKB or Johnnys are fresh and new Ill never know.) Apparently, because Crystal Kays debut has long passed, and because she wasnt exactly marketed as say... making an amazing comeback, or a FRESH start, as some artists are, nobody gave a shit.

    I even said to people "Hey, Ill PAY for your ticket if you come see her VIVID concert with me." I asked a whole school - not ONE PERSON interested. In fact, 3/4 of them asked "Who is THAT?..."

    I went into Tower Records, and they had maybe 5 copies on the shelf that had been sitting there for a *while*. No promotion whatsoever, while even the AKB singles, and Amuros shit released 3 months prior had posters and everything.

    I went into a second hand CD store, and I think I saw her in the FOREIGN section... This just proves Js point.

    Its really disheartening to see someone with such a good voice, great personality and classy looks not get anywhere. If I had *ANY* musical influence at all Id be putting her name everywhere. All I can really do from here is sit back and bitch.

    Even the only decent CK fansite is closing down. THE ONLY UPDATED ONE.

    We should start a "Get Crystal exposure in the West" campaign. Much like KONY 2012 putting red posters everywhere, we can all put those VIVID covers on buildings and peoples windows and shit. Or something.

    Dont worry. Once I become an international human rights lawyer for the UN Ill spread the love. ;)

    Thanks for the post, J. Really nice to read.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Ainalisu. Very insightful... *scratches chin*

      Crystal's presence is NON EXISTENT in stores. I should have mentioned this in the post too actually, as it was something I'd noticed when I was in Japan this year. So I'm glad you mentioned it!

      I walked into Tsutaya and asked a member of staff "Can you show me where the Crystal Kay CD's are?" and the staff member said "Who!?" And then said that he didn't know. I had to look for her shit myself and looking for CD's in a Japanese record store is DIFFICULT! At least I found it to be so. I couldn't get the hang of how they'd categorized their shit. So just had to keep looking in each aisle until I found her CD's.

      Even if you like Crystal Kay and live in Japan, just finding her shit to buy is another thing entirely. The merch team in those stores do not care about her.

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    2. I really like how you added the perspective of actual Japanese consumers. I have noticed that many artists like to reinvent themselves every couple of albums (think Namie ripping up her old face and shit)

      I wonder how artists like Koda Kumi and Ayu have been around so long without 'reinventing' themselves in the eyes of the market and if maybe that's what is affecting Ayu's sales. Girl is in her 30's and maybe Japan doesn't see her as fresh as say AKB bitches.

      Either way, very insightful.

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  8. I enjoyed reading this piece and have been thinking about it a lot. The point about skin color in particular is something that I doubt any Japanese person would be willing to admit openly, and I don't think that the CK team would admit to it either. Pulling the race card would likely be seen by the Japanese as her blaming her problems on others. She has a very Japanese approach in that one Japan Times interview where she says "I still have a lot to do, I don't have a #1 single yet." It's the spirit of "Gambaru" or doing one's best, keeping on, etc., that I think would help the Japanese relate. And in addition to skin color, I agree her not being "actually" Japanese holds her back from being popular (or holds the Japanese population back from buying her music, is probably more accurate, especially since the R&B boom died down [remember the obsession with Japanese girls wanting to be black, and that style being called "B-girl"?!]). But do you know if Aoyama Thelma has struggled with sales since the popular "Sobani Iru" single where she's wearing that furry hat? She's part Japanese, so maybe she's more accepted; but maybe not since she's dark. But I don't have a good sense of how she's received, especially now that she's foraying into fashion (design collaboration with LB-03, editing a freebie zine). Another potential counterexample I thought of was Michi, who has that more "ideal" "half"-look; does she sell well and is she promoted well?

    Ainalisu says the Japanese identify CK as someone who used to be popular--that's sort of how Japanese folk react to me when I say I like Mariah Carey. "Oh, she used to be popular." (And this is a country that reveres Mariah! They get all the special singles on the Japanese album releases!) Generally speaking, the Japanese are really into riding waves--whatever's popular at the time. Maybe that's what is meant by people wanting "fresh" music (even if it's Johnny's, AKB, etc.--but those groups have solidified fan bases, so I don't think anyone really thinks of them as "fresh"). If CK was popular back in the day, and her 15 minutes of fame are over (and she couldn't solidify her imprint like Utada did so that any subsequent singles are guaranteed to sell), then she will just sort of fade and struggle to maintain relevancy. Right now, Juju (can't get over that name) and Nishino Kana seem to be popular--a framework set probably by Ayu and Katoh Miliyah. Dolled up eyes, soft blond hair, sweet voice, singing about finding one's way in one's early adulthood. I would imagine that having that on in your smartphone is more "in" than having any songs from "Vivid." (Comment TBC...)

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  9. (Comment continued from above)

    I've always thought that her entry into the Western market would be carefully calculated, and that it would be a precarious matter since Utada Hikaru didn't do as well as expected, and Amerie wanders on the fringes of relevancy (I heard her song playing at a healthy fast food joint recently...). CK can't be like, I'm big in Japan! Listen to me! But then what do you say about having so many years of experience in a mainstream music industry in another country? Sometimes I wonder if her agency kind of coddles her because she is so sweet and nice, and also because they genuinely believe that she is a great artist (or has potential to be one worldwide) and so they keep finding funding and work for her until the time is right to go international. But I don't know--she just has to keep going, keep "ganbaru"ing. She could have a big "comeback" or a big break, and it could be some fluke-y thing, like a seemingly random tie-in or whatever. She has definitely developed over the years in her music (I bought "4Real" in a bargain bin at Mitsuwa a couple months ago--her voice sounds so different!), so she just needs to keep working on herself, her music, and see where things go after giving it her all. Sometimes I think Japan is changing for the better--there are more mixed people, more mixed celebs, etc., and many traditions seem to at least be questioned (women's roles in society, how the work force is structured, etc.). Maybe one day soon they'll be ready to embrace her more appropriately. (I had this thought while watching sumo the other day--sumo would be dead right now if it weren't for Mongolians and Eastern Europeans, whose paths were paved by Hawaiians in the 90's.)

    Sorry for the long comment, but thanks for writing and giving me a place to rant!

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    1. I concur with Random J and Ainalisu when it comes to the limited availability of Crystal's albums. I sent my friends on a hunt for her 10th Anniversary Concert DVD and any music they could find while they were in Japan. They told me that they spent an entire day looking at various music stores and most people told them that they did not know who she was, and it took a lot of searching on their own before they found her concert DVD at Tower Records. Based on how few people actually carry her music, I am almost willing to bet that the record label doesn't even bother to make that many copies.

      She probably sold half of what they bothered to produce, which leads me to think that the digital sales may be the way to go. I know I was buying up all of her releases on iTunes just because I finally could, and I usually don't buy music digitally.

      Also, I love that kei brought up the rise and fall of the R&B and B-girl trend in Japan. I didn't think about this being a factor in Crystal's popularity until just recently because I fooled myself into thinking that R&B was still relevant in Japan, mostly because of the heavy Korean adaptations of that particular genre today. Koreans may be riding out the R&B and dance trend now, but a lot of Japanese artists who thrived on being more urban or B-girl like have completely reverted to a pale Japanese form in the same sense that Bayonetta loses her stylish hair armor after being beaten down.

      One of the most noticeable Japanese artists who have completely done a 180 in her image and music would for sure have to be Jamosa. She used to be a soulful R&B diva with darker skin, ethnic hair, and urban features and now not only has her image changed to the big eyed, bright skinned, Japanese cute girl, but her voice is four scores and seven tones different than it used to be. I acquired one of her most recent album about a year ago and I almost thought I had the wrong artist because she sounded SO very different from her previous albums.

      Jamosa then: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/_/4623369/JAMOSA.jpg

      Jamosa now: http://www.syncmusic.jp/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/JAMOSA-414x280.jpg

      Another artist that I have noticed following a similar change would have to be Miss Monday, who went from sporting a very au natural Afro to sporting a perm and press. She also softened up her image and changed her music from something akin to Eve to someone with the street credibility as a Will-I-am feature. Even my sisters from another mister singing duo, SOULHEAD has moved away from a heavy R&B focus to a lighter Pop-R&B sound.

      This has given me a lot of insight into how Japanese people are in fact riding waves of popularity, and in a sense this has had an effect on Crystal's music. Not that I mind the versatility that Crystal has demonstrated over the years, but I have noticed that even Crystal herself has mostly stayed with the realm of pop as opposed to having a heavy focus on R&B like her earlier albums. I am not mad at her for experimenting with her sound, but now I wonder if she is doing this because she wants to or if it is out of a necessity to keep up with the current trends of the Japanese market. The way that she is selling, it really doesn't matter what genre she sings in, so I would say that she should just continue to be herself in whatever musical genre she wants to express herself in. I also like the idea of her going the covers route and shaming some Western artists by singing the hell out of their songs.

      Sorry for being so long winded again, but the points that everyone brought up really got me to thinking about a lot of things and I just had to reflect.

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    2. @ Kei

      Thank you for commenting. Don't apologize for the length of the comment. I love that you took the time to post anything at all, much less a comment I agree with 100%!

      It pains me to say, but I feel if Crystal hasn't made a significant impact in Japan by now, then she never will. I can't see her sales taking off and it's upsetting. Especially this era when she's done so much right and is really coming into her own as an artist.

      The saddest thing is, is that Universal probably won't ever have her tackle a market outside of Japan until she proves her worth in sales in Japan. And this won't happen. Thus, the vicious cycle continues.

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    3. Another person who did a complete 180 is miliyah kato!!!

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  10. Wow I didnt even think people would read what I said =P

    Its incredibly hard finding Crystals stuff. Really is. When I saw her BEST OF in a store, I literally squealed, and took it excitedly to the counter where the womean looked at me as if to say ".... Its only Crystal Kay, dont get too excited."

    I think that no matter how much publicity Crystal gets in Japan from hereon out, her sales wont go up. She needs to go international. She needs to do it soon. If releasing VIVID wasnt the right time, Im afraid to say the right time will be never. Shell be hitting 30 soon. Unless she releases a photobook or has a scandal attached to her like... Kuroki Meisas shotgun wedding which had her husbands tour cancelled by a said sexually abusive music producer, she aint going nowhere. (Id actually really like a photobook from Crystal...)

    If theres one thing I learned on my exchange the hard way, its that once youre on the wrong foot with the Japanese theres no fixing it unless you take immediate action and apologise for it every time you meet. Yknow, till you fuck up again. In Crystals case, she didnt get herself promoted more (no fault of her own.) and didnt make up for it. Theres no fixing it now.

    I just wanna know how many people even went on that cruise...

    Look, in short I concur with J. She needs to move. Shes not dead. But in Japan, she will never live again.

    Crystal, sweetie, I think its time to pick up your shoes and go take a hike. Just go to the other side of the gate, land in an international airport in the West and start from there. We'll all support you, wherever you are.

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    1. By any chance was it Myra's blog that you were talking about :/. Why did she close it down?

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  11. This was a damn good read and so were all the responses!

    Also random but I wish there was this sort of analysis about Kumi/Ayu and their "presence" in stores as of now. I wonder if it's as bad as Crystal's situation.

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    1. Yes! I wanna hear about all my bitches stuck in a rutt, share your experiences in Japan everyone lol

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  12. Thank you so much for writing this article and getting Japan together ! I cried a lil during some parts because as you know the truth hurts.I consider Crystal Kay my number three artist of all time next to my Grandmother Minnie Riperton my mother Sade and even before the angel name Aaliyah. I call Ckay in good fun my older Sista from Japan who is not a singer but a SANGER!. I've listened to Ckay since I was a young middle school student who went on my space and stumble on a song called Candy by Crystal Kay since that song I couldn't stop listening to her but always thought well why isn't she famous in Japan ? Japan loves overseas ethnic artists but not their own ? When I stayed with my host family in Japan I talked to my host sister about finding a Crystal Kay album. She looked at me and said " oh i like American R&B Crystal Kay is pop isn't she ?". I wanted to go off ! but I held it in and said " no she R&B". I am African American just like my older sista and know racism follows you where ever you go however music is universal and shouldn't be based on color. Crystal Kay is a loyal gurl she was on her last label for years when they did her dirty! The sad thing she has deal with this alone while her Stans and fans want to help her from all parts of the globe go Tony Montana Scarface and go off on her haters and let Japan have it with her saying "I'm better than the next the last i'm here to stay period !" My message to Ckay is don't stay where your unwelcome but remember to leave a mark or impression cuz they miss you when your gone... once again thank you for speaking the truth and for supporting Ckay she doesn't need us as fans she deserves them.

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  13. Perhaps it's due to the fact that she barely writes her own lyrics or music. Compared to Utada who writes most, if not all of her songs. I for one respect an artist who's always involved in the creation of their music way more than someone who gets other producers to do it.

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    1. But She wrote like 80% of the lyrics to the songs on Vivid, wrote a majority of Spin the Music, and like half of Flash, on which she also played a role in the production on I pray. Not everyone has the talent to produce music, but that doesn't make them any less of an artist. Crystal has always wrote songs here and there throughout her career, and recently she's been doing quite a lot of songwriting even though it doesn't come easy to her. Also, who's to say that she isn't involved in the creative process of her music? I always felt that she had a lock on her sound, regardless of whether or not she was involved in the songwriting or production.

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    2. I wasn't questioning her as an artist, my p.o.v is that people tend to connect more with a singer if he/she is conveying/singing their own words and experiences.

      She contributed to about 9 songs on Vivid. 90% were co-written with a bunch of other people.

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    3. I don't think that's 100% true. I adored Younha, YUI and Kitade Nana for years without knowing they wrote every one of their songs.

      But there are plenty of popular artists that haven't written many, if any of their own songs. Take a look at SPEED, Amuro Namie, and all the JOHNNYS. How well do you think people need to connect with them to buy CDs?

      Crystal wrote MORE songs for her last 3 album releases, and they sold LESS. She wrote the most for VIVID, and it was her worst-selling album by FAR!

      I kinda agree with J here - it's about the image. Whatever the Hell it is, she just doesn't have it.

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    4. M a lot of the songs were English demos, so all of the English songwriters are listed. Crystal Translated Yo Yo, Come Back To Me, Take It Outside and Rising Sun, and those are the only songs with a multitude of other songwriters. The other songs feature just one other songwriter and she wrote Haru Arashi entirely on her own. Regardless of whether or not she was co-writer, she contributed to the creative process of her music more than she ever has before and Vivid is her worst selling album.

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    5. If an artists success boiled down to whether they wrote their own material or not, then Whitney Houston would not have sold 170 million albums, Perfume wouldn't have had 12 singles chart in the top 10 and 3 albums debut at number 1, and Rihanna wouldn't be the biggest thing in pop right now.

      There is no logic in 'artists only sell well if they write their own material'. So we can safely cross this off the list of reasons as to why Crystal is flopping.

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    6. ^ Of course not, people doesn't care about who writes the lyrics, that's why there's people that doesn't even write a number and yet they sell, take Namie, bitch doesn't do shit but sing and look dead and she sells good, the thing with Crystal (and i tried to stay away from this thing, but i saw 30 comments and got curious) is that SHE'S BLACK, period, Japanese market is similar to Ukraine's market, here you're either asian or black and you won't suceed real quick, you gotta work hard for it, while the white talentless bitches will sell good by just spreading their legs, Crystal has the talent, she WILL have sucees, she's working for it and it will pay off GOOD to her, but now's not the time for her. Sadly having dark skin in asian places like Japan and South Korea is BAD to them. Sad

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  14. lol bitch did not just refer to BENI and Aoyama Thelma as "lesser hoes"... they both have talent, if you haven't noticed. While it's cool to try to prove a point -- which you're clearly trying to do... I think, don't put down other artists to do so... awkward.

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  16. News flash!!!

    I love Japan to pieces, but race (how shall I put this politely) is a material factor thereabouts... Kinda is what it is...

    It is, you know, an island... literally and figuratively...

    In other news, the sun rose in the morning and the moon at night...

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    1. News flash!!!

      Japan being 'an island' is not an excuse or a loop hole. It is a fully developed country which is wildly connected to the world, just as much / if not more so any other country or continent. It is not the island from Lost.

      Jamaica is an island, much more under developed than Japan, and yet it crowned a Japanese woman as a dancehall queen.

      In other news, you're a plonker.

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    2. It actually is a good excuse.

      Japan has always been very extremely isolated, which led to nonexistent diversity; and their conservative culture makes them slightly xenophobic even today.

      It still stands today because of their extremely strict immigration laws.

      Whether it's a bad thing or good thing I can't say, but Europe sure isn't doing well with immigrants, and I don't think Japan would either.

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  17. *smiles*
    FINALLY the issue is being addressed. Thanx Random J. The skin lightening pix rly hit the nail on the head! I really enjoyed reading this artcile too. Its funny cuz I mentioned some of the same things U mentioned a while ago with Crystal promoting her music overseas. I just hope she can eventually come to the USA & UK. I think she will do much better over here than in Japan. Hopefully CK will Read this article. Even if she doesn't want to admit the truth openly, she still needs to accept it damn it! Being indenial is no longer working for her. She needs to get her ass on a plane to the West & start promoting asap. I also liked your Brandy vs Rihanna comparison. I think its very similar w/different cultures of course. I'm a fan of both singing Ladies by the way. Whenever I see Brandy musically, she mostly stays in the R&B realm. While Rihanna's music genre sound changes constantly & branches out to more diverse crowds imo. Also I've noticed that the USA does treat ppl from other countries better bcuz they are seen as exotic & DIFFERENT & since Rihanna is originally from Barbados then tht in itself is an advantage. Same as how U said Ayumi'S Japanese standard of beauty has thwarted Crystal's, well the same can be said regarding Europe & USA's standard of beauty with RiRi & Brandy *sighs*. Rihanna can appeal to more Euro-centric audiences with her: light skin, pink lips, green eyes, smoother hair, & exotic background. Were as its much harder for Brandy to do the same. Simply bcuz of her chocolately gorgeous visage & ethnic features & 2ndly her main genre of music. Despite Brandy having better vocals & stage presence. It rly isn't fair how some artists are ignored just bcuz they don't or can't even with plastic surgery conform to societies narrow minded standard of beauty. I even read an online article tht was bashing Brandy & accusing her bleaching her skin & gettin a nose job to appeal more so to White audiences. I'll post the link 4 U below J! Now back to Crystal. Since she did that awesome performance in the UK & got exposure thats long overdue, maybe soon she cud posibly get her PR team to go out on a limb & have her do a mini concert there. It never hurts to try. Also maybe U could forward this article to her Twitter in a PM lol. I personally think beauty comes in all shades fm: Pretty Porcelian, Creamy Caramel, Golden-Brown, Ebony in Ectasy, & even Rich Satin Coco lol.
    Here is the Brandy article: (http://madamenoire.com/153004/lets-put-an-end-to-nose-contouring-for-good/)
    Sinccerely,
    CKay fan for life <3 :)

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    1. Crystal Kay. Gig in the UK. YASS!! With her being signed to Universal it's much more plausible now than it would have been had she stayed at Sony. It just depends if anybody is bold enough to suggest it within her team and actually make it happen.

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    2. *Smiles & a Wink*
      Wow firstly I can't belive YOU actually responded to my comment. I feel very special right now lol. I def look forward to hearing what ya have to say Random J! Now back to CK,yes here's hoping tht Crystal's PR team will take tht huge leap & start promoting her music in the UK first then later on in the USA. She def has many fans outside of Japan. So its still a lil surprizing to me tht she hasn't showcased her talent overseas until now. Do U know how her VIVID album sold outside of Japan? Cuz I know U can now buy Foreign CDs online. I also wanna know how VIVID did on/Itunes. Do U know? I know her English album long ago late 2003 called "NATURAL: World Premiere Album" was never released overseas. This was during the popular stage in her career. Tht would've been a great way to get USA & UK exposure imo. Do U know if any of her previous albums did well internationally in stores? For Ex: an online store such as: www.yesasia.com or offline @ Towers Records, Amoeba Music Hollywood, BestBuy etc.
      Sincerely,
      CKay fan for Life <3 :)

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  18. I just wanted to add that I think Crystal really is trying to go worldwide with her music, but I'm sure it's not as easy as some of us would like to believe it is. Unlike Boa or Utada, Crystal does not have the kind of popularity in Japan that would enable her to just take a risk and try to break into the western music market. Both Utada and Boa were in a position where they could take a chance and flop, and not be hurt too much by it. (Although I heard Sm took major losses with BoA, which is what they get for going the independent route imo). As far as delicious deli is concerned, they did as much for her as they could considering her current caliber. Had she been more successful with vivid, I'm sure there would have been more opportunities for her internationally. She's already performed overseas twice, with one being a pretty big gig. Also, she was just in New York for "meetings", so hopefully that could mean more international gigs although it's best not to get our hopes up lol. Anyway, Crystal can only do so much, she needs a record label that is willing to take that risk with her, and it's a big one. Her record label needs to work on getting her signed with a U.S or U.K Subdivision of Universal before any other talk of her going global takes place.

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  19. another terrible entry in your terrible blog of terrible reviews in the most obnoxious flamboyant manner. do you get you are not funny?

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  20. Really great writeup, and some excellent comments to boot, I have to agree with you completely. I really do hope CK can try to implement some of the ideas you have to improve her situation (or something like them), at this point it only makes sense to basically play to her strengths, i.e. moving towards a more international fan base, using her English in more ways, etc. It's ironic that she might have been more successful at this point if she had been born in England or America, everything else staying the same, although as has been said, her biggest obstacle in Japan is that she's half-black not half-white.

    It's a problem that I also see in Japan's fashion world; for big domestic brands to move ahead, it's almost imperative that they eventually start to show in Paris or any other international fashion week instead of in Tokyo, and they will invariably get more Japanese press after moving (Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyaki, and Julius have all done this). The nice thing about fashion is that it's much easier to extend to an international audience than music, and many designers choose to eschew Tokyo fashion week altogether and don't really suffer for it, something which doesn't really translate very well to music sales.

    At any rate I hope you will do more of these opinion pieces--you've obviously got the credentials and the knowledge, and clearly you aren't afraid to ask difficult questions if they're the right ones to ask.

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    1. Sun damage may strike at any season, whether it’s summer or winter, so it’s wisest to always wear sunglasses whenever we go out. It makes for an awesome fashion statement too!


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  21. It’s a blog with full of latest and spectacular information’s promotional staff

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  22. Here via aramatheydidn't. This is such an excellent post, I pretty much agree with most of it and love the suggestions at the end. However I feel that CK's Korean ancestry is a large obstacle to her success in Japan. Note that I'm not denying anti-Black racism in Japan, one thing I've learnt this past year is how racial and ethnic discrimination are function in Japanese society and how most people know absolutely nothing about this.

    Japan may be isolated but it is not homogeneous. This is an outright lie the Japanese mainstream loves to spread, especially to us non-Japanese, and ignores that there is ethnic diversity in Japan and that there is systematic oppression against several groups of people within Japan. From indigenous populations such as the Ainu and Ryukyuans to the Burakumin, and the ethnic Chinese and Korean who have been in Japan for generations. All these people face different levels of discrimination from mainstream (Yamato) Japanese society.

    Which brings me to CK, the OP mentioned her Korean heritage, however the possible discrimination her Korean ethnicity attracts in Japan seems to be ignored. I agree that Japan is obsessed with light skin, and those mixed-race Japanese that have white parents, CK's dark colour does not fit into this worldview. But if we're going to talk about how ethnicity is an obstacle then we should focus on her having a Korean parent. I personally doubt CK would have ever reached popularity in 2002-2007 if she was fully Korean. Think about it, how many ethnic Koreans in Japan are popular in the music industry? I am not talking about K-pop artists and the hallyu wave (which btw has meant next to nothing for ethnic Koreans in Japan), I mean those Koreans who have been in Japan for generations, some of whom are not Japanese citizens but considered as permanent residents. Japanese people who have no issue consuming media from South Korea will not offer the same privilege to those Koreans who have been in Japan for years. Iconiq comes to mind, but was she ever really popular? Iconiq is a 3rd generation Korean resident in Japan who moved to S. Korea when she was a teenager and pursued a musical career both in Korea and Japan. With her Japanese debut, her Korean heritage (works because her legal name is Ayumi Ito) and musical activities in Korea were covered up.

    A comment at arama suggested that the popularity of people like Jero and Dante Carver in Japan is because they are "othered" by the Japanese due to their Blackness. IMO this was done to CK as well, her Blackness "othered" her in the Japanese worldview but also aided her popularity. If CK was fully and openly Korean in Japan, she would have faced many more obstacles and will most likely have never reached any amount of popularity.

    We should also try not to project models of racism and ethnic discrimination in our part of the world on another country. It doesn't work. In the end, I do agree that CK's ethnicity may have hindered her success and I also believe she rose and fell due to the rise and fall of RnB, Japan's obsession with trends is not new. CK is not destined for Ayumi, or the rest of them, greatness in Japan, I hope she is destined for this outside Japan though!

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    1. A total of 5,171 people were observed simultaneously by two independent observers, and the inter-rater reliability use of sunglasses was excellent (Cohen's kappa = 0.83). Overall, 33.0% of people wore sunglasses when observed.


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  23. Fuck off, workboy53. And Jesus, people, gosh. It ain't because she's black, but cause she's so boring! I've never bothered to hear her sound, don't need to. And to everyone bringing Namie's name into it...she must be doing something right, if she's still popular after all them years with her bored face and half-assed choreo.

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  24. she's one of the whitest and most japanese looking black ladies in probably all of japan and those xenophobes can't give her the time of day even when she sings about their most familiar concepts. imagine if she sang the songs that make kumi koda so popular, they would burn her like the witch kumi is.

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  25. This is a late comment, but I re-read this post because I decided to link it in a post of mine: http://www.dandelion-cha.com/2014/06/famous-blasians-in-japan.html After reading this and looking at my post, I have to wonder if it is only her ethnicity that is preventing her from success. Recently, Chris Hart, an %100 black man has gotten some big success in Japan, and he is not conventionally attractive by Japanese or American standards. He is a bit overweight and not very handsome, plus he isn't as young as singers are when they debut (late teens-early twenties). But, he has had chart topping singles and albums, has appeared on many Japanese variety shows, sang with famous Japanese singers, performed on Kohaku Uta Gassen, etc. And he is black with no Asian heritage. He speaks good Japanese but he most certainly isn't native level fluent like Crystal who was born and raised in Japan. As you will see in my post, quite a few other black men and half-black men have become famous in Japan, but not so many of the women. Why do you think that is? I think it's not only Crystal's ethnicity but her gender as well. You have full black men becoming household names while she struggles. And these men don't meet Japanese standards of attractiveness at all. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts, thanks.

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