Spotlight: Crystal Kay

Crystal Kay may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of mega successful J-Pop stars. But she should be the first name which comes to mind when you think of well produced Japanese music with a slice of Pop tinged R&B which puts many artist in the US to shame.

Crystal Kay's un-Japanese name and looks stem from her being born to a Korean mother and black father. A genetic make-up just like Amerie's. A a genetic make-up which not only renders both ladies equally stunning, but also seems to give them the talent to put out hot music which just gets ignored in favour of some lighter skinned chick with a blonder weave.

Crystal's music beginnings shares parallels to that of one of Japan's biggest selling artists: Hikaru Utada - although their careers could not have veered off any more differently. Crystal was born into music: her father a musician and her mother a singer - both of whom nurtured Crystal's musical talents at a very early age and secured her a record deal at the tender age of 12. (A similar career start to Hikaru Utada). Crystal debut shunned the soundscape which was being littered with generic pop and ventured into R&B territory with her debut single "Eternal memories". (Again, as was the case with Hikaru Utada's debut album). But this where the path diverge. Hikaru Utada went on to break records with her debut album and go down in music history due to shifting over 8 million units in Japan alone and being certified 32 times platinum. Crystal's debut wasn't so much as certified tofu.

Crystal is notably known for keeping her sound incredibly consistent. Her sound is so consistent in fact, that you could easily brand it as that Crystal sound: strongly defined by songs such as "Girl U love", "Konna ni chikaku de...", "One" and "Step by step". All of which despite being produced by entirely different producers, releasing over the course of 7 years and not featuring any songwriting or production from Crystal herself, are unmistakably Crystal Kay. Crystal began to depart from her signature style with her Flash and Spin the music releases, but this was not met with the warmest of receptions, and both of these albums could not have fallen out of the Oricon charts if somebody had pushed them.

Crystal is well known for her collaborations. Most famously those with M-Flo, whom she affectionately refers to as her "brothers". Over the past 10 years Crystal has collaborated with M-Flo numerous times - something which has always gone down well with fans, and has given her the rite of being as an honorary member of M-Flo.

Listen: Konna ni chikaku de...

© 2007 Epic records, Sony BMG music entertainment Japan

"Konna ni chikaku de..." acted as the closing theme song to the anime adaptation of Nodame cantabile. The song was one of Crystal's higher charting singles, which went onto to feature on Crystal's first ever album to debut at number 1 on the Oricon charts: All yours.

Despite enjoying a decade long career in Japan, Crystal hasn't managed to stack up the kind of achievements and mile stones that many of her peers have - something which continues to disgruntle fans. Crystal's albums do not push units. And in ten years she's had one album debut at number 1 on the Japanese Oricon album chart. Meanwhile the likes of Korean export BoA has had six in the space of seven years. Shit is clearly not right.

Sales figures are not indicative of an artists talent however (something which Crystal has in sheer excess). And if you take a chance on this woman, you'll instantly hear why I make fusses over her. Her sales figures may not always be on top form, but her music for the most part always is.

Crystal Kay covers Michael Jackson: Human nature | Happy
Album reviews: All yours | Color change! | Flash | Spin the music


  1. Hikki parents were hugely famous in Japan and her career kinda was handed to her maybe that is why she always bitching and moaning taking hiatuses cuz she never felt the grind like slavex chicks do and was bitch slapped back to reality with her flop albums in America.
    (easy breezy still hands down the worst song ever written)

    Crystal Kay was definitely weak starting out since she was like 13..unless you are singing in a high register while wearing knee high boots with a bow tie no one in Japan cared or still cares for child singers.

    I feel like Crystal Kay is just comfortable being some where in between a nobody and a famous singer. Maybe she doesn't care since all of her besties like Beni and Boa are fighting and going down any route to taste some album sales.

    I also kinda find Crystal boring like she doesn't stray far from her comfort zone and I have her compilation on my Ipod I usually skip like 3/4 of the songs cuz they frankly boring.

    Either she should either switch label or go to west and try to make it since the Japanese music industry moves quick and these girl is no longer relevant.

  2. *Sigh* She just need to hop on that Rhythm Zone/Avex label that her "brothers" m-flo are on so she can push those units. But I love CK with a passion, and it gets me upset when some of the most untalented singers get more shine than her.

  3. @anonymous Are my eyes deceiving me? To say that hikki was handed her fame is extreme. Having parents who were involved in the music industry may have gave her the advantage when it came to them counseling her and giving her advice on her career, but her fame is due to her own work and musical creativity. When, if ever, has Utada "bitched" about anything. She takes time between her albums because as she stated on numerous occasions she wants to make good music for her fans. She is involved in a majority of the album making process, as singer, song-writer, arranger,and music producer, so therefore she is doing the work of multiple people, and it makes sense that it takes longer for her to complete her albums. Utada puts out music of substance rather that roll out a single every month and have it be of lower quality like the hoes at slavex. Those artists put out an album and single every chance they get, but how much of their music will have longevity? Utada will be remembered for years to come because of her music, not her image, or whatever scandals she's been involved in. She gives her fans a sense of genuineness, with how laid back she is, and how she consistently puts on good music while staying true to who she is. Utada has achieved legendary status in japan, and every Japanese person that I have spoken to sees her as the ideal. Additionally, the people that I have spoken to differ in many ways, but they all agree that she is one of the best musical artist of the past decade. Her integrity and dignity as a musical artist prevents her from putting out shitty music.I don't think she expected to achieve fame from her U.S endeavors, and I don't think it's that important to her anyway. The only reality that it bitch slapped her into was that trying to conform to what was popular in the U.S market did nothing for her. I truly wish that she would have kept that same musical creativity from her Japanese works with her English work. Although, this is the one was much more polished than Exodus, I still prefer exodus because it is undeniably her. This is the one was a huge disappointment for me. As for her most recent hiatus, she has been in the music industry since the age of 15; I think she deserves a break.
    As for Crystal, I love her music and I Stan for her, but unlike Utada she is not as involved in the music making process for her own material. Although I do admire her growth as an artist; as she grew older she began writing some of her own songs, and she both wrote and composed "I pray" entirely on her own. From what I understand she is well known in japan, she just doesn't push massive unit. But I appreciate that despite not selling massively, she never skimps on the music, which gives me the idea that she puts out music more so that her fans can relate to it, rather than to make a large profit. Also, she never promotes her music heavily. Although I think that is more of her records label's fault. I think that crystal deserves more success as her music is much better than what some of these other artists who sell massively put out. I think it's time Crystal took her career into her own hands. If she doesn't start making some demands, I fear the current state of her career. I don't see how her music is boring. Her style varies, and she seems to try different concepts with each of her albums. Also, she injects life into her music through the fact that she really puts a stamp on her songs and makes them her own. When I listen to her music I don't get the feeling that someone else can do it better. She knows herself as an artist, and that shows in her music. Also, she has one of the best voices in the Japanese music industry, and it's also a lot better than some of the artists in the American music industry. She has a range, power, and soulfulness to her voice that is unmatched by any other artists in the Japanese music industry.

  4. THANK YOU, MELVIN. It seems like there was an Anon that needed to be "bitch-slapped back into reality."

    Nice job on the article J, and I'm digging the snazzy new format. :D Kuri is an amazing singer and bitch seriously needs to hop on Avex (probably Rhythm Zone) or Universal. BENI hopped on Universal and it did WONDERS for her career (like, actually pushing units).

  5. @Her fame was handed to her.... you can't convince that a high schooled got herself that fame and not her parents. I am not a Stan for any AVEX chick but you make it seem as if those chicks are going to be forgotten when their music legacy is just as strong as Hikki. Crystal on the other has a nice voice but she sticks to the basics all time.... mid tempo RnB with a few fast tracks when her competition like Beni and Miliyah Kato change it up and make their music interesting. ( Miliyah and Ai have a ten time better voice then she does). Crystal Kay is like a stick the mud no movement and constantly boring.

  6. @Syfi ha ha I got carried away. But that comment made no sense to me, and I agree! I think universal would be good for her!
    Ugh I'm not gonna even entertain these anonymous comments. BENI changes up her music? PLEASE! all her beats sound the same. I like her music, but lets be real! Crystal kay trumps all the other bitches vocally.

  7. I would love for Crystal to collaborate with M-Flo again. Their R&B tracks are what got me into Kuri in the first place, and I prefer them over the signature pop-ballad sound you described (a sound that honestly bores me). Crystal needs to go back to the urban style à la "Hard to Say", "Rewind", and "I Like It"!

  8. Awesome idea Crystal should join Mflo and restart the brand with AVEX since Lisa has gone M.I.A since the split or is flopping. That would be so epic and revive both their album sales.

  9. Crystal Kay is a goddess sent to us by a higher power. The end.

  10. Melvin I could'nt agree more with your statements. Especially the comment about Crystal injecting life into her music which is something lacking in the majority of jpop imo. She really is a much better singer and puts out better quality music than others who sell a lot more. As for Beni, she can sing and has a good voice but there's a lack of emotion or something in her music. I get bored listening to her after a few songs.


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