Crystal Kay talks love, life and music with a CrossFit buddy

Crystal Kay talks love, life and music with a CrossFit buddy | Random J Pop

Crystal Kay appeared on Tokyo Talks, a relatively new show hosted by Nicholas Pettas, who was once one of Crystal's CrossFit buddies. I don't know how people do CrossFit. I get tired just looking at photos of y'all holding up your lil' chalkboards of your personal best times.

The cool thing about this interview is that it wasn't strictly promo for I Sing. It probably shoulda been. But it was more of a long discussion on Crystal's life as a singer, a performer, growing up as a Black girl in Japan and what she wants out of life in general. It's pretty inspiring. I don't think Crystal Kay gets enough credit or acknowledgment for how long a career that she's had, free of anything salacious, and how she's managed to keep a really level head on her shoulders. She really does seem like an easy to talk to kinda person, which is why it's a shame she isn't put in more spaces where she can just chill and talk - which is what makes her makenai mondays so cool to tune in to.

Crystal Kay interviews are pretty light on the ground, and unfortunately a great English interview she did on a podcast this time last year has been scrubbed from the Internet. But this interview covers most of what Crystal had shared in that interview, in addition to stuff we probably had no idea about and a real insight into Crystal's character.

I wish homeboy had done A LITTLE more research beforehand. But otherwise, this was a great interview.

I also think it's a shame that Crystal doesn't get more interview opportunities, because she's so open. In the rare English interviews that Crystal has done, race has come up as a topic, and it comes up here, and is one of the more interesting parts of the interview. Crystal is made to think about things that she probably doesn't always consider or is made aware of, because she's been the Black girl in J-Pop for so long. The questions posed to her also don't feel disingenuous, as they're coming from somebody else who is also of mixed heritage, neither of which is Japanese, but is living in Japan.

Crystal says that she does feel accepted in Japan and doesn't feel that there's any types of treatments she's received either way due to her race. Yet she's aware that she's seen as a 'foreigner'.

Gurl. Sure, okay.

But it's a great interview, and it makes a lot of sense that Crystal wouldn't necessarily see what we see from a distance. And of course her perception of her career is of course going to be different to ours.

For you TLDW bitches, below are some of the highlights and takeout's from the above. 
  • "Koi ni Ochitara" is widely considered the song that Crystal Kay is known for, which set the trajectory for her singles from that point on; something she wasn't keen on, as she wanted to delve more into R&B - especially as it was becoming popular in the mainstream at that point, thanks to the debut of artists like Hikaru Utada. So Crystal's solution was to balance out the pop sound with R&B in her album cuts. But Crystal also grew to realise she was one of the few artists that could fuse that pop sound with R&B (i.e "Konna ni chikaku de..." and "One"), which then became what many would consider the classic CK sound. In light of this, I'd really love to know what the fuck happened with Spin The Music.
  • Crystal couldn't imagine herself doing anything but music, and feels that it's her destiny. A realisation that hit harder for her during the pandemic, when she felt an uncertainty about what it would mean for her career and livelihood; especially when Hairspray got cancelled.
  • Crystal Kay let bitches know that she has never once lip-synced.
  • Crystal went through a period where she had bad stage anxiety, which was brought on due to her use of in-ear monitors. She felt isolated from the crowd, because she could only hear herself and felt her performances get worse because of how much she got in her own head. So she started using stage monitors (the giant speakers you usually see at the foot of stages) to grasp how to sing without in-ears. I don't know how feasible stage monitors would be a venue like the Tokyo Dome, but it's not like she be performing there anyway.
  • The host and Crystal both share their experiences of being mixed in Japan, and the prejudice they've faced because of it. Crystal not being Japanese is something I've always felt has been an obstacle to Crystal not achieving the level of success that she not only deserves, but her singles and catalog warranted at one point.
  • Crystal discusses how growing up she had an identity crisis, being half Black and half Korean in Japan; a country that's low-key (sometimes high-key) racist, and at a time when seeing mixed kids wasn't a norm.
  • Crystal manifested that she will hold a world tour. I'd love to see it. But she's gotta step that album sales pussy all the way up. I think it's a shame her US debut material was so mishandled, and that her sound was completely changed off the back of an album like Vivid, which was already a very international sounding album primed for a US debut. Crystal's sound up until that point was always America ready.
  • The topic of idols came up, and Crystal says she's grateful not to be an idol due to the restrictions and the level of scrutiny they face. But she feels that being seen as a foreigner has always allowed her a margin to get away with things that a Japanese person wouldn't.
  • Crystal values having the career she has, and not being known globally, because she still gets to live a life of normalcy, versus being a huge global star. I honestly think this is why some Japanese stars who at points could have attempted to break into the US chose not to. There was a point when we thought Namie would do the US thing, and she didn't. And let's for a moment imagine that a J-star just could break the US with ease, private bitches like Namie or Hikaru Utada would lose the privacy they've always valued. Hikaru for one would not be able to just live in London incognito. She'd have paparazzi hiding in her wheelie bins like Majima in Yakuza Kiwami.
  • Crystal soft dragged Japanese men, said they're intimidated by her, and flat out said she has NO dating options in Japan. Being Black and Korean, Crystal feels that Japanese men don't view her as a viable option for a partner. *cough*Racism*cough*. And that some Japanese men see non Japanese women as fetishes.
  • Despite now having a cover album out, Crystal once declared to herself that she'd never release one, because everybody was releasing them at one point. Crystal didn't lie. But girl, I Sing coulda released 10 years ago and been a hit. But, lemme just drink my Milo and mind my business. But I do agree with her view that covers are something special. Some artists go about them willy-nilly and be fucking them up, and making themselves and the original song look bad.
  • Despite the tracklisting for I Sing being very male, Japan-centric and (dare I say it) basic, Crystal really did consider other songs. She reiterates what she'd mentioned in her Billboard interview in 2020, which is that she went into the studio and recorded a whole bunch of songs to get a feel for what would work and what wouldn't, and the shortlist took shape by process of elimination. I still feel the label funnelled the decision ultimately, but it's still cool hearing part of Crystal's process, and it certainly explains why she was in the studio so often. There was a period when she seemed to be in the studio constantly. Now we know why.
  • Crystal flat out says that she wanted to cover a Hikaru Utada song. I wanna know which one she had in mind.
  • Crystal had already mentioned why her album is mostly covers of male songs, but she doubled down on it here, saying that she felt she sounded too similar to the original artists when she sang songs by women. *Looks into the camera* Crystal said the female covers only would've worked if she changed the arrangement, which didn't seem to be something she wanted to do. I find this so strange, because Crystal's voice is so different to most of these crusty voiced hoes in J-Pop. And it's weird she didn't entertain the idea of re-arranging the songs, given that she completely re-arranged Spitz's "Kaede" and Official Hige Dandism's "I Love...", which ended up being two of the best songs on I Sing partly for this exact reason.
  • Crystal does mention one thing that many have highlighted is a highlight of I Sing, and that's her voice. She says it was one of three focuses for her on this album, and it shows. She sounds amazing.
Overall this was a really cool interview. It'd be cool to see more of this type of thing from Crystal, where she sits and shoots the shit with people. Her makenai mondays on Insta are cute, but I fucking hate Instagram and just find it hard to watch anything on that app for long periods of time.

I'd like to get something this like between Crystal Kay and MiChi, who are also friends. MiChi was supposed to start a series where she reaches out to creatives. I have NO idea if she's still doing that, but Crystal would be a great guest to have, given the experiences they share. I like the idea of them both just dragging the shit out of Sony Music Japan, although they'd never do it.

🎧 CK Playlist: This is Crystal Kay | Crystal Kay: Ballads
📀 Special Edition: Euphoria, a Crystal Kay dance album
💿 Crystal Kay album reviews: For You | Shine | Vivid | Spin the Music | Color Change! | ShiningAll Yours | Call Me Miss...