C to da K in the USA. Is Crystal Kay gonna try to crack America again?

Crystal Kay performing at the Dodgers Stadium, wearing a blue Dodgers jersey.

Whilst Crystal Kay’s gigs in L.A. seemed relatively last minute and like something she figured she’d do whilst she was in the area with some time on her hands; it seems like Crystal Kay may have always had something tentatively on the cards and stuffed up her sleeves.

Since Crystal Kay’s gigs in L.A., there have been two great pieces which have gone out about her; both featuring interviews and accounts of the shows.

The first piece which went out was from JoySauce, with the second one coming from Forbes. Crystal Kay having a piece on Forbes.com is wild to me. She has gotten more promo in North American media than she’s gotten in Japan over the past decade.

What is going on!?

Well, quite a bit it would seem. And yet also, not a lot.

📰 Crystal Kay on nearly 25 years of being a ‘Black girl singing in Japanese’ @ JoySauce
Written by Amanda Walujono | misamandary

📰 Crystal Kay on working with Yoko Kanno, Namie Amuro and Pikachu @ Forbes
Written by Ollie Barder | cacophanus

Both pieces are great reads and feature titbits and accounts which paint more of the picture that fans already know. We always knew Crystal finished school, but we hear about her experience of juggling school and her blossoming music career. We always knew that Crystal was raised by her mother, but we hear more about that parental dynamic early on, and the different roles she had to play as a mother who wants her child to have an education, but also wants to honour her child’s dream of being a music star. We always knew that Crystal Kay had a great relationship with M-Flo, but we get to hear just how much Crystal values them and how they helped shape her sound, build her confidence and break rules when it came to approaching her music. The Internet had long had an inkling that Crystal Kay was the singer of “Shorty and the EZ Mouse” from the PlayStation 1 rhythm game Bust-a-Groove, but we get confirmation from her for the first time that it was in fact her. And we’ve always known that Crystal was an influence on Black artists in Japan, but we get to hear a couple of these artists acknowledge her influence first-hand.

The one thing which is clear in both pieces is that Crystal Kay has an interest in trying to make this music thing work in the U.S. too. The JoySauce piece shares that Crystal is considering making L.A. her other home. (I coulda sworn when I first read the JoySauce piece, there was mention of her having already gotten herself a place there). Those who follow Crystal Kay on Instagram may have noticed that every now and then she’s in the U.S. and that she’s there for WEEKS. So this would explain why. It also partially explains why she was able to get some gigs up and going so quickly, as the JoySauce piece also revealed that she has her team with her when she’s in L.A.

So, does this mean that Crystal is planning a US debut?

Maybe. I guess. I really don’t know.

As has unfortunately been the case with Crystal Kay's career, things which should add up...don’t.

Crystal mentions in the Forbes piece that she does want more of her music out there in the world and to reach her fans outside of Japan. But I do think that Crystal Kay has a burning desire to have a music career in North America. This isn’t a shock nor a surprise, between the fact she tried to break the U.S. in 2014 and what her sound and brand has been in Japan since the beginning.


I don’t think a blossoming career in the States is going to happen for her until she gets her shit in Japan in better shape. Crystal Kay having a better Japanese career won’t necessarily help springboard her in America (we saw how little this did for Hikaru Utada and BoA). But I do think it makes sense for Crystal to get her Japanese career back on track and build that up before she even entertains trying to launch a career in the U.S. again, as it’s been clear for years now that there is an identity crisis when it comes to Crystal Kay. She needs to be sure of what her brand and identity is in her primary market where she is already established first, before so much as entertaining the idea of pursuing a new and very different market. The halftime show performance she gave for that Basketball game in April, 2022 told me all I needed to know about how she and her team do not have it together when it comes to how to present ‘Crystal Kay’. Because why of all her songs would you have her perform some generic ass remix of “Hard to Say”. And if you’re gonna have a bitch out there in a haori, then why not perform “Kirakuni”, the music video in which she wore that? The song produced by Janet Jackson’s producers? The one song of hers that most of her fans outside of Japan know? The one song that those who don’t know her will vibe with because it’s U.S. radio friendly? The song that is far more reflective of Crystal’s core sound? Oh no, wait. “Kirakuni” is not available across all streaming platforms worldwide and there is no official upload of the music video on YouTube.


Crystal Kay performing during halftime at the Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls game, wearing a black haori and knee high leather boots. Surrounded by dancers in ripped blue leggings and cropped red leather jackets.
Crystal Kay performing at Capital One Arena in 2022 | washwizardsjp & crystalkayofficial

Crystal having an identity crisis at this point in her career is strange, because she had this shit together the entire time she was at Sony and it worked. (We’re gonna act like Spin the Music doesn’t exist). Y’all who have followed me for a minute know that I really liked Crystal’s 2012 album Vivid. But there was a definite crisis of identity when it came to how that album was rolled out and the way in which it was propositioned. But this is more a reflection of the irreparable damage done with Spin the Music, because Vivid would have made far more sense coming directly after Color Change!. And as much as I want to act like Spin the Music doesn’t exist, the fact of the matter is that it does, and it left a scorch on Crystal Kay’s career. And by the time Crystal decided to try for the U.S. with “Busy Doing Nothing”, “Rule Your World” and “Dum Ditty Dumb”, it was like she had zero sense of who she was musically or visually. It was the strangest thing to witness.

The timing has long been ripe for Crystal to lay the groundwork to gain some attention from more music listeners in the Americas, but she and her team keep dropping the ball. They won’t push her Sony catalog. They won’t acknowledge  Vivid. Her team don’t seem to put Crystal forward for things which would make so much sense. Was she even considered to sing Ariel’s songs for the Japanese release of the live-action version of The Little Mermaid? How on this hell called Earth was she not the first choice!? Has she ever been pitched to sing the theme song for a Final Fantasy game, after brilliantly covering Faye Wong’s “Eyes on Me”?

Girl. Fire the whole management and marketing team.

I am a firm believer that you cannot crack the U.S. market. The U.S. is a market that you have to let discover you. The Beatles. Adele. Coldplay. Ed Sheeran. The U.S. market discovered them first. And coincidentally, Adele, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran all got early co-signs from Beyoncé.

Even with Hikaru Utada being one of the best-selling acts in Japan, signing a deal with Def Jam, having L.A. Reid on board and having Timbaland, Tricky Stewart and Stargate produce for their albums, they still didn’t manage to crack the U.S. market. And with BoA being an ideal package for the U.S., SM throwing up all the money and her album having Bloodshy & Avant and Sean Garrett in the liner notes, she still flopped. And the common thing in both cases (more-so with Hikaru Utada than BoA), is that how they were presented to the North American market felt different to how they were presented in Japan, which was strange given their packages in Japan were already marketable for America. I mean, shit. Their music and visuals in most cases was all influenced by American pop culture anyway.

I’m not one to tell a bitch to not chase a dream. But I think Crystal would be wasting her time if she tried to make a music career in the U.S. debut whilst her career in Japan is in such bad shape. At least Hikaru Utada and BoA had their Japanese careers to fall back on, and they didn’t neglect their Japanese careers in favour of trying to make it in America. Crystal taking so much time to try and work on a U.S. debut back in 2014 set her back, because the whole time she was trying to make shit work there, we got no Japanese releases for two years. This doesn’t sound like a long time, but it is a huge gap for an artist whose sales were already declining in a market where it’s not super common for an act to go two years without releasing anything, unless they’ve announced a hiatus.

I think the way forward for Crystal is to use her frequent visits to U.S. and the connections she’s built there to A&R her next Japanese studio album. Go right back to square one. Hire from a pool of American, European and Japanese songwriters and producers - as was the case with Crystal’s albums originally. Just focus on putting together a great album. Then make good on being signed to a worldwide record label like Universal to make small quantities of physical albums available locally on Amazon, just as Perfume did for their Bonus Edition of LEVEL3. Feed the market with Japanese releases, without making it a clear focus of ‘cracking the U.S.’. Crystal should also start doing small scale national tours and including U.S. dates on these tours, which include L.A. and New York. And I’d chuck a couple of dates in for Europe too. Doing a couple of shows a year at Christmas is not cutting it. She needs to do a proper tour.

Crystal should also use her extended time in L.A. to become the face of brands, so she can build herself a portfolio that she can then take over to Japan to get product tie-ins. Crystal is in a unique position of being Japanese and a fluent English speaker ‘who doesn’t look Japanese’, which allows her to navigate things very differently. She could use being in L.A. to actually better her Japanese career and visa-versa. Even if the gigs she takes in L.A. aren’t all music related, it’s fine, because money. Also, Hollywood is taking a greater interest in East Asian films, shows and talent at the moment, and Crystal has expressed that she wants to do more acting. Look at ex-FAKY member Anna. Booked a supporting role in the Apple TV+ show Pachinko with the popular Lee Min-ho and Academy Award winner Youn Yuh-jung. And now she is a lead in a Godzilla show with Kurt Russell. If she can do it bitch, then Crystal Kay can. Gurl, you better send some headshots and tapes to Apple. And Crystal should absolutely flip her Japanese script when to comes to her being Black. Ride the whole diversity and ‘exotic’ wave to get them bags.

Crystal Kay is fine as hell. Can sing. Can perform live. Has the personality. And the connections. The pieces are there. But what is her team doing with any of it right now?

Gurl, fire-


If you’re a fan, be sure to check out the JoySauce and Forbes pieces on Crystal Kay. And support her by running up her streams and letting her know what’s up (respectfully) on her Instagram account. Crystal doesn’t have regular tours, great music sales and skyrocketing streaming figures to go off of. So she really seems to be relying on the things fans tell her directly to gauge their interest, as evidenced by her L.A. gigs. And some of you have speculated that Crystal Kay sees some of these posts.