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4:58 pm - 03/05/2013

Interview: Crystal Kay Talks R&B’s Decline, Acting Ambitions & English Album?



Japanese R&B singer Crystal Kay has been expanding her horizons of late. From performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall, to collaborating with Far East Movement in Orlando, Florida, the 27-year-old singer has been spreading her wings internationally – most recently via “Dance Earth,"  in which she took to the stage for the first time as a character in a musical theater production.

Born to American and Zainichi Korean parents in Yokohama, Kay debuted at age 13 and has built a substantial following over the years by blending R&B with Japanese pop music. She is about to embark on a set of intimate live shows titled “Crystal Café,”  kicking off at Shibuya Duo Music Exchange tonight, and continuing to Fukuoka, Osaka, and Aichi.

BLOUIN ARTINFO caught up with Crystal Kay to discuss her acting ambitions, her coming English-language album, and the decline of R&B in Japan.

Robert Michael Poole: You just completed the Dance Earth stage project. What were the highlights and challenges for you?

Crystal Kay: The highlight was being able to perform every single day for nearly a month. I've never even done that for my own tours, let alone two shows per day.

Of course you get tired but being with fellow performers everyday, feeding off of each other's energy, it was really fun.

My challenge was learning theatrical singing and performance techniques, as it’s very different from the way I usually sing. Theatrical singing requires a lot more attention to delivering the dialogue, like enunciation, facial expressions, and body movements. So it’s not about trying to sing perfectly or pretty, it’s more about how much I can express the character's emotions and deliver the atmosphere to the audience. It’s definitely something I can use as an advantage from now on for own my singing career.

RMP: You went through some pretty rigorous physical training, are you able to take time off now? 

CK: I am definitely not chilling out yet! Two days after the final show, I was back in the rehearsal studio with my band preparing for my Crystal Cafe acoustic tour.

RMP: What effect do you think the project will have on you in the future in terms of direction of your career?<

CK: It helped me know more of myself in terms of how to maintain my mental balance in preparation for multiple shows. I now know that I have strong chords that are capable of handling 23 shows in a row! It also felt like I have completed one big challenge, which gives me a desire to quickly tackle another.

RMP: Are you the kind of person who enjoys being outside of their comfort zone and are there other skills or professions you’d like to try?

CK: I've always been interested in acting so I think it’s sparked that interest even more. If there were cool roles and opportunities for plays, musicals and even movies, I would be more than happy to try it out. I actually hate being comfortable. If I could learn more, obtain different skills and see more of the world, I'm down for trying it out. I'd rather try it than regret not trying.

RMP: Usa, who led the project, took extended breaks to travel the world, but you have worked hard for over ten years. Do you think you might take a break some time and if you did, what would you do?

CK: I guess I'm very Japanese in that sense, I always feel like I need to work extra hard to deserve an extended break. I don’t think I’m at the point where I need it but I if I were to, I’d definitely follow in Usa’s footsteps by traveling. I’m very interested in world heritage sites so I would head for Machu Picchu, Brazil, go to see the northern lights in Alaska... the list goes on.

RMP: You are soon back on your own stage for Crystal Café, in intimate venues. What can we expect at the shows?

CK: The concept of this show is to share a more intimate atmosphere with my fans. Just me and the music. It will be very chill and relaxed, but fun. I hope to continue performing in this setting, because I can do this as long as I'm living.

RMP: The strong and healthy market for R&B in Japan seems to have faded in recent years, with many of your contemporaries seemingly disappearing altogether, why do you think this is so, and how have you adapted to the change?

CK: I think Japan has always been pop-culture centered and in recent years, girl groups like AKB48 and K-Pop acts have really taken over the market. Those acts are more relatable to Japan’s "genki" (happy) style of motivational messages, rather than trying to convey seriousness or complicated feelings or social issues through music.

So there aren’t many relatable aspects of R&B and Hip-Hop, and the rawness these genres present, as there is elsewhere.

Anyhow R&B in general has faded everywhere, the world is pumping more and more pop, so Japan being pop heavy from the start means R&B has really fallen off.

I've adapting by mixing J-Pop and the essence of R&B in my melodies. I just hope people enjoy what I create, because I believe good music is good music regardless of the genre.

RMP: What does 2013 hold for you?

CK: This is a year of challenge for me. The first challenge is complete, "Dance Earth," and now I want to start working on overseas work, and a full English-language album.

Source: BLOUIN ARTINFO
fauxparadiso 5th-Mar-2013 11:28 pm (UTC)
She could actually have a shot in the U.S. R&B is finally bubbling back up to the mainstream in the states, and Japan will probably follow the same cycle in 5 years or so.

She'll have to be more picky about what style she uses and who she collabs with. No more flash-in-the-pan artists like Far East Movement.
fukkthedumbshyt 6th-Mar-2013 01:32 am (UTC)
I agree.
urubaby21 6th-Mar-2013 02:46 am (UTC)
Yea, she could do pretty well in the U.S., considering there is no hint of engrish in her. It all comes down to how long she is willing to promote in the U.S. Time is money sometimes, but it doesn't seem like most asian acts/artists are willing to take the time to build their career in the american music market.
cuizy 6th-Mar-2013 03:55 am (UTC)
Ahhhh.... I'm sad Far East Movement went out fast. Maybe they'll have more hits in the future?

(Also I still think it has to do with how they're asians)
pladpuss 6th-Mar-2013 06:47 am (UTC)
Love their dirty bass album and when I play that stuff at parties or in my car people always ask me who they are (because they like it) and only go "ohhh yeah" when I say "the artist for like a g6" not if I say its Far East Movement. Such a shame they make really good party music better then a lot of stuff out now.
lovelyblueify 6th-Mar-2013 02:44 am (UTC)
Been a fan of Crystal for a long time. It was actually her R&B style that made me fall in love with her music. I like the sound of an english language album. It is sad to see jR&B acts fall off the radar, so many of my favorites disappeared. I'm glad Crystal is still doing her thang.
urubaby21 6th-Mar-2013 02:47 am (UTC)
She is one amazing person. I think I'm even more in love with her.
shynanigans 6th-Mar-2013 02:59 am (UTC)
Although I adore her, I am sad to admit that I don't think Crystal would do very well in the U.S. simply for the fact that foreign artists don't always become as well-known here as they did in, say, the 80's. But I would LOVE an English album (really, another album in general, I don't care what language), and I would die of happiness overload if she ever performed in the U.S. And if she ever did branch out to the States? Wouldn't be any arguing about it from this fan.
glimmeringneon 6th-Mar-2013 05:58 am (UTC)
Crystal Kay isn't a foreign artist though, she's an American citizen, LOL.

Crystal Kay grew up in an American US military base in Japan. There's a lot of Japanese-Americans and Americans in Japan that live in these American bases where English is the everyday language.
umbrellaphone 6th-Mar-2013 08:57 am (UTC)
She's born in Yokohama, and the military base is still in Japan though. I don't think that qualifies for American citizenship.
exdream1999 6th-Mar-2013 09:56 am (UTC)
Her dad's American, therefore, so is she.

You either have to have one American parent or be born on U.S. soil to be a citizen.
lady_mercury 6th-Mar-2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
I don't think that qualifies for American citizenship.

By using that ideology, any child born on a military base isn't an American. That makes 0 sense.

You have to be born to an American citizen to become an American or be born on American soil. Therefor, Crystal Kay (granted she did not pick Japanese citizenship upon turning 20) is an American citizen. But since she lives and works in Japan, and has been in that country all her life, I wouldn't doubt it if she declared Japanese citizenship.

Japan does not allow dual citizenship.

Edited at 2013-03-06 12:46 pm (UTC)
glimmeringneon 6th-Mar-2013 04:18 pm (UTC)
Crystal Kay declared American citizenship. She considers herself a foreigner in Japan in terms of nationality and ethnicity.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2009/10/16/culture/crystal-kay-is-having-a-ball/#
(no subject) - Anonymous
glimmeringneon 6th-Mar-2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
That is true.

Speaking of which, there was once case in Canada during WWII where they declared a hospital as Dutch soil because a Dutch princess was being born there and to avoid conflict in her nationality the Canadian government allowed it to be Dutch soil for the duration of their stay in the hospital.
45s 6th-Mar-2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
but she speaks fluent english with no accent.

(nb, she's born on a base so yeah that does count but who cares since whoooooo the heck cares about american citizenship when you're a pop act and that has no bearing on your ability to perform abroad. are you asking adele for her papers, lol. )

ohprecioustime 6th-Mar-2013 07:59 am (UTC)
I really wish she makes it here in some capacity enough to tour at least since she has always been mentioning as one of her dreams since as long as she started

sobbing at RnB falling off ;__;
brucelynn 6th-Mar-2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
Her body is so ridiculous in that picture <3 <3 bow
kuri_chi 7th-Mar-2013 07:02 pm (UTC)
CK possibly releasing an English album, I like. . . No, I LOVE that Idea :)
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