THE RETIREMENT OF JAPAN’S MADONNA MARKS THE END OF THE COUNTRY’S GOLDEN ERA OF POP
Last year, US sales of Taylor Swift’s new album Reputation crossed a million a week after it was released in November. Over in Japan, in the same month, Namie Amuro also cleared that milestone just as quickly with her newest album.
...Born in Naha in Okinawa, Amuro debuted as a solo artist in 1992 and quickly established herself as Japan’s biggest pop star of the 1990s, after almost a decade where Japan had no definitive female idol (paywall).
Working with the legendary Japanese music producer Tetsuya Komuro, whose label Avex Trax dominated J-pop in the 1990s, Amuro helped popularize Eurobeat-inspired music in Japan. (Komuro will also retire.)
...Her biggest hit was “Can You Celebrate?,” a pop ballad released in 1997 that to date remains the best-selling single by a solo artist in Japan.
...While Amuro herself has cited Janet Jackson as one of her biggest inspirations, the Japanese singer is most often compared to Madonna.
“When you look at the arc of her career, it’s a good comparison,” said Patrick St. Michel, a music writer based in Tokyo. “Both of them broke out at young ages, and over the course of their careers, both went into quite radically different styles.”
Amuro would later start to experiment more with genres like R&B and hip hop, including a re-recording of “Waterfalls” with TLC in 2013.
...Like Madonna, Amuro was also a style icon in Japan, and helped fuel gyaru street style, in which girls displayed the tanned skin, dyed hair, heavy make-up, chunky heels, and short skirts associated with areas of Tokyo like Shibuya. (Gyaru is a romanization of the English word “gal.”)
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