Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Japan's Top R&B - A.I.

I love music. It's simple. Unfortunately, finding new music I like is often impossible. Either it's too "poppy" for me or it lacks a certain element of the underground, which I so desperately crave. In recent years, in terms of the music I've been listening to on a daily basis, most of the music I listen to these days were orchestrated by friends I've made in real life. Today's featured artist is no different, allow me to introduce you to Japan's top R&B singer, the beautiful "A.I.".

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1981, AI would go on to become one of Japan's top R&B artists. In 2000, she signed with Universal (BMG) Japan, and moved to Def Jam Japan in 2002. It wasn't until 2005 when AI found major success with her single, "Story." Since then, AI has gone on to win numerous awards from Billboard Japan, Space Shower and MTV Japan. No matter what AI does, there is just no stopping this sensational singer.

Original albums
My Name Is AI (2001)
Original AI (2003)
2004 AI (2004)
Mic-a-holic AI (2005)
What's Goin' On AI (2006)
Don't Stop AI (2007)
Viva AI (2009)
The Last AI (2010)
Independent (2012)

I first met AI in Japan in 2008, through a mutual friend of ours. He introduced her to me as "Japan's greatest (and most beautiful) R&B singer." Since then, this is how I've come to describe AI myself, not because of her physical beauty, but because she has always been incredibly nice to me over the years.

Alan with AI and Shen (Def Tech) in 2008.
Our first meeting was backstage at the RIZE TKO tour finale at Shinkiba, Studio Coast. Even though I didn't have very much time with her at the show, I still discovered her and when I found a computer (later that evening), I immediately ran a Google/Youtube search queries for "AI".

"I'll be damned..." I remember thinking to myself. "She really is famous."

A quick search on Youtube reveals just how successful AI has been throughout her career. With collaborations ranging from Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, Judith Hill, Chaka Khan, Boys II Men, and my not-so-favorite Korean Pop icon, Rain (Maybe someday I'll share with everyone at the Rising Sun Freestyle my story about how RAIN [Bi] assaulted me at the Incheon airport in South Korea, but for now I think I'll choose to "Let it go" {See Below}).

A.I. - Let It Go Feat. Snoop Dogg

A full year would go by before I ever saw AI again. In 2009, I was invited to the "Don't Stop A.I." tour finale in Tokyo. The show was amazing, AI is amazing... Her performance was flawless, and her 12 (or more) band members were all equally as talented and impressive. Stage theatrics aside, the real fun for me didn't start poppin' off until the after party. 

Don't Stop AI Tour Finale Guest Pass signed by AI
The Guest Pass for the AI after party.
While at the after party, I had a chance to speak to AI again, only this time I was doing my best not to be "star-struck" by her. I eased into the conversation by complimenting her on a great show that evening. Then I asked her if she remembered me. To my amazement, she did, citing that she met me backstage at Studio Coast in 2008. I was humbled, and shocked that someone as famous as her would remember meeting me, despite it only having been one quick encounter.

I knew my friends would never believe me, what I had been doing, and who I had been hanging out with, so I asked to take another picture with her. The picture turned out epic!

Me with Jesse (RIZE), Shen (DefTech) and AI in 2009.
My funniest encounter with AI was during the 2009 Togoshi Matsuri (Festival). I was with my friend (from USA) eating "Taco Rice" at a local restaurant in Togoshi Ginza. With my back turned to the street, behind me I hear a hard pounding on the window, and someone shouting my name. 

"Alan! Alan! Hi Alan!" AI said as she giggled her way away from the store, until she was out of my view. I was impressed. It wasn't until that random encounter that I realized we really were friends. 

Lets fast forward to 2010, when I am walking along the 'Shotengai' (a long street known for its shops) in Togoshi Ginza, Tokyo. As I was walking, I had to stop and ask myself, "OMG! Is that AI over there?"

Sure enough it was. But judging from the camera crew she had circling her, I could tell that she was very busy, so I decided not to bother her. Instead, I just gave her a smile and a waved at her as I walked by. As I got closer, AI screamed (on camera), "ALANNNN!"

She walked over to me and grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me in front of the cameras with her. It was a television spot she was filming for NHK TV. At that point, I didn't care that there were cameras on us, or how busy she was, because for that slight moment in time, she was all mine... =)

AI pulled me in front of the NHK cameras, despite my not trying to interrupt.

I hugged her, and told her how awesome I thought she was. I then proceeded to pull out my paperback Japanese dictionary (where I keep all my stickers), and I surprised her by showing her my collection of AI memorabilia. I had the two guest passes (see above pics) as well as a printed out copy of the last picture I took with her (also above). AI immediately showed the photo to the cameras, and I felt like I was somehow cooler because of it.

I would go on to meet her a few more times in 2010, it seemed like our paths just kept crossing one another's. At the SLIP&CO clothing show, I managed to snap this picture:

with AI in 2010.
Since first discovering her music in 2008, I have been deeply in love with AI. Sure I am a bit biased because we are friends in real life, but I can promise you that her music is all inspirational and uplifting. I look forward to the opportunity to hang out with her again, but only time will tell if our paths are destined to cross again. Until then, I would just like to say, "I LOVE YOU AI!"

For more information about AI, including upcoming tour dates and album releases be sure to visit the Official AI Artist site here, and the Official AI Youtube Channel here.

1 comment:

  1. She seems really nice....and so do u ;) Love her music <3 ^-^