While there are already a number of musical artists who achieved fame through YouTube, no one yet has done it quite like GILLE, a mysterious Japanese singer who became an online sensation for her English covers of Japanese pop songs.
GILLE first gained attention after uploading a cover of AKB48’s “Flying Get” (see below) to YouTube in February 2012. The video became an instant hit and has since drawn over 2.8 million views from 163 countries. She was then signed to Universal Music Japan in March and recorded her first full-length album, “I AM GILLE”, which was released on July 18.
English covers of Japanese songs are also nothing new, but GILLE nails it better than anyone has with lyrics that retain the meaning of the Japanese song without sounding awkward against the original rhythm and tempo. It doesn’t hurt that she has an impressively versatile voice either.
Despite her talent, GILLE initially tried to maintain anonymity by never showing her face in her videos, hoping to reach people with her voice “irrespective of [her] nationality or appearance.”
However, GILLE’s Japanese nationality was revealed in an announcement that the “Flying Get” cover had been endorsed by AKB48 executive producer Akimoto Yasushi in late June.
During a televised interview earlier this month (she again appeared as a silhouette), attentive Japanese fans were able to put another piece of the puzzle when they noticed she spoke with an accent particular to Miyazaki prefecture.
Unable to hide her identity any longer, GILLE stepped out of the shadows on July 17, the day before her CD release, and revealed herself as TAHSA gee, a Miyazaki-born singer who studied music at a university in Los Angeles.
While she may not be the enigma she once was, GILLE continues to humbly hide her face from the public, even during live performances. Not that the public seems to mind: “I AM GILLE” debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes music chart and her videos continue to rack up thousands of views per day.
Now all that remains to be seen is if GILLE’s renditions of Japanese pop music can help the genre break through the English-speaking mainstream market. The competition is tough, that’s for sure.
▼ The video that started it all: “Flying Get”
▼ The AKB48 version for comparison
▼ Another AKB48 hit: “Ponytail and Chouchou”
▼ Which is better?
▼ She does English songs as well! “Party Rock Anthem”
▼ Adele – Rolling in the Deep
[ Read in Japanese ]