Japanese music has a wide variety of artists, and like any country’s music scene it too is full of gimmicky sounds or imagery. Such music can be great and a lot of fun too, but there’s something about a naturally talented vocalist that demands our attention and respect.
But who in Japan is the greatest pure singer? Some of you may have already pulled up an image of your favorite Japanese singer while others like me are drawing a blank, still unable to shake the image of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu dancing with candy skeletons.
Luckily, the TV show Suiyobi No Downtown held their own ranking survey asking 200 people in the Japanese music industry from vocal trainers to studio engineers “Who is really good at singing?” Here are the results.
Akira Fuse earns the tenth position due to his silky smooth treble range and frequent vibrato that one voter claims “shakes the heart.” Here we can watch as he seems to effortlessly make the steady climb in volume through My Way all the while maintaining that signature smoothness. As another voter put it “his skill is self-explanatory.”
9th and 8th Place [Tie]
Atsushi & Yosui Inoue
[6 Votes Each]
“Even while moving around on stage his voice doesn’t falter” is what the voters for one of Exile’s main vocalist are saying. Atsushi has the vocal stability of a rock as seasoned through countless performances. Here he is singing Let It Be with his usual confidence and beauty even in English.
Meanwhile, Yosui Inoue‘s soft rock stylings don’t fall into the typical mold of what some consider “great singing” but his voice as once voter describes it “soaks into your body and lingers.” Others mentioned how he shines when there is as little music to drown out his vocals as possible, so here’s one of his more mellow tracks Riverside Hotel.
Miho Fukuhara was celebrated by voters for her equally outstanding sense of pitch, beat, and volume. Many describe this combination as a more Western than Japanese style of singing, but great nonetheless.
Perhaps the most world-famous singer on the list, Hikaru is said to have a grove that’s in a “class by itself.” She can also emote songs of love and sadness in both Japanese and English with sincerity.
Miwa Yoshida is known as the lead singer for Dreams Come True as well as one of my favorite names Funk the Peanuts. However, she stands alone in fifth place largely due to her versatility. One voter describes it best: “I can hear many techniques used in a single song.”
Everyone who voted for Okinawa’s Rimi Natsukawa unanimously said that she had the clearest voice they have ever heard. Some even went as far as saying that a microphone only gets in the way of her pristine vocals. It’s hard to argue listening to this version of Amazing Grace in both English and Japanese. I have to say I felt kind of disappointed when the band kicked in. They just seemed to get in the way.
Shiho Ochi, the vocalist and kind of sole member of the rock group Superfly has won the respect of industry pros with her combination of raw power and high degree of control over her voice. One voter summed it up saying, “The volume of her voice balances well with her range.”
Arguably the most preeminent Japanese R&B singers. Toshinobu Kubota has just as many fans for his charming personality as he does for his velvety voice. “He has a sense of rhythm beyond Japanese people,” said one rather racially self-deprecating voter. In the end, Kubota simply has a truly well-honed voice.
“I’m impressed by his extraordinary singing ability,” said one voter who wasn’t alone in that opinion as Koji Tamaki clinched the top spot by a relatively large margin. It would also seem that Tamaki’s fun personality which seems fused into his vocal work won the hearts of many voters. That what-you-see-is-what-you-get spirit is also found in his technique as one voter said, “his live voice sounds exactly the same as it does on CD without any modification.”
As always with lists of this type, many of you are probably feeling someone was left out. Many netizens brought up Aska and Misia as glaring omissions. However, looking at the numbers each singer got, the overall votes were spread pretty thin. So with the exception of Koji Tamaki it looks as if any given Sunday we could be seeing a very different list.
Source: Livedoor News via 2-channel (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – akirafuse2, JiroIchiro, leokunhi, Fukuhara Miho Official Youtube Channel,
Utada Hikaru, happysmile423, Ryukyu Bijin Natsukawa Rimi, warnermusicjapan, kyuwhell02, Osanai Kazuo