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Japan's A.I. (aka Uemura Carina Ai)
"Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" ("Japan Cool" - Music-Style)
Performing in the U.S. for the First Time

 

On January 31, 2008 - AI will be making her very first LA Live in concert - opening date of her tour at Southern California's El Rey Theater. For more info, click HERE
AI's (aka Uemura Carina Ai) appearance at El Rey Theater (Her first opening date on her initial tour of the United States - to purchase tickets and/or get more information from WA Entertainment, click HERE) provides additional evidence that Southern California could be the center of America's "Japanese Cool." The influence from Japan can been from its restaurants, bars, shops, fashions, art (i.e. Takashi Murakami @ MOCA), music and media (i.e. Giant Robot). She is also an extension of the continuing growth of r&b with J-Pop singers. Her music is a continuation of past artists such as Namie Amuro, m-Flo (Taku & Verebal), Silva, Sugar Soul, Heartsdales, Hikaru Utada, Misia, Soul'd Out, Sheena Ringo, UA, Kumi Koda, Crystal Kay, Jewels & Rum, Bennie K, Double, Soulhead andYoshika. It has been noted that Japanese R&B may suffer from a lack of feeling that the pop sheen and the absence of an upbringing "in the 'hood" take away, but in the songs of artists like Yoshika, it gains a light, easygoing air — a sense that they're just having fun rather than trying to prove themselves with the diva attitudes common in the U.S.

AI's growing popularity is a realization of Billboard Asia's chief (Steve McClure) of the globalization of Japanese R&B. "It's part of a broader trend of Japanese artists to be more gutsy, and it's not exclusive to R&B." AI seems to typify the fact that Japanese women have had more freedom than ever before — perhaps more so than men — and have taken advantage of it by traveling and living abroad bringing something enthralling for Japanese listeners: new sounds and ideas that they'd internalized but which remain exotic for a Japanese audience used to formulaic pop. The women of Japanese R&B have something to say and are happy to say it. And in a style of music where the phrase "keep it real" is a mantra, audiences are responding to them as authentic. The current internationalization of R&B is also part of a wider trend within Japanese music, and the record industry is now getting behind it with auditions targeting returnees and "hafu."

For AI news & interviews in Japanese, click HERE

This Los Angeles native was born on November 2, 1981 to a Japanese (father) and Italian (mother is Japanese/Italian) family has utilized her vocal skills to become Univeral Music Japan's "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" with a focus on r&b, club r&b and soul. She has achieved this status by incorporating her singing skills (learned from her experiences while performing with a Gospel Choir), bilingual abilities (from being born in Los Angeles), throwing spit on wax (can rap in English) and dancing (studying at an art school in Los Angeles. After spending her childhood (elementary and junior high school days) at her father's hometown of Kagoshima Japan, she moved to Los Angeles to be trained as a professional performer. At the age of 17, AI performed as a dancer for Janet Jackson's promo video "GO DEEP", and signed with BMG to make her debut ("My Name is A.I.") in Japan. Four years later, in 2003, AI signed with Def Jam Japan ("Last Words (Saishu-Senkoku)" single). She has stated that her vision is to pursue "originality" at all times.

TIMELINE

*1981.11.2 Born in LA
*1999 Made an appearance on Janet Jackson's promotional video for "GO DEEP" as one of the dancers.
*2000 Major label debut from BMG
*2003 Transferred label to DefJam Japan
Released album "ORIGINAL A.I." as the first female artist on the label.
*2004 Album "2004 A.I." ranked #3 on album charts and received Gold Disc.
*2005.5 Single "Story" ranked #8 on the first week on
charts, sold 300 thousand copies, and totaled 3.5 million
downloads.
*2005.7 Album "MIC-A-HOLIC A.I." ranked #4 on charts.
Sold 500 thousand copies.
*2005.12 Made an appearance on NHK "KOHAKU UTAGASSEN"
*2006.4 Single "Believe" ranked #2 on single charts.
200 thousand copies sold and 1.2 million downloads.
*2006.5 Promotion video of "Story" was nominated a BEST R&B VIDEO on MTV JAPAN ? VIDEO MUSIC AWARD JAPAN 2006
*2006.9 Single "I Wanna Know" released Album "What's goin' on A.I." released The album was ranked #2 on the first week of the charts.
*2007.3 Live audio recording CD "LIVE A.I." and live video recording DVD "NIPPON BUDOKAN A.I." released. Both consisting the final show of "What's goin' on A.I. Japan Tour"
*2007.5 Promotion video of "Believe" was nominated a BEST R&B VIDEO on MTV JAPAN ? VIDEO MUSIC AWARD JAPAN 2007
*2007.7 Single "I'll Remember You / BRAND NEW DAY" released
*2007.11 Single "ONE" released
*2007.12 Album "DON'T STOP A.I." release
*2008.2 - "DON'T STOP A.I. Japan Tour"
32 shows / total 100 thousand audience expected

Her success started with a ballad single, "Story," was released in May 2005. The song ranked #8 on a single sales chart, sold a total of 300 thousand copies, had 3.5 million downloads, and became a song to represent 2005. An album released that same year, "MIC-A-HOLIC A.I." was ranked #4 on the first week and sold over 500 thousand copies.

In September 2006, AI released a single, "I Wanna Know," and an album, "What's goin' on A.I." The album was ranked #2 on a CD sales charts and was ranked TOP 5 for three consecutive weeks. "What's goin' on A.I. Japan Tour" followed the release brought 50 thousand audiences among 12 shows in 11 major cities of Japan. All tickets of her first auditorium tour including Nippon Budokan were sold out on the day of the ticket release.

On the New Year's Eve of 2006, AI made an appearance on a prestigious national TV program, "56th Annual KO HAKU UTAGASSEN" on NHK. In 2007, a single "I'll Remember You / BRAND NEW DAY" was released in July. AI made appearances on stages of summer music festivals such as Rock In Japan Festival and Summer Sonic in August and September. In April 2006, Trey collaborated with bilingual Japanese R&B/Hip-Hop artist AI on her single Believe, with the track "Beautiful feat. Trey Songz". The duo even performed this track live at the MTV Awards in Japan, where AI won the award for 'Best R&B Music Video' for her ballad-single, "Story".[1] The song was later remixed and appeared on AI's album, What's goin' on A.I., released September 2006. Trey can also be heard on "Why You Wanna Remix" by T.I.

"Hot Spot" - AI featuring UZI

Her first live recording CD, "LIVE A.I." was released on March 2007 consisting excerpts of the final show of "What's goin' on A.I. Japan Tour" at Nippon Budokan. The tour acclaimed "WORLD STANDARD" for its musicians, dancers, guest artist, and staging was packaged in its entirety on DVD release, "NIPPON BUDOKAN A.I." The DVD release includes documentary of AI rehearsing choreography at dance studios in LA as well as exclusive interviews of creators took parts of making the tour happen.

In 2007, a single "I'll Remember You / BRAND NEW DAY" was released in July. AI made appearances on stages of summer music festivals such as Rock In Japan Festival and Summer Sonic in August and September. Her latest single "ONE" released in November has been aired on a FUJI-TV drama series, "IRYU ? Team Medical Dragon 2," as its theme song. Her latest single "ONE" released in November has been aired on a FUJI-TV drama series, "IRYU Team Medical Dragon 2," as its theme song. AI released her latest album "DON'T STOP A.I." in December 2007 will be promoting the music with the "DON'T STOP A.I. Japan Tour" starting February 2008 which includes 32 shows nationwide and caters to 100 thousand audiences.

Her first concert tour in the United States, starting at the Los Angeles' El Rey Theater, will provide greater evidence of the influence and clout that J-Pop's r&b divas have outside of Japan. Will AI have the ability and resources to be successful worldwide, with Universal Music's support - she should have the chances that she deserves.

 

PAST AI MUSIC PROJECTS

 

COOL JAPAN VIBE & PLACES TO GO IN LOS ANGELES

Beard Papa, 333 S. Alameda St., L.A., (213) 620-0710; beardpapa.com. The Osaka cream-puff chain's been dubbed the next Pinkberry, given the addictive nature of its pastries (and expansion). This Little Tokyo outpost opened last month.

Musha, 1725 W. Carson St., B, Torrance, (310) 787-7344. Many items, including the beloved fried chicken, are fusion-inspired, but the dimly lighted dining room cultivates a bustling Tokyo bar vibe. (Also, 424 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica)

Bradelis New York, 1757 W. Carson St., F, Torrance, (310) 212-5235; bradelisny.com. Don't let the name fool you: This Japanese-owned bra line and shop has nothing to do with New York. Still, Bradelis brings in the believers with its custom-fit lingerie. One of only two U.S. locations.

Phaze Bar, 20801 S. Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 328-5899. Hidden behind the Torrance Plaza Hotel, it brings in travelers and locals hoping to catch a baseball game. Later, a younger crowd moves in. No karaoke, just serious drinking of Kirin and mizuwari (whiskey and water).

Dinner House M, 1263 W. Temple St., L.A., (213) 482-3828; dinnerhousem.com. M is actually more of a bar with an authentic Tokyo vibe; most patrons come for the stiff drinks and live jazz. A word of caution: There's a cover charge for sitting down (up to $10 per person)

Shin-sen-gumi Yakitori Restaurant, 18617 S. Western, Gardena, (310) 715-1588; more locations at shinsengumiusa.com. Pork belly, vegetables and all sorts of chicken parts on skewers are fired up on a charcoal grill at this tiny, lively joint. Next door is an unmarked storefront where chanko, a dense stew of vegetables, chicken and beef popular with sumo wrestlers, is served only by reservation.
Famima!!, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-2684; famima-usa.com. An offshoot of Japan's Family Mart convenience stores, the chain launched its first U.S. store in WeHo nearly three years ago. Today, it has 13 U.S. locations, all in SoCal, with finds such as Ramune soft drinks and Monaka ice cream sandwiches. Santouka Ramen, Mitsuwa Market Place, 21515 Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 212-1101. For those in the cult of ramen, this is the holy grail, at least stateside. The Hokkaido-based chain sets up shop counter- style within Mitsuwa food courts. (Also 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, and 3760 S. Centinela Ave., L.A.)
aja Moc, 2383 Lomita Blvd., No. 102, Lomita, (310) 534-0153; gajamoc.com. Okonomiyaki, the specialty here, is a make-it-yourself concoction with customized items like spam, cod roe, mochi, cheese, octopus, noodles and egg that starts off as a gooey mess on the grill and is eventually cooked to resemble a pancake topped with mayo and bonito flakes. Shin Yakitori, 22807 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 378-1019; shinyakitoridining.com. This relative newcomer has reasonably priced yakitori. For the more adventurous, there's motsu nabe (intestine) hot pot with vegetables.

Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., (310) 478-1819; giantrobot.com. Surrounded by streetwear shops like Blu 82, Eric Nakamura's store started a mini-revolution in 2002 and is going strong with T-shirts, prints and multiple locations.

Otafuku Noodle House, 16525 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 532-9348. Subtler than ramen, the buckwheat noodles here are handmade and served hot in a bowl of bonito-based broth or cold with a dipping sauce.

Japan L.A., 648 N. Fuller Ave., L.A., (323) 934-5201; japanla.com. Jamie Rivadeneira's shop is crammed with offbeat finds such as Tare Panda ("lazy panda") products, Gloomy Bear phone charms and Domokun bath sponges.

Popmonster, 24416 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, (310) 325-8686. It carries fashion lines such as Toki Doki, toys, books and graphic novels.

Komatsu, 1644 W. Carson St., B, Torrance, (310) 787-0787. The chef behind the bar counter at this tempura restaurant gingerly cuts, batters and fries vegetables and seafood before carefully plating them on a paper-lined dish.

Momo, 308 N. Stanley Ave., L.A., (323) 964-5240Ö. A boutique specializing in vintage and new designs from Japan.

popKiller, 343 E. 2nd St., L.A., (213) 625-1372; popkiller.us. Ricky Takizawa's second store is already a near institution with its selection of hip T-shirts and accessories.

Shabon, 7602 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 692-0061. Rie Fujii's smart boutique has fresh finds, mostly vintage dresses and accessories, and attracts such shoppers as Nicole Richie and Winona Ryder.

 

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