Angela Aki (アンジェラ・アキ), is a singer-songwriter pianist born on September 15, 1977 who I consider to be my most favorite and followed J-Pop artist. Throughout almost a decade (9 years) of her career run in Japan before her indefinite hiatus in 2014, she was able to record 13 singles, 8 studio albums (These Words indie album and her BEST album not included) and 6 live concerts videos.

 

The artist has been well known for…

  • Kiss Me Good-bye, the official theme song of Final Fantasy XII game which she performed and co-wrote with Nobuo Uematsu. Her performance in her first indie mini-album ONE is what grabbed the attention of Uematsu and so he asked her to write both the Japanese and English lyrics of the song and perform it. Included in her Kiss Me Good-bye single is her cover of also the famous Final Fantasy VIII theme song, Eyes On Me.

 

  • She sang the 3rd ending theme song of the popular anime, BLOOD+, which titled as “This Love”.

 

  • Angela Aki was exceptionally recognized as the first and only artist who performed in Nippon Buduokan only with her voice and her piano. Meaning, there was no band, dancers or other guest performers who accompanied her all through out her first major concert which became also a success.

 

  • Her greatest hit single, Tegami ~ Haikei Jūgo no Kimi e, is a certified triple platinum for downloads in 2014 by the RIAJ and earned the 25th spot on “Billboard Japan Hot 100 Songs” chart. Her single had a long run on charts and had already been sold over 235,000 copies. Five versions of its music video published in Japan alone. It was also covered by many amateur and professional artists inside Japan (like May J, ayaka, etc.) and translated into different languages/versions outside Japan (covered by professional singers like Rene Liu – Taiwanese, Chen Ming – Chinese, Sherman Chung – Hong Kong). Tegami was also included in OST of an animated film, Colorful (2010) and the live film, Kuchibiru ni Uta wo (2015), whose story is majorly inspired by Aki’s song. Before she released her self-cover of the song, it was initially written by Angela Aki for 75th NHK National School Music Contest in 2008 and performed as a compulsory song for Junior High School (12–15 years old) Division.

 

  • Angela Aki starred in an educational TV show of NHK entitled “Angela Aki’s SONG BOOK in English” which featured Aki as an English Teacher that familiarizes viewers how to speak the English language through teaching word by word the lyrics and performing famous Western songs covered by herself like Billy Joe’s Honesty and Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. All these Western songs (recorded with Japanese lyrics) were compiled in her cover (7th) album called, SONGBOOK.

 

What I know about this artist?

  • Angela Aki was never seen publicly in Japan without her black glasses until she released the limited edition of her BEST album, Tapestry of Songs, in 2014 which revealed the full feature of her face. It had been a teasing mystery to the fans (like Kakashi’s mask in Naruto) and she even wrote a song about it with Ben Folds which titled as Black Glasses and was included in her 4th album, ANSWER. The collaboration came out unexpected for me (and I was thrilled back then since I was also a Ben Folds fan) and it rooted from when Folds heard Aki covered his hit song, Still Fighting It, in Japanese.

 

  • Her signature wardrobe in live performances and single/album covers are Chuck Taylor’s Converse shoes, jeans, laced blouses, long-sleeved jerseys and plaid shirts.

 

  • She does not look like a pure Japanese since she has a mix heritage. Her father is a Japanese while her mother is Italian-American. She also has a younger sister, Kyla Aki.

 

  • Angela was born in Itano, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan and lived in Hawaii during her teenage years. She then studied political science in Washington D.C. Thus, she became fluent in both languages, English and Japanese.

 

  • Not only she can sing, play the piano and write her own songs but she can also play the violin, beat drums and strum & pluck the guitar.

 

  • But even so she is a multi-instrumentalist, she formed a band to perform with her in her live concerts named it as The Butterflies. The members were Okiyama Yuji (bass, guitar), Nishikawa Susumu (lead guitar), Muraishi Masayuki (drum, piano) and Kono Shin (keyboard, piano, guitar). Each one is very talented too and has brought more energy and life to Aki’s studio and live performances!

 

  • Her favorite food is Tofu and her most hated one is mayonaise!

 

How did I discover this artist?

Since I’m a Final Fantasy fan, I love to hear OST and especially theme songs from my favorite game series. So when Square Enix announced the release of Final Fantasy XII and it was informed to the public that Nobuo Uematsu would provide the theme song and chose Angela Aki to perform it, I immediately researched about this artist. Since only the title of the song was revealed, “Kiss Me Good-bye” and not the song itself, I started listening first to Angela Aki’s early discography. Thus, the first song I ever heard from her is Home and I became hooked to it. Ever since then, I began following Angela Aki every single/album release and became her hardcore fan boy.

 

Why you should check out this artist?

You must check out Angela Aki for one major reason… She comes with a total package! She’s excellent in singing, playing and writing her own songs. She dresses simply, as simple as most of her single/album covers appear and do not do gimmicks like most artists. In other words, she shines because of her musicality alone… Not with sugar coated fancies but only pure and real music.

 

She already sounds awesome in her CD recordings but you will definitely love her even more when you hear her performing live! Consider also the fact that she usually plays the piano while singing live! In my opinion, Angela Aki is one of the few artists out there with very unique stellar powerhouse voices (regardless studio recorded or live). Her simultaneous playing of instrument does not even affect the quality of her flawless singing.

 

Whenever Angela Aki covers English songs, she nails it almost every time and that even some of the original performers like Janis Ian and Ben Folds are impressed with her performance which resulted to collaborative works. Janis Ian was impressed by her Japanese version of Will You Dance which eventually led to song collaborations like Every Woman’s Song in Aki’s 5th album, LIFE.

 

Not only she covers English songs but she also has her own English songs! She has Warning in ONE, Your Love Song in her 2nd album HOME, Surrender in her 3rd album TODAY, Black Glasses in ANSWER, In My Blood in BLUE (8th album) and 6 other songs in LIFE. Before she debuted in Japan, she also recorded an English Indie album titled, These Words, which she worked with her ex-husband, Tony Alany, in the U.S.

 

Angela Aki can share amazing storytelling experiences with her songs, whether the song is 3 min short or 7-10 mins long. Yes, you heard it right. Her longest song to date in her whole discography  marked more than 10 minutes in duration and the name of the song is Requiem. But even so, I guarantee you will not find it drab but rather it will only take you to an epic 10-minute-awesomeness! More so, many of Angela Aki’s songs are covered outside Japan like Tegami, Music and Kodoku no Kakera.

 

Her life is an amazing success story. She was inspired by Sarah McLachlan to have a passionate dream to become a musician. To pursue her dream, she quitted her job as a secretary and chose to work as a waitress for 2 dollars 13 cents during the day. At night, she performed songs at a nightclub. Then, she moved to Japan to find more music career opportunities. She worked again as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant while performing in small venues and bars in Tokyo and submitting demo CDs. During Shiinai Ringo’s concert at Nippon Buduokan in 2003, Aki made a promise to herself that she will someday perform at the same place within 3 years. Lo and behold, she made it in Buduokan in 2006 and performed her first solo concert there! She achieved her dream to become a famous artist in Japan even though she was already in her 30’s. (But hey, she doesn’t look like her age!)

 

Like how Sarah inspired her to become a musician, it was Angela Aki who ignited my love and dream for music. I learned to play piano and write songs because of her. Most of her songs are are inspiring that they gave me encouragement to keep on dreaming and pushing for my dreams. Having her song Tegami become a hit in Japan, a country where youth suicide rate is very high, it is safe to say that her song has probably saved and encouraged many Japanese youth to live on.

Watch the video with English subtitle here.

 

What is my most favorite music video?

Well, I love the simplicity of Home, Kokoro no Senshi and Again and the special effects in Kiss Me Good-bye, Sakura-iro, Kodoku no Kakera and Kokuhaku but I must say the PV of Hajimari no BALLAD has a nice artistic touch plus Angela Aki is beautiful with her short hair.

 

What are my Top 5 recommended tracks?

Maybe I should not put “Top 5”  in the question since I keep on breaking the rules. Hahaha! I will go overboard again for Angie-san (her nickname in Japan) since she’s my most favorite artist of all times. But let me put it this way, I will just recommend Top 5 Aki’s songs under 6 categories: ballad, inspiring, upbeat, dark/epic, English and covers.

 

Ballad

  1. Kiss Me Good-bye (HOME)
  2. Love is over now (HOME)
  3. One Melody (TODAY)
  4. LIFE (LIFE)
  5. Kodoku no Kakera (TODAY)

 

Inspiring

  1. Home (HOME)
  2. Sakura-iro (TODAY)
  3. I Have a Dream (WHITE)
  4. Tegami ~ Haikei Jūgo no Kimi e (ANSWER)
  5. One Family (WHITE)

Upbeat

  1. Tashika ka ni (TODAY)
  2. Again (TODAY)
  3. On & On (TODAY)
  4. ANSWER (ANSWER)
  5. Kokuhaku (BLUE)

 

Dark/Epic

  1. Moral no Soushiki (TODAY)
  2. Requiem (ANSWER)
  3. Uchuu (HOME)
  4. Ai to Bansoukou (LIFE)
  5. Aiueo (BLUE)

 

English

  1. 100 Ways (These Words)
  2. We Dance (These Words)
  3. Santa Fe (Kiss Me Good-bye)
  4. Black Glasses (ANSWER)
  5. Mad Scientist (LIFE)

 

Cover

  1. Tsugaru Kaikyou Fuyu Keshiki (Sayuri Ishikawa)
  2. Still Fighting It (Ben Folds)
  3. Will You Dance (Janis Ian)
  4. Material Girl (Madonna)
  5. Today (Smashing Pumpkins)

 

Special Mentions

  1. Your Voice (These Words)
  2. Magic (These Words)
  3. Aisuru Mono (ONE)
  4. This Love (HOME)
  5. Ai no Uta (TODAY)
  6. Tomo no Shirushi (TODAY)
  7. Emily (Ai no Kisetsu)
  8. Fighter (ANSWER)
  9. Creep (SONGBOOK)
  10. Kokoro no Tenkyohou (BLUE)

What’s the latest news about this artist?

Angela Aki is currently on indefinite hiatus in Japan since 2014 when she decided to take a new step on her career path. That is to study music in Los Angeles, California for she aims to make broadway musicals in the future. In the meanwhile, she lives in the States with her husband and son while attending to a music school. As one of her die-hard fans, I really hope we can hear more new stuff from her soon after she finishes her study, please! I promised to myself that I must be able to watch at least one of her live performances!

 

How about you guys? What do you think about Angela Aki?

What are your experiences with her music? Share them below at the comment section!

Web Sources:

http://www.angela-aki.com/ (Official Website)

http://www.mykeysinternational.com/ (Angela Aki International Fansite)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Aki

 


Get to know more about my Featured Artist under my ARTMARK – Music Blog.

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  • Aileen Sinchioco

    I totally agree with all you’ve written. Especially when she does covers. Not only she nails it, but she also gives a new life to a song that she covers. In other words, she gives a song a total transformation whenever she covers it, which, in my opinion is still a form of originality. Best example is Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

    • Mark Maliwanag

      Yes! Her covers of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Amazing Grace exemplify perfectly what you are saying. I wish I remembered putting them on the list. Hahaha! However, my lists are already overwhelmed with her awesomeness! If only I can include all! Hahaha!