TOPSinger May J. Starts the New Year on a High Note

Singer May J. Starts the New Year on a High Note

TW chats with J-pop superstar May J. about the best moments of her career and what's coming up in 2021

By Yukari Tanaka

May J., a Tokyo-born multicultural singer with her roots in Japan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, U.K., and Spain, not only learned how to dance, play the piano and sing opera at a very young age, but she knew in her heart that she would become a singer one day. In recent years, May J. became widely recognized as the official singer for the Japanese version of the theme song to Disney’s monster-hit movie “Frozen” (2014) – one of the biggest highlights in her music career since she made her debut in 2006.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of her debut, the J-pop diva drops her new album “May J. W BEST 2 –Original & Covers–” on January 1, 2021 – a follow-up project to the first set of her original and remake soundtracks “May J. W BEST –Original & Covers–,” which was released on the same day in 2015.

May J. W BEST 2 –Original & Covers–

Can you tell us about your new upcoming album?

Next year marks the 15th anniversary of my debut. Since we couldn’t release anything this year, I wanted next year to start on a more positive note. We chose to release the album on January 1, the same date we released the first version five years ago in hopes that 2021 will be a better year for all of us.

What are some of the highlights of the new album?

It comes with two sets of albums, original and remakes. Both albums have 13 tracks each, all of which have been selected from my past originals and remakes. For the original album, the song “Faith” holds a special place in my heart because it ranked first in the fan voting. It was released five years ago in English as a B-side track to a different song. The fan voting results really surprised me because I never imagined it would receive this much attention. I’ve performed the song multiple times over the years, but since I wanted my audiences to understand the lyrics better, I rewrote the lyrics in Japanese, recorded it, and included it in this new album for the first time.

For the cover album, I really enjoyed recording with other artists. It made me feel like I was part of a live show. The album features well-respected and amazing instrumentalists along with song arrangements done by great musicians.

You also write and compose your own songs. Where do you get your inspiration?

It really depends on the day and how I’m feeling but I usually compose my songs with my guitarist. For example, there is a song titled “My Star” in the original album, and the day I came up with the melody for that song was the day I heard that my music teacher from back when I was still a student had passed away that same morning. I went into the studio feeling very sad and that ended up transferring into the melody. I dedicated that song to my teacher.

What does the CD sleeve design for your new album represent?

Since the package includes two albums, the main concept was to portray that there are two May Js. The CD sleeve for the first version of this album also had two May Js, one with my eyes open and the other one with my eyes closed. The new album also draws on that theme. The only difference this time is that in the white costume I have my hair down, like I usually do, while in the black costume I have my hair up to represent a stronger side of me.

May J. singer

What is the message you want to give to your audience through this album?

Most of the songs in the original album are portraying the theme of “future” through lyrics and even in the title of some of the songs. It was unintentional, which made me realize that I’m unconsciously singing into the future and to my future self, encouraging myself to think positive and believe that better days are coming. This year has certainly taken a toll on all of us, but I would like my audiences to feel the same and trust that there are happier things waiting for us.

How do you feel about online live shows after performing at your “May J. ONLINE LIVE 2020: NEW WORLD PRODUCTIONS 29th ANNIVERSARY” earlier this year?

You can never predict what will happen when hosting lives shows online. We were faced with technical issues right from the beginning because it wasn’t streaming correctly, so I had to make small talks in between to kill time. I’ve never had to do that in my past so that felt a little strange. At the end of each song, you don’t really hear audiences clapping. It’s very quiet. The only way I would see my fan’s reactions was through comments displayed on a screen. Everything was new to me but I still felt connected to my fans and I was very grateful for that.

Which do you prefer – online or real live shows?

Real live shows, for sure! This year, we were able to do one live performance with audiences and I was grateful for the opportunity. I realized how precious it is to be able to sing in front of an audience and what we thought was normal up until now should never be taken for granted.

How would you like your 15th anniversary year to be?

I want to start a new chapter in my career. The song “Garden” in the cover album is an indication of the type of music I’m looking to do more during 2021. At every turning point in my career we come up with a new remix of that song, and this time we arranged it using Lo-Fi edit, programming and very minimal sounds that give an endocentric and mysterious effect. There is an original album I’ve already started to work on that draws on those themes, which I’m hoping to also release sometime next year.