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Publication Date : 27-09-2013
More than 100 cover albums will have been released by the end of this year in Japan
Over the past several years, there has been an increasing number of cover album releases of J-pop hit songs, but this year has been exceptional.
Helped by TV variety shows that feature karaoke battles and singing contests, more than 100 cover albums will have been released by the end of this year, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.
Among big-name singers making waves are Kumi Koda, Ayaka, Tsuyoshi Domoto and The Gospellers.
The top two best-selling cover albums this year are “Summer Ballad Covers” by May J., released by Avex Entertainment, and “Heart Song” by Chris Hart, released by Universal Music Japan. Both sold more than 100,000 copies.
The popularity of their hits was partially triggered by the two singers’ high visibility on TV programmes.
May J. covers 12 songs on her album, including Hikaru Utada’s “First Love”, She is better known through the Asahi TV programme “Kanjani no Shiwake Eight.”
This program features a karaoke battle in which competitors challenge the champion from the previous week. The karaoke machine then grades their singing ability in terms of musical intervals, sound length, intonation and vibrato. Professional singers have competed against amateur children and other professional singers.
The producer of the TV programme said professional singers find it difficult to gain both a high score and make the most of their singing personalities during the competition. Even though it is only a music contest, viewers can feel the pressure competitors undergo in the heated battles.
May J. is the only unbeaten karaoke champion in the battle, which has continued for about two years. As of September 20, she was unbeaten for 18 weeks.
Her 2009 hit “Garden” was a great hit with her fans.
Because of her appearance on the TV show, “I could make myself better known to a wider audience,” she said.
According to May J., good intonation does not necessarily bring a high score in the karaoke battle, but it is important not to make a mistake in terms of musical intervals. However, the most important thing as a singer is “read the lyrics repeatedly over the course of a few hours until they have been burned into your mind”.
Yu Ishigaki, of the female duo Yanawaraba from Okinawa Prefecture, appears frequently on the programme. Her cover album “Nadauta” (Songs of Tears), released on September 4 by Crown Records, includes songs that she performed on the TV show. Taking advantage of her appearance on the show, she distributed the album after the programme aired.
Meanwhile, American singer Chris Hart’s “Heart Song” includes 12 songs, such as “Home” by Yusaku Kiyama.
Hart, 29, has attracted public attention since he appeared on the TV programme “Nodojiman The! World”, a singing contest among foreigners, on the NTV network.
Another 21-year-old American who appeared on the Nodojiman program, Nicholas Edwards, made his debut this summer as a professional singer.
Takashi Usui, an analyst of the music market, said: “Due mainly to the effects of karaoke TV variety shows, more and more people are not listening to new songs.
“This means that it’s difficult for new songs to become popular. It’s imperative for music distributors to take advantage of the effect of TV to sell original new songs.”