A joyful expression of all the excitement that’s sparked by a new romance, aiko’s 2000 hit “Boyfriend” marked the beginning of a long and warm relationship between one of J-pop’s preeminent female singers and her many steadfast fans. The song also introduced a breezy sensibility and an airy, jazzy sound that was all aiko. Even as she matured into a more seasoned artist able to convey heavier feelings, she retained the irrepressible exuberance of her younger self. Indeed, aiko’s sunny side could not have seemed any brighter through the first years of success for the performer, who was born Aiko Yanai in Suita, Japan, in 1975, and began developing her own songs while working as a DJ in Osaka. A hit across East Asia, “Boyfriend” spurred on her second album, Sakura no Ki no Shita, to sales of over a million in 2000. With her nimble delivery and musical settings that tempered pure pop sweetness with engaging elements of folk and jazz, aiko attained an audience beyond J-pop’s core teen following. On later releases like 2014’s Awa no Youna Ai Datta and 2018’s Shimetta Natsu no Hajimari, she confidently balanced her cheerier self-penned songs with melancholy ballads that benefit from the increasingly lush and sophisticated arrangements provided by Masanori Shimada, her longtime producer and collaborator.
HOMETOWNSuita, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
BORNNovember 22, 1975