Japanese singer JUJU connects midtempo J-pop with elements of jazz, revealing how the two seemingly disparate styles can complement one another. Born Jun Sonoda in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1976, JUJU grew up aspiring to be a jazz singer. She chased that dream by moving to New York City on her own at age 18, soaking in the city’s jazz scene while also exploring sounds previously unknown to her like hip-hop, R&B, and dance music and developing a fondness for a diverse range of artists from Sarah Vaughan to Deee-Lite. After returning to her native country, she released her first single, "Hikaru no Naka E," in 2004. Her husky voice helped her soaring, string-backed ballads stand out, but it wasn’t until she added in quicker tempos and featured on rap band Spontania’s 2008 number “Kimi no Subete Ni” that she really broke through. From there, JUJU embraced as many genres as she could, including chugging rock (“Hot Stuff”), funk (“STAYIN’ ALIVE”), and bright dance pop (“Playback”). No matter which genre JUJU explored, the artist always found her way back to jazz, incorporating the genre’s signature instruments and tempos into her ballads and throwback pop numbers. She would eventually dive headfirst into the influential genre, which originated in New Orleans at the end of the 19th century, by covering many of its standards. JUJU still sprinkles these tracks with a dash of J-pop to create a trademark sound that was even more beguiling than the sum of its parts.