MISIA helped bring R&B to the Japanese mainstream in the late ‘90s, thanks to a uniquely soulful voice that would eventually shape the sound of J-pop in the 2000s. Born in Nagasaki in 1978, MISIA encountered gospel music earlier in her life and studied voice training while a high school student, developing a five-octave vocal range. MISIA put that skill to use right away on her 1998 debut single, “Tsutsumikomu Youni,” a confident number channeling Mariah Carey and showcasing MISIA’s ability to hit the high notes. She continued to show what she could do with her vocals, coupling them with hip-hop-inspired beats (“Rhythm Reflection”) and letting them soar over string-accented ballads (“Everything”). Her arrival turned R&B and soul into new additions to J-pop’s sonic vocabulary, paving the way for artists like Hikaru Utada and Koda Kumi in the 2000s. MISIA stood alongside them, continuing to create mid-tempo R&B, while dabbling in sounds from around the world inspired by her personal travels, including traditional Asian instruments and African percussion. She’s also ventured into jazz while collaborating with younger J-pop stars such as HIDE from the group GReeeeN on 2018’s “Ainokatachi.” MISIA may have paved the way for a new generation of artists, but she remains as sought after as ever.
BORNJuly 7, 1978