Chart-topping Japanese boy band Exile was named artist of the year and shared top pop artist honors with four other acts at the second annual Billboard Japan Music Awards, sponsored by Daiwa House. The awards were presented Feb. 6 at the Tokyo Midtown complex in Roppongi, central Tokyo (see Backbeat, page 53).
The awards show also included live performances at the complex's Tokyo Midtown Hall and Billboard Live venue. "This being the second year, we've expanded the venues for the awards, making it possible for more fans to get in and see the stars," said Masato Kitaguchi, executive director/COO of Hanshin Contents Link, the operator of Billboard Japan.
Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, who attended the show and presented several awards, thanked Hanshin Contents Link for its work in organizing the awards.
"We only want to build on the relationship," Werde said. "From the success and quality of tonight's show, it's clear we couldn't have a better partner."
Exile, who won the artist of the year award for the second time, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Japan Top Albums chart with "Aisubeki Mirai e," while the group's singles "Victory" and "Motto Tsuyoku" topped the Billboard Japan Hot 100.
Also named top pop artists of 2010 were girl band AKB48, eclectic J-pop vocalist Kana Nishino, visual kei rock band Sid and singer Nana Mizuki, whose songs appear on popular soundtracks for anime films and TV series.
Artists who topped one of Billboard Japan's albums or singles charts from December 2009 to November 2010 were eligible for top pop artist honors; online fan voting determined the winners. Artist of the year was determined by fan voting from among the top pop artists.
Fans also voted among genre chart-toppers to determine Billboard Japan's jazz, classical and independent artists of the year. JAM won in the jazz category, Nodame Cantabile was named classical artist of the year, and HY took home the independent artist prize.
The K-pop new artist of the year award went to Korean girl group 4Minute. Wearing red and black leather jumpsuits, they performed two of their well-choreographed dance-pop tracks, "First" and "Muzik," prompting Billboard's Werde to tweet: "Some1 needs to explain why they aren't stars in US. Catchy songs, great look, high energy."
It was an observation that would no doubt excite 4Minute, which has been "overjoyed with our success in Japan and would also like to crack the U.S. market," 4Minute member Hyun said. "We've seen Americans imitating our dance moves on YouTube and that's awesome."
Chaka Khan and Japanese R&B singer A.I. received the Billboard Japan international collaboration artists of the year award for two tracks they recorded for the latter's album, "The Last A.I." They performed "One More Try," as well as Khan's "Through the Fire."
The awards show also included performances by other Japanese and international artists. Lia performed her hit "My Soul, Your Beats!" from the TV anime series "Angel Beats." Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter sang "Just One Kiss" and called Japan a "second home" when interviewed onstage. Debbie Gibson performed her hit "Shake Your Love" and a cover of Yutaka Ozaki's "I Love You." The latter track appeared on Gibson's album "Ms. Vocalist" (Sony Music Japan International), featuring performances of famous songs by Japanese male singers.
Billboard Japan also paid tribute to Japanese artists who have previously charted in the United States. Female duo Pink Lady, whose 1979 single "Kiss in the Dark" reached No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100, appeared onstage for a talk. And JAM covered Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki," which topped the Hot 100 in 1963.