The enigmatic songstress burst into the J-pop music scene with her smash hit “Usseewa” two years ago, and this year she dominated the Japan charts as Uta from the blockbuster animated movie One Piece Film: Red. The young singer, born in 2002, says she “took on new challenges” this past year and looks back on some of her major accomplishments including her headlining show at her dream venue — the Saitama Super Arena — and her smash OPFR collab in this latest interview with Billboard Japan.
You’re the No. 1 artist on Billboard Japan’s year-end Artist 100 ranking, which combines the Japan Hot 100 and the Hot Albums charts for this year. Could you share your honest impression about this result?
I’m really happy that so many people are listening to my music. After singing the songs for One Piece Film: Red, I checked the charts quite a bit, and when it looked like, Ado, Ado, Ado all the way down from the top, it really took me by surprise.
What kind of year was 2022 for you?
I performed a headlining concert at Saitama Super Arena in August, which was the biggest dream of my life so I was really happy about that. It was my second headlining show after the first one in April at Zepp DiverCity, so I was surprised that I reached my goal so unbelievably quickly.
The scope of your activities has been expanding at a dizzying pace. When was the first time you noticed your music’s reach?
When “Usseewa” charted on the Billboard Japan charts, I couldn’t help but think, “Whoa, awesome!” Of course, rankings aren’t everything, but “Usseewa” was the first song of mine that ever charted and I was blown away when it reached the top.
Any other moments in your daily life when you feel you have some hits?
When I suddenly hear the chorus of “Usseewa” being used on a variety show, or “New Genesis” on a YouTube video that has nothing to do with the song… When I see people mentioning my songs or me in a genre that’s completely different from my own, it really hits home that my music is reaching a pretty wide audience.
“New Genesis,” the theme of the animated movie One Piece Film: Red, hit No. 1 on Billboard Japan’s Hot 100 for a total of six weeks. It’s become your biggest hit so far.
I sang 7 songs (on the soundtrack album) and each was completely different from the other in taste, including a ballad, which I’d never sung before, and a song with full-blown rap. Before I recorded these songs, I was worried about whether I’d be able to sing them properly or if everyone would enjoy them, but the fact that so many people listened to them gave me a lot of confidence.
If you were to compile a personal song chart for 2022, which song would be No. 1?
Wow, there are too many to choose from! But one that I listened to a lot for a while was “Future Eve ft. Hatsune Miku” written by Sasakure.UK for this year’s [Hatsune Miku event] Magical Mirai.
Billboard Japan launched a new chart in December, the Niconico Vocaloid Songs Top 20, which ranks the popularity of vocaloid songs on the Japanese video-sharing platform Niconico, courtesy of Dwango. How do you usually come across new vocaloid music?
My main go-to is still Niconico. After the Vocaloid Collection (Voca-colle) event began, I’ve been using it a lot. Niconico lets you to add various tags to videos and when you jump to the links of the tags, you can find lots of songs in a similar genre. I came across a hip-hop vocaloid track before that was tagged “Mik-hop” and was like, “Wow, I never knew this kind of thing existed.”
Hatsune Miku meets hip-hop?
Right. There’s also “Alternative Mik,” a combination of alt-rock and Hatsune Miku. I personally like the tag “Osharena Miku-uta (stylish Miku songs).” Also, the rankings on Niconico are easy to see and Voca-colle even has a rookie list, so it’s useful in finding new artists.
You began your singing career by uploading covers of vocaloid songs online. How did you first get into vocaloid music?
When I was in first grade or thereabouts, I visited my cousin who told me “I’ve been listening to some interesting stuff lately,” and showed me “Daughter of Evil” and “Servant of Evil” by mothy (Aku no P) on the computer. They were derivative videos characteristic of the vocaloid genre. After I came across this world that I’d never known about, I asked my dad to teach me how to use the computer and began searching for similar stuff online on my own.
Any vocaloid producers that you’ve been into lately?
I go through Iyowa phases periodically. I’m currently going through one now and have been listening to his works like I’m possessed. Many of his songs have a kind of dissonance in a good way, like melodies that make you feel a little uneasy. On the other hand, each number has a story that’s a little sad and human. They make you want to listen to them over and over…They feel like those dreams you see when you have a fever.
You recently announced a partnership with Geffen Records in the U.S. Was working outside of Japan one of the goals you’d originally envisioned?
No. Around the time I first got into music, the idea of working overseas was so huge in scale that I felt intimidated by it and never thought I could pull it off. But I did think that it’d be so cool if I could. I receive comments from people living in other countries and I think it’s really awesome that they’re listening to my songs despite the language barrier.
When I received this offer, I thought it was my turn to approach those fans. I also hope I can help promote J-pop music through my activities. Even if we don’t understand each other’s languages, I’m sure we share the same feelings and emotions as human beings, so I hope I can convey those aspects. I’m committed to my music so I hope to touch people through my songs.
Do you have any specific goals for your activities outside of Japan?
Concerts definitely. I’d love to perform at festivals and events overseas, too. My first domestic tour will began in December, and I’m looking forward to doing more shows going forward.
Lastly, please tell us about your aspirations for next year and beyond.
I don’t think too many people have seen me perform live yet, so I’d like more people to get to know “Ado in concert.” I took on new challenges in 2022. I finally invited Hatsune Miku into my home and started singing with her. I also hope to be able to do other things like producing.