Billboard Japan launched its Women in Music initiative last year to celebrate today’s female achievers who continue to break new ground in Japan’s music industry, in the same spirit as Billboard’s Women in Music event that began in 2007. Billboard has recognized many influential women over the years — the highest honor being Woman of the Year, awarded to some of the industry’s top artists including Beyoncé, Madonna and, this year’s recipient, SZA.
Billboard Japan’s Women in Music consists of a string of projects including interviews, concerts, panel discussions and more. On Friday, March 3 — which also happens to be the traditional annual day celebrating girls in Japan — the inaugural Women in Music concerts took place simultaneously at the Billboard Live venues in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama, headlined by three female artists who represent today’s music landscape in Japan. Each artist performed two shows on that day, with the second being livestreamed for fans who couldn’t attend in person.
Rapper and singer Chanmina took the stage at Billboard Live Tokyo in Roppongi, appearing onstage accompanied by four dancers to the striking refrain of her track “Lucy.” Leading an all-female team of performers including the DJ in keeping with the evening’s theme, the trilingual artist performed a hard-hitting set of songs with lyrics mixing Korean, English and Japanese. The WIM setlist included “I’m a Pop,” featuring intense rapping and deep, dynamic vocals, and “Harenchi,” a sultry number with an urban sound and whispery vocalization.
The 24-year-old artist took a moment during her set to address the packed Billboard Live crowd, briefly explaining why she does what she does. “You’re all so beautiful, more so than you probably think,” she said, “I want to keep telling you that no matter how old I get.” She also paused during her song “Angel” later on to express her deep gratitude for her fans’ support. “To tell you the truth,” she shared, “I wasn’t fine during the COVID-19 pandemic! I missed you all so much.”
The “Bijin” rapper closed her WIM set with a raw, passionate performance of “Dahlia.” She stopped mid-song to say earnestly, “Singing was the only thing I had. So I kept singing and waited. Thank you for finding me, everyone!” When she finished the number, Chanmina bowed deeply to the audience and left the stage with a smile.
Headlining Billboard Live Osaka was UA, a veteran artist hailing from this city who has balanced her alternative music career and motherhood over the years. The 50-year-old songstress painted the venue with her signature sound, with dreamily melancholic numbers like “Kiokusoushitu” (“Amnesia”) and “Senkou” (“Blaze of Light”), and “JAPONESIA” with its effective combination of scat and harmonies. In particular, the audience was treated to the breadth of UA’s musicality through her breakout hit “Jounetsu” (“Passion”) and “AUWA~TIDA,” a track with a danceable groove developing with increasing intensity. After her main set, she returned to perform “Mizuiro” (“Light Blue”) for the encore — a song the mother of four said she wrote when she was pregnant with her first child — bringing her WIM show to a close with her beautifully unique vocals.
In between songs, the artist currently based in Canada looked back on her upbringing and shared anecdotes about the women she grew up around, making the 300-capacity venue feel even more intimate than usual. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could start each day thinking, ‘I want to start off by embracing and loving myself,'” she said, and added, “I’m happy to have been born a woman, and intend to continue moving forward without losing my passion and curiosity, and without being afraid of experiencing lots of things.”
Singer-songwriter eill headlined the stage over at Billboard Live Yokohama. One of today’s hottest young music producers who gives voice to the honest feelings of the youth of her generation, eill delivered some of her popular numbers with her silky, soulful vocals, fronting a band of accomplished musicians (Katsushiro Sato on guitar, Shunsuke Ochi on bass, nabeLTD on keyboards, Yosuke Minowa handling computer manipulation, and Yukino Matsuura on drums). Appearing on stage dressed in all white, the 24-year-old artist kicked off her set with “Koko de iki wo shite” (“Breathe Here”), and went on to perform “FAKE LOVE/” and “((FULLMOON))” back-to-back, showcasing her signature mellow groove accented with delightful charm. The special WIM set also featured strings (Leina Ushiyama on violin, Yasuko Murata on viola and Kaori Imai on cello), adding a lush layer to her performance of “Finale,” which she explained she wrote “around this time last year while thinking about summer,” and on to “Hana no youni” (“Like a Flower”).
In between songs, eill emphasized the importance of being true to yourself, telling the audience to “love yourself and embrace yourself even when you’re not your best self.” Reassuring fans that “whenever you’re having a hard time, I’ll always give you a little push from behind. I’ll be your light at any time,” she launched into a groovy performance of “Spotlight.”
True to her words, she uplifted the crowd and created a sense of unity in the venue through numbers including “20,” which she accompanied herself on the piano, and the last song “Odorasenaide” (“Don’t Make Me Dance”). During the encore, she announced the release of a new song called “WE ARE.” “We’re all alone, but we’re all not alone. We can use our loneliness as our shields. We’re not alone, everyone,” she said, and after treating the WIM audience to the premiere live performance of the brand-new track, eill left the stage with a big smile on her face.