[Exclusive Interview] Anna Aya Discusses Introducing J-pop to the Western Audience

Photo Cr. Anna Aya // Brian Ziff

Anna Aya is here to build the bridge from J-pop to the west. The 19-year-old international model, singer, actor and multi-lingual artist under Handcraft Entertainment and Virgin Music,  Anna Aya is set to be the first global princess of J-pop with the release of her debut single “Someone Else,” out now. 

Linking up with GRAMMY® Award nominated multi-platinum producer Louis Bell (Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Camila Cabello, Halsey) and 6x Japan Gold Disc Winner, multi- platinum producer Michael Africk (Mai Kuraki, Zard, Jordan Knight), “Someone Else” includes both Japanese and English verses. 

KpopWise sat down with Anna to hear more about her journey to becoming a promising artist ready to take the pop and J-pop world by storm. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as a singer and musician?

I'm half Japanese half Armenian and that's one of the main things that make me and because I am fluent in both languages. I've been a model and an actress since I was six in LA, because I was born here in LA. For the past five years, I'd say I've been going back and forth between LA and Tokyo for fashion modeling. Now for the past year, I started music as well so yeah and the music is very special to me because it is J-pop, it's a bilingual mix of Japanese and English lyrics so now here I am doing all three. 

"Someone Else" is your first English-Japanese fusion song. What inspired you to create this unique blend of languages and musical styles?

My producers Michael Africk, and Lewis Bell, had been looking for someone to introduce J-pop into the world, so I was really happy to be a part of that whole journey since I speak Japanese and English. I have been a translator before in my career so I decided to translate some of the English lyrics into Japanese, actually, the whole song was rewritten into Japanese too.

What was the creative process like for "Someone Else"? What is the story behind the song?  

The story behind it is just a girl heartbroken over a guy or something that happened and then realizing that she has so many more options in life that can make her happy and she doesn't have to be stuck on this one thing that's not serving her anymore. She finally realizes that she's worth so much more and it's a song about finding yourself and finding your worth.

How do you choose which part to sing in English and which parts in Japanese? 

We kind of just messed around with it, we didn't know if we wanted to take one full verse in English and one in Japanese, but we kind of decided that we should start the first verse in English, so that people in the US and all around the world, who understands English can get hooked. More people understand English than Japanese, so they could be intrigued to listen to it, and then midway through it'll kind of shift into the Japanese lyrics so we kind of made it a balance where it's like English first and then Japanese. 

What obstacles did you face? 

Singing was very new to me so in the studio it was hard for me to  kind of adjust to that. I mean I'd say I'm a pretty fast learner so my producers were freaking out because they were like wait can she do this? and then I was doing it. It was really stressing because I think I was just kind of nervous about the whole new environment, we were recording in Boston which I've never been before, so I was kind of just like in a whole new environment and whole new experience.

Then slowly I started picking up like the tricks and became more comfortable and literally a day after, they were like okay you're doing good like don't worry and I was like okay great, so I definitely think like it was kind of just me getting used to the studio, was an obstacle. It was fun after I learned. 

What is the message you hope people take away from the song? 

The most important thing is that they feel better about themselves or good about themselves and like maybe you know shift the way they look at themselves or their perspective on life in general in a more positive light. Also, to love the Japanese culture because that's very important to me and I feel like I can offer A new perspective on people's ideas of Japanese culture.

Your music video for "Someone Else" features visually captivating scenes. What was it like working on the visual representation of the song?

It was definitely a new experience for me because I've recorded like shows and like stuff like that, but I've never been like dedicating one video to a song so it was definitely a new experience having to sing while the song is playing in front of a bunch of people while the camera's going it. There were a bunch of factors going on but I think I got to have fun with it. I learned where to improve for my next videos. I want to add more of my fashion into it and for the Japanese lyrics and everything to be more prominent. 

Photo Cr. Anna Aya // Brian Ziff

As a model, you look amazing in anything you've worn, but have you considered having styling input on future songs?

Definitely, I'm really interested in being able to style myself and I was thinking about it, but since I've never had experience styling myself for like something professional, I think it could be a fun challenge for me, maybe with the help of a professional stylist to kind of guide me through it.5 I want to put in more of my input and my vision for it. 

What are your musical influences and favorite artists who have inspired your journey as a musician?

my favorite artist um since I was a kid is Ariana Grande she's been my biggest inspiration my biggest influence on my music and who I am and everything but also I'd say like you were saying earlier,  Hikaru Utada is a very big influence on me, because she introduced J-pop to the world, she also did a song for Netflix show. XG has been an inspiration to me because my friend is actually the vocalist in that group and her name is Juria, I'm so proud of her, they're a fully Japanese group so I think that's very inspiring to me as well.

Do you have plans to work with other artists in the future? Perhaps Japanese artists? 

I would love to I would love to. I definitely think I need to be more in the scene in the Japanese music industry because actually, the song isn't out in Japan yet so people in Japan can't listen to my song yet, so definitely once I release a song out there I want to explore more with different artists and stuff.

Although Japanese music is not mainstream in the US yet, there has been representation through media such as anime. Did you like anime yourself? What was your favorite? 

I love watching anime, I mean I grew up on Doraemon I don't know if you know it but it’s like a kid Japanese anime cartoon. It was my favorite show growing up and even now I've started Attack on Titan, and I finished Death Note. It would be really cool if I can sing one of the theme songs for them like YOASOBI, I don't know if you know them but they just did a song in a Netflix show called OSHI NO KO. 

Can you share any memorable experiences or moments that have shaped your career as a singer?

My dancing experience helped with my experience as a singer because dancing is mostly about moving your body to music and catching the hidden beats or like you know hearing certain sounds. I definitely have been kind of used to listening to music very carefully so I think that was very helpful for me to make my own music because I kind of know how to deliver it in a certain way where it's like oh I want to dance this part or stuff like that.

As 2023 is coming to an end, what is your goal for the rest of the year?

I want to start recording more songs and you know get the song out there in Japan I would love to do a live performance um at least once before the year ends because I've never been able to do that yet so I'm working on my live rehearsal routine right now so yeah, i'd love to let the world see that before 2023 ends. I actually have two back dancers behind me and it's going to be a dance routine as well so I'm really excited!

Check out the video interview here. 

Follow Anna Aya
YouTube ➤ @AnnaJpopVEVO Instagram ➤   / annaayaofficial   TikTok ➤   / annaayaofficial 

Ciera Reeves

Ciera is the founder of KpopWise. She has been a fan of Korean pop culture since 2005 and writing about it since 2009. Her bias groups are VIXX and OnlyOneOf. She is a 2nd-3rd generation K-pop fan, but she is actively keeping up with the current artists. twitter instagram

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