This year, Jero will be one of the featured performers on the annual Red and White Song Battle which is televised on NHK every New Year’s Eve. The show is considered a Japanese tradition (although ratings have been dropping in past years).
Jero is an American guy with a Japanese grandmother who grew up loving both hip hop music and Japanese traditional Enka music. He has become one of the biggest new Enka stars in Japan over the past year and a half or so.
I decided to check if there had ever been American singers on the show before and turned up some fun if not meaningless data, and another mystery to figure out.
It seems that 1990 and 1991 were very unique years in the history of the Singing Battle. They are the only two years in which American or British singers performed (other than Jero this year). 1990 brought us performances from Cindy Lauper and Paul Simon. 1991 featured performances by Andy Williams and England’s Sara Brightman.
1990 and 1991 are unique because there were also singers from the Philippines, Latvia, Taiwan, Korea, The Soviet Union, Brazil, and Mongolia featured. It was an incredibly international showing, Japan should be proud of those two years.
I’m still looking for someone who has the great Paul Simon performance, but here is when Cindy Lauper was on doing “I Drove All Night” live at the Red and White Song Battle on NHK on December 31st 1989.
Here’s hoping the people responsible at NHK start inviting some of the non-Japanese artists that become popular in Japan. It’s a fact that music from the US and other countries sell well here… I would love to see that represented in this New Years tradition.