J-R&B Goddesses SILVA, DOUBLE, and SUGARSOUL Come Together to Celebrate a Glorious Time

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The temps keep on soaring here in Japan, it was 104°F (around 32°C) on Friday! It feels even more horrible with this terrible cold I caught about a week ago. Thank goodness it’s the weekend where I can drink lots of Aquarius (a Japanese sports drink packed with electrolytes), medicine, and sleep under the air conditioner for long periods of time.
While I am laying in bed and trying to fend off this cold, my companion is Spotify. Song after song resonates from my iPhone as I lay down, closing my eyes to ward off the fatigue. When I am conscious, I check out the music sites I follow to see what got released recently. I jump out from bed in excited, ready to find their new song, when I see three names:
SILVA, Double, and Sugarsoul

The 90s’ are Almost All That

Every decade seems like a golden era of some musical genres. The 70s had disco, the 80s had glam metal, 90s had grunge rock, and 10s had EDM. For 90s’ Japan, there were a lot of new genres popping up right and left. One of those influential genres in Japan was Japanese R&B or J-R&B.
Image and video hosting by TinyPicJ-R&B was an underground genre for the first half of the 90s. There were some releases here and there, but they weren’t too popular. Most of the J-R&B in the 90s were either mixed with pop — like Bubblegum Brother’s hit song “WON’T BE LONG” (1990) or songs from the ultra-popular girl quartet named SPEED — electronica, or other genres. Another thing was that if there was a J-R&B artist who was super popular, it was mostly a male artist (like Toshinobu Kubota). Finally, hip-hop was more popular than J-R&B for some time. And that was thanks to EAST END x YURI’s mega-hit “DA.YO.NE” (1995).
Then December 9, 1998 happened. This was the day that Hikaru Utada released her debut double A-side single “Automatic/time will tell“. This release brought a new direction in the Japanese music industry as it clearly defined what J-R&B was. Utada also paved the way for other female J-R&B artists. As Naomi Gingold from PRI put it: “[Utada’s debut single] was brash, had attitude and it introduced an R&B sound into Japanese pop music.”[1]
Image and video hosting by TinyPicUtada broke barriers and influenced others to incorporate R&B into their songs. I remember Tsunku talking about how he wanted to ride on the J-R&B wave. He incorporated that sound into Morning Musume.’s 1999 song “Memory Seishun no Hikari”. Several artists tried to emulate Utada’s success. Some were successful, but others weren’t.  Such artists were COLOR (before they became BUZY), AN-J (listen to “Someday”), EARTH, Crystal Kay, and Mai Kuraki.

But, Wait a Minute…

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIf you are a diehard Japanese music fan like I am (or even more than I), you might be saying something like this: “But SILVA, DOUBLE, and Sugarsoul all came before Hikaru! You are talking nonsense!”. That is true; the three R&B singers did make their official debut in 1997 or 1998. But, each singer didn’t break into the Top 20 of the Oricon charts until late 1999 to mid-2000, a few months after Utada’s hallmark release. It is unclear if the singers’ major break was due to J-R&B’s rising popularity in early 1999. Or, that maybe that the singers tweaked their songs to be more aligned with a coherent J-R&B sound that came from Utada’s influence.
Although SILVA, DOUBLE, and Sugarsoul are all different, artistic wise, then Hikaru Utada, it was all thanks to Utada’s first single that helped to bring J-R&B more mainstream and helped the three J-R&B step into the spotlight.

What are They Sampling?

“UPLOAD” features instrumentation that isn’t original, very much to a lot of R&B and hip-hop songs out there. This piece samples bits and pieces from Jeff Newmann’s “Positive Force”. It was featured on the 1988 album, Automotion (Future Aspects Of Current Pop) Vol. 3, that was released in Germany. The bridge that pieces “UPLOAD” with this 1988 release is a morning TV show called “Asa Made Nama TV” Live TV Till the Morning. “Positive Force” was featured as a theme song for the TV show around 2006, thus being somewhat well-known among the Japanese and to the three artists.
It is a pretty cool piece, don’t you think? That opening is super powerful and catchy with those synthesizers. They act like Olympian trumpets heralding in a powerful god or figure. The other parts are decent and somewhat appealing, but that main synthesizer part is such a memorable diddy.

My Thoughts on “UPLOAD”

The whole goddess theme is abundant throughout the song. The synthesizers open the song, harking the listeners to listen to these three J-R&B divas. After the triumph opening, the ladies crooned the chorus for the first time. The first verse is sung by SILVA, who is one of my favorite J-R&B singers. The second verse is covered by DOUBLE, and then the rap is done by SUGARSOUL.
The instrumentation, besides the sampling, is very basic. It features a synthesizer scattering some notes here and a bass guitar — which is plugged into a synthesized device — serving as the critical backbone for the piece. Although there isn’t much instrumentation, the song is still bouncy, especially that bass part. The chorus is also catchy and makes you want to sing!
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Lastly, I want to point out the graphics and the costumes featured in the music video are stunning. The girls and their production team did a fantastic job portraying the theme of “diva = goddess”. To be honest, I know the three singers were going with the whole “Athena Greek goddess” theme for their outfits. But, it does remind me a little bit of that one SNL skit entitled “Goddesses of Creation“. I could be crazy though.
What do you think about the song below? Do you think it lives up to the hype of being a diva-lish song?

About the Artists

Image and video hosting by TinyPicSILVA got her start in 1995 under with the release of the album CINNAMON under her real name Yoshiko Takahashi.  Born in 1975, SILVA took voice lessons since a young age, aiming to attend the acclaimed Takarazuka Music School. But,  she didn’t pass the entrance exam and entered a contractual deal with Epic Sony.
Things didn’t work out as she changed labels in 1998 to a Universal Japan sublabel. She also changed her name to SILVA after she suggested it to the label, who first recommended the alias “Gold”. SILVA released her debut single in the fall of 1998, entitled “Sachi”. She has done various projects over the 20 years; went New York City to become DJ SILVA for three years, formed an AOR/R&B band named NAMELESSNESS, and recently released her anniversary album titled Quiet Moon.
Image and video hosting by TinyPicDOUBLE started off a duo between sisters TAKAKO (singer and composer) and SACHIKO (singer and lyricist). They were influenced by their older sister named NORIKO who brought them back music videos of Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson when she studied in the US. The sister aimed to be an R&B group and signed with For Life Entertainment after winning an audition in 1995. Three years later, the duo released their debut single “For me”.
The sisters got their break in the spring of 1999 with the release of the single “Shake”, reaching the #21 on the Oricon charts and selling over 100,000 copies. That success was bittersweet as SACHIKO died suddenly from subarachnoid hemorrhage on May 21, 1999. Despite the tragedy, TAKAKO decided to continue to perform under the DOUBLE name in honor of her sister. She has collaborated with many famous Japanese artists over the years like ZEEBRA, Heartsdales, and MUMMY-D. DOUBLE just celebrated twenty years with the best album LATEST SINGLE BEST.
Image and video hosting by TinyPicSUGARSOUL started off as a trio in 1997 with vocalist aico, DJ HASEBE, and composer Kawabe. They made their debut in the same year with the single “Those Days”. Their big break came two years later with the single “Garden”. It was a collaboration single with DRAGON ASH’s vocalist Kenji. The single sold over 900,000 units and was #2 on the daily Oricon charts.
The group dissolved in 2001 after the release of their ninth single “SOULMATE”. But, nine years later, aico revived the name as part of her solo career.


[1] “Utada Hikaru Upended the Japanese Music Scene like No One before – or Since.” Public Radio International, PRI, www.pri.org/stories/2016-04-15/utada-hikaru-upended-japanese-music-scene-no-one-or.

This Post Has 64 Comments

  1. julivaglobal

    I’m not a fan but I have so leant a lot so far

    1. aisasami

      I’m glad you learned a lot! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Chai

    i love hearing new music. thank you for sharing this one, i love the beat.

    1. aisasami

      I am glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Mary Burris

    I’ve never really paid attention to Japanese music or J-pop or J-R&B, But this isn’t terrible. I would listen to it again and not change it to something else if it came on the radio. Thanks for the introduction.

    1. aisasami

      You are welcome! I am glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Kristina Owens

    I’m not personally a fan but this taught me a lot thanks for sharing.

  5. It has been SO SO SO hot here in Los Angeles, CA, too – ugh! I can’t stand it. That being said, I am not much of a music person!

    1. aisasami

      That’s ok! Hope you are doing ok under the heat! Thanks for commenting!

    1. aisasami

      You are welcome! I am glad that you learned a lot! Thanks for commenting!

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Let me know what you think about the song!

  6. Wajiha

    This was interesting, Ive never heard of them, might give it a try now

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Let me know what you think about the song!

  7. Indu

    All new info to me on music. I am curious now to listen these pieces.

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Let me know what you think about the song!

  8. Heart about this singer for the fist time. Listened to Upload. Quite peppy number!

  9. Amays Ziing

    Nice! I love music! I must check them out! thanks for sharing!

    1. aisasami

      I am glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting!

  10. Europe finance blog

    Music is life and pretty ladies give it colour.

    1. aisasami

      I am glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting!

  11. Europe finance blog

    Music is indeed a weapon.

  12. Europe finance blog

    Music is no doubt a weapon that can be harnessed right or wrong.

  13. fibidrese

    Wow, I will check these new song later! This was interesting

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Let me know what you think!

  14. Sayanti

    I am gonna check this song out right away. For a music lover it’s interesting

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Please let me what you think of the song!

    1. aisasami

      I’m glad you like it! Thanks for commenting!

  15. Ishani Nath

    That is quite interesting information related to music. Thanks for sharing.

    1. aisasami

      I’m glad you like it! Thanks for commenting!

  16. Stephanie

    I’ve never heard of J-R&B before, but it’s definitely interesting! Different music than what I usually listen to, but it’s still fun to hear music from other cultures.

    1. aisasami

      I’m glad you like it! Please check out more on streaming sites, J-Music is really good! Thanks for commenting!

  17. Jennie Carfora

    Wow, I remember listening to some Dragon Ash when I grew up in Okinawa. I liked Utada Hikaru and Crystal Kay the most, sang it a lot at Karaoke 😉

    1. aisasami

      What was your favorite song singing at karaoke? I have loved Utada and Crystal since I was in middle school. I met Crystal Kay two years ago and she was a sweet and amazing person! Thanks for commenting!

  18. loisaltermark

    Isn’t discovering new music the best?! I haven’t heard of anything you mentioned here but I’m definitely going to check them out now. Yay for Spotify!

    1. aisasami

      Spotify is my drug! It’s the greatest place to find music! Thanks for commenting!

  19. k8kreates

    Thankfully the temperature has now dropped back down to normal in the UK now! I haven’t heard of any of these artists, so thanks for sharing!

    1. aisasami

      You guys got it bad over there too! Please take care! And please listen to J-Music when you have a chance. Thanks for commenting!

  20. levy230902

    I’ve never heard about this group before. I’m going to try listening to some of their songs later. thanks for sharing.

    1. aisasami

      Please do and tell me what you think of it! Thanks for commenting!

  21. Brit Strawbridge

    I have never really listened to this kind of music, though they do play it a lot in sushi restaurants and I haven’t minded it!

    1. aisasami

      There are some really great Japanese songs out there and not the ones that get a bad name. Check it out on Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora when you have a chance. Thanks for commenting!

  22. Rachel

    I am not familiar at all with Japanese music. This is relly interesting though. It is facinating how the trends are so different.

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Japanese music is similar yet different than most of the music around the world. It is interesting to find out how Japanese music shares some characteristics with Western pop. There is a lot of tiny connections. Please check out J-Music!

  23. Holly Lasha

    What interesting information. I’m not familiar with Japanese music, but you make it sound awesome!

    1. aisasami

      Thanks, I try. Thaks for the comment!

  24. Angela Tolsma

    I hope you feel better and that it starts to cool down. We’re suppose to get that high this weekend and I am not looking forward to it. I have heard of this band and listen to them a bit. But I didn’t know anything about them!

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for the well wishes! It will be the uppers 80s on Thursday, maybe I can open my windows!

  25. loveforlacquer

    Discovering new music is the BEST! This sounds awesome!

    1. aisasami

      It sure does. Thanks for commenting!

  26. Flossie

    Yes, that is definitely a “diva-ish” song! Honestly, I had no idea there even was a Japanese R&B movement in the 1990s, so I learned something new today 🙂

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting. When Hikaru Utada brought the American R&B sound, Japanese people were all over it. It is hot.

  27. Lauren Stewart

    I LOVE music so much!! Bring back all those grade school classics! I had no idea about this but YESSSS PLEASE

    1. aisasami

      YES please! I love classics too! What is your favorite classic? Thanks for commetning!

  28. michellesillery

    Thanks for such an interesting article. You learn something new everyday. I have to admit I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to Japanese Music

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! You do learn something new each day. Japanese music is amazing if you know what to listen to!

  29. itsPavan

    I have never really given J-music a chance or even heard about it. But thanks for sharing your knowledge on it and I love discovering new music.

    1. aisasami

      Thanks for commenting! Please do check it out, J-music is amazing! There is a lot of content on streaming sites, check them out there!

  30. toastycritic

    I know sampling is such a huge part of music these days. It sounds like that Utada was very influential on the J-R&B scene. And that the music lives on in newer artists.

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