Her own woman

<!– Link: Shinohara Rika

It’s almost easy to dismiss Shinohara Rika as another woman indie singer-songwriter, but two things prevent that from happening.

First, Shinohara is a musical rarity. All the Japanese women I’ve run into have either been idols or members of punk outfits. Idol pop singers, by their nature, aren’t exactly towering figures of feminism and all-girl bands such as Shonen Knife, Lolita No. 18 or Mummy the Peepshow are group-oriented.

By aligning herself with Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega and Lisa Loeb, Shinohara asserts her individuality — something quite outside of the Japanese norm, especially in terms of idols and punk girl groups.

Second, Shinohara writes some really good songs. Don’t let the subdued arrangements give a wrong first impression. Repeated listenings and Shinohara’s full alto reveal the simple beauty of her melodies.

During a recent showcase at SXSW, Shinohara sang most of her songs in English and sold two versions of her CD, Seikatsu no Uta — one in its original Japanese, the other as an English CD-R. She’s serious enough about breaking into the U.S. that she’s doing it on America’s linguistic terms.

But give the Japanese version of Seikatsu no Uta a chance. These songs deserve to be heard in the tongue for which they were originally written.