Onitsuka Chihiro's piano balladeering ought to call to mind the likes of Tori Amos or Jewel. Instead, Onitsuka's vaguely country-esque music calls to mind Amy Grant or Carole King.
But unlike her American piano/songwriter co-horts, Onitsuka's soft, untrained voice gives her songs an emotional rawness that makes all the difference.
Onitsuka first started getting involved with music in junior high. Despite the pressure of young student life, she became absorbed in music, finally deciding to move to Tokyo from her home in Miyazaki.
That was in 1999. When she released her first single in Feb. 2000, Onitsuka had written more than 60 songs. When her second single, "Gekkou", was used in a television drama, Onitsuka met with success.
In February 2001, Onitsuka released her debut album, Insomnia, which topped the album charts and became a big seller throughout the year.
Onitsuka repeated her success a year later with her second album, This Armor, but during a tour in support of the album, the singer fell ill, forcing some cancellations. During her recuperation, Onitsuka recorded a third album, Sugar High, released in December 2002.
In 2003, she released four singles, building up to an album release. Instead, she parted ways with her management company in June 2004, and her label released a retrospective singles boxed set instead.
In July, Onitsuka signed a new contract with A&M, and she is expected to begin releasing new material in October 2004.