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Tom Smith reports on YUI, the all-caps rock chick.

YUIIt’s been suggested that Japan’s singer, song-writing guitar chick YUI is her country’s answer to Avril Lavigne. Amid an industry manufactured and micro-managed to levels that make England’s best pop efforts seem amateur in comparison, she stands out as beacon of musical delight. For teenage girls, she’s proof that you don’t need to buy into the squeaky clean, plastic smiles of sickeningly sweet J-pop to be a successful female musician; for guys she’s the girl next door, and for anime fans she’s composed and performed themes in some of the most prominent series of recent years, including Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

In fact, if you’ve been keeping up with your Bleach, you should be familiar with her brand of pop-rock already. YUI’s third single ‘Life’ featured as the ending theme for episodes 52-63 and quickly helped establish her as a serious player in Japan’s music scene when her first album From Me To You, which features the song, debuted at the start of 2006.

YUI returned to the world of Bleach with her second album Can’t Buy My Love (yep, she’s a huge Beatles fan and ‘borrowed’ the name). Included on it was her seventh single ‘Rolling Star’, the opening to the fifth series of Bleach. The single rocked Japan’s charts, entering at number four in its first week and going gold with over 150,000 copies sold. We have a sneaky suspicion it also helped boost sales of the album too, which sold more copies in its first week than the entire lifetime sales of From Me To You.

Her journey into the industry was equal parts fortune and misfortune. She had always had a fascination with music, something her single mother tried to encourage her to pursue by suggesting she kept a diary of feelings which could act as source-book when creating poems. As she progressed through school, the amount of time she could spare for music became thinner and thinner. However, that all changed when she fell ill and was taken to hospital. The time out from her usual hectic schedule of school and working to pay for tuition fees gave her time to think. She came to the conclusion that school and music could not coexist. She dropped out, joined a music cram school and performed on the streets to overcome her shyness.

If this were a screenplay of YUI’s life, the montage would be kicking in right about now. She performed three songs at her audition for Sony, including ‘It’s Happy Line’, which would become her first single released under indie label Leaflet Records. ‘Why Me’, a future B-side on her debut major label single ‘Feel My Soul’. And ‘I Know’, an album track from her first LP. All three left the judges in awe, leading them to award her maximum marks, and to quarrel amongst themselves as to which Sony label could have her.

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Seven years on, her songs are still rocking the charts and finding their way into various commercials, dramas and anime. However, ‘Rolling Star’ is her last contribution to the Bleach series.

YUI’s ‘Rollingstar” is the opening theme to season five of Bleach. Season 6 part one is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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