Popular Japanese R&B singer Kuraki Mai was born October 10, 1982. She was influenced at a young age by Whitney Houston for her vocals and Michael Jackson for his rhythm as a child. Her aspiration was to become a singer. During the second year of junior high, she decided to become the singer she had envisioned at a young age. A demo tape was in production when Mai entered high school. She came into contact with a member of the GIZA staff.

GIZA, her current record company offered Kuraki the chance to record in the United States and she travelled to Boston to record Baby I Like in 1999. This single was completely in English. At the age of 16, she debuted in the US under the name Mai K. The same year, Love, Day After Tomorrow was released in Japan. Of course, because newcomer Utada Hikaru had come onto the scene and captivated audiences, Mai was written off by some as a copycat. However, her strong talent for writing lyrics shone through. Her voice wielded enough power and range to rival that of Utada. She is seen by not a few teens in Japan as a better vocalist. However, because she has an accent when speaking English, Utada is seen as better at handling two languages.

Mai's first album Delicious Way and its corresponding single were big hits in 2000. Delicious Way went platinum and went on to become a number one seller that year.

Though some critics online called her first album weak in musical content, the singles following including tsumetai umi and always showed that she could blur the edges of the genre she sang. This trend continued within the confines of her second album PERFECT CRIME, which went double platinum and continued to sell well. Her first concert tour began in 2001 and she marveled fans with her professional stage manner and vocal strength.

A fun summer rock song Feel Fine! struggled with Ayumi Hamasaki's single Free and Easy for the coveted number one spot at the time both were on the charts. Few singers can say that they challenged the pop phenomenon that is Ms. Hamasaki with such results.

Mai turned 20 this year and her latest album Fairy Tale is--as of this writing--holding strong in the top five on the Oricon chart despite being released nearly a month ago.

With a strong fan base, talent, style, and credit as a lyricist, Kuraki Mai is a force to be reckoned with. She is an artist much more original than she is given credit for.

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