Jero’s debut single “Umiyuki” has made huge waves on Japanese music. Real name Jerome White Jr., quarter Japanese and from Pittsburgh, he’s the first African-American enka singer and has the highest ranking enka debut single for a solo artist who hadn’t previously been in a group (catching #4 on the Oricon charts).
I’m personally not an enka fan so I can’t comment much on the music, but I’d say Jero has a nice enka voice. The beginning of the video makes it seem like a hip-hop song, then immediately flips a 180 into old-school sounding enka. Throughout the video though, there are scenes of Jero singing and two other guys doing hip-hop dancing in front of a graffiti covered wall, in straight-up gangsta dress – extremely disconcerted from the music itself, which I’d say is more calming and melancholy. (I really can’t legitimately judge enka music.)
It’ll be interesting to see Jero’s career path in the future – he sings pure enka but dresses in hip hop fashion; is he planning on ever bringing the two genres together? Or is it just a promotional scheme, and he has no intention of actually having hip-hop connections?
More interesting to see will be how Japan treats Jero; his Japanese heritage and language help assimilate him, but he is still a complete novelty to Japan, even more so than imports like Leah Dizon. Currently, a lot of the attention is focused on his appearance. Whether Jero will actually become a consistently popular Japanese music artist or if he is just a one-time hit for the foreigner and novelty obsessed Japanese remains to be seen.
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