Hikaru Utada: First Love
When Hikaru Utada came out with this album in 1999, it was sensational for the J-pop scene. It almost felt like a whole new genre. Her R&B inspired tracks and use of lyrics by blending English and Japanese influenced my singing and writing style a lot.
Amel Larrieux: Infinite Possibilities
I really love Amel’s soothing voice, lyrical writing and the neo-soul vibe. I love the whole album and it really resonates with me. I don’t know how many times I listened to it whenever I needed inspiration. The first song of this album is called “Get Up” and I used it as my alarm in high school :) I actually got to meet Amel when she was on a tour in Tokyo and she was the sweetest person ever!
Janet Jackson: Velvet Rope
Janet is my muse. My mom took me to her "Velvet Rope" Tour in Tokyo Budokan for my 15th birthday and I was blown away by the performance!!! The songs, the dancing, the stage set, the band…everything made a huge impact on my curiosity towards American culture and music. Thanks to Janet, the young Yurie learned how to express herself on stage! Music is powerful!
Ella Fitzgerald: The First Lady Of Song
When I attended college in the US at the age of 18, I was studying classical voice but wanted to learn jazz singing. I asked a director of jazz in the music department where to start, and on a piece of paper he wrote “Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, etc..” So I went to Barnes & Noble, bought CDs of these women and listened to them over and over till I'd memorized their scatting. I learned so much by doing a huge amount of listening. It was just like learning a new language. But this album is how I first learned to swing! It brings me back to my freshman days in my dorm room.
Jill Scott: Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol.2
I was really into neo-soul when I was about 20 years old. I was living in LA and I loved blasting this album in my car. “Golden” is my favorite song. But the whole album is so well structured. Jill's lyrics are so poetic and honest, and it feels like she is showing you everything about her. I loved her voice and singing style too. I learned a lot from her when I wanted to expand the quality of my vocal production. And of course the style of neo-soul added depth to my jazz singing, and vise versa. Her previous album “Who is Jill Scott??” is also amazing.