Aya Matsuura

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Japanese pop singer Aya Matsuura began her career in 2001 after successfully auditioning for producer/pop Svengali Tsunku's stable of female singers, known as Hello! Project. Initially performing as a…
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Japanese pop singer Aya Matsuura began her career in 2001 after successfully auditioning for producer/pop Svengali Tsunku's stable of female singers, known as Hello! Project. Initially performing as a solo artist, Matsuura has also performed in a number of groups with other Hello! Project singers as well as developing a career as an actress and radio and TV personality. Despite never achieving a number one hit in the Japanese Oricon charts, Matsuura was a consistent feature near the top of the charts, with a run of 17 Top Ten singles starting with her debut, "Dokki Doki! Love Mail," and running through to 2005's "Ki Ga Tsukeba Anata." Her 2002 debut album, First Kiss, and sophomore effort, 2003's T.W.O., were also sizable chart hits and marked the peak period of Matsuura's popularity as a singer, as well as containing the bulk of her best-known songs, including the frantic and upbeat "Momoiro Kataomoi," probably her most popular and successful number. In common with nearly all Hello! Project artists, Matsuura has been involved in numerous side endeavors with other singers from the same stable, performing with Maki Goto of the group Morning Musume in no less than three groups: Gomatto, Natsumi Nochiura, and DEF:DIVA. In addition, Matsuura formed a brief partnership with singer Miki Fujimoto, performing with her both as the duo GAM as well as in Gomatto.

Matsuura has also found some success as an actress. In 2001 she debuted in controversial writer Ryu Murakami's hard-hitting family drama Saigo No Kazoku, playing the role of the dysfunctional family's rebellious schoolgirl daughter. She also appeared in the 2006 movie revival of the 1980s' Sukeban Deka franchise, again playing a rebellious schoolgirl, but this time doing battle with fellow Hello! Project member Rika Ishikawa using a high-tech yo-yo. After her second album, however, Matsuura's chart positions and CD sales gradually began to drop. Although the song "Ne~e?," produced by Yasuharu Konishi of Shibuya-kei legends Pizzicato Five, was a sizable hit, subsequent singles gradually abandoned the youthful, energetic image that had been Matsuura's main selling point, instead opting for a series of string-laden ballads and midtempo MOR rock in an attempt to court a more mature image, to steadily diminishing returns. By spring 2009 it became clear that Matsuura (by then officially 22 years of age) was too old to fit in with the youth-focused Hello! Project's marketing strategy, and it was decided that she would, in the organization's terminology, "graduate." Since then, she has continued her career on radio and TV, as well as planning new live appearances.