May Nakabayashi (aka May'n) belongs to the 2000s wave of J-urban artists influenced by Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera and led by Misia and Hikaru Utada. It's a crowded field, and Nakabayashi had to "debut twice," as it was marketed, before getting some recognition, largely thanks to her involvement with the Macross Frontier franchise.
Nakabayashi launched her career like any other regular Japanese pop star -- she won a music contest. In her case, the competition was quite tough: in 2003, she was one of the four winners of Love Music Audition, which was held by the Horipro talent agency and had almost 35,000 participants. She scored a deal with Universal, and debuted at the age of 14 under her real name, but the first try didn't work out: all three of her 2005-2006 singles at Universal, including the Seamo-backed "Fallin' in or Not," bombed in the charts, and she went on a hiatus. In 2007, she resurfaced on Victor Entertainment's Flying Dog under the alias May'n, "re-buting" with the single "Diamond Crevasse"/"Iteza Gogo Kuji Don't Be Late," a contribution by Yoko Kanno, anime composer extraordinaire. The tunes were used in the Macross Frontier anime, where Nakabayashi also voiced one of the characters, the pop star Sheryl Nome; the single was a success, just like its follow-up, "Lion," penned by Kanno again, performed by Nakabayashi and Megumi Nakajima and also tied to Macross Frontier.
The same year Nakabayashi got a slot at the Macross Budokan show and a festival in Singapore (her overseas debut), and in early 2009 she released her first EP, May'n Street, which charted at number two and was supported by Nakabayashi's debut Japanese tour. She continued to fuse with the Sheryl Nome character in 2009, voicing Sheryl in the anime's movie adaptation and releasing two Nome-tied singles, "Pink Monsoon" (number five on the Oricon) and "My Teens, My Tears," as well as the EP Universal Bunny labeled "Sheryl Nome starring May'n." She didn't abandon her real identity, though: May'n's debut full-length, Styles, came out the same day as Universal Bunny, and she booked the Budokan for her own early-2010 show.