Stars roll out for second annual Billboard Awards

4Minute, A.I. and EXILE are joined by Debbie Gibson and Nick Carter as Billboard magazine’s influence increases

By Robert Michael Poole 7 February, 2011

Billboard draws a wide range of artists from jazz to J-pop as well as U.S. stars.

Billboard’s status in Japan took another stride forward as an arbiter of what’s hot in Japanese music with its second annual award ceremony at Roppongi’s Tokyo Midtown on Sunday.

This time taking in two separate venues to allow for more performances, the three-hour show brought together acts from Japan, South Korea and the United States to dish out awards based on chart success, and those chosen by the American chart compiler.

Current Billboard magazine editorial director Bill Werde opened proceedings by describing how Billboard had begun 117 years ago as a company literally dealing with billboards.

Billboard challenges Oricon

In the last few years Billboard has gained a foothold in Japan, where the dominate local chart compiler Oricon has come under fire for alleged fixing in recent years, leading to an ugly court battle with a writer who dared to question their integrity, which was settled out of court in 2009.

The music industry in Japan has given more credence to Billboard and the 2010 awards saw leading acts from classical, jazz, pop and independent music take their seats.

The awards are split into three, those based entirely on chart success — with boy band Arashi winning Single of the Year for “Troublemaker” — those chosen by Billboard and one by public vote.

Western acts Norah Jones, Maroon 5 and Owl City were all victorious thanks to their chart success in Japan.

K-Pop group 4Minute show off their award to the press.


4Minute bring the Muzik

Winners on the night, chosen by Billboard, included one of the leaders of the K-Pop boom, girl group 4Minute, who took home a Korea Billboard Special Award.

The five-piece showed exactly why South Korean acts are stealing a march on their Japanese counterparts with tightly choreographed performances of “First” and “Muzik,” with the hall’s speaker system booming.

Fans screamed out the names of the girls, who did their best to answer questions on stage in Japanese, and the five-piece delighted the press by hanging around for extra shots, before attending a luxury after-party at the Ritz Carlton hotel.

Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys claimed that Japan “was like a second home” before singing solo single “Just One Kiss.” Another American singer, Debbie Gibson, has recorded an entire album of translated J-Pop songs all originally by men and performed Yutaka Ozaki’s “I Love You” in the Billboard Live Tokyo hall — backed by three iceskaters on the ice rink that provides the backdrop to the stage.

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Other winners included HY for “Independent Artist of the Year” who performed seven-minute Okinawan-influenced song “Toki o Koe” with traditional drummers.

Public voting saw the “Artist of the Year” award go to J-Pop mega-boy band EXILE for the second year running, represented by founding member Matsu.

The event culminated in a powerful performance by Japanese R&B singer A.I. and American singer Chaka Khan, who duetted on each other’s songs after taking home an “International Collaboration Special Award.”
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