Shiina Ringo has changed my life. Forever. My introduction to her was her third solo album "Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana." "What?" say my American readers. Yep, she's Japanese, and her music is mostly in Japanese (with a good bit of them in English), although I hear she can sing in five languages. A classically trained pianist, she plays guitar and like 20 other instruments, many of them traditional Japanese instruments.
But I'm getting off track. So I listened to her album for the first time, and (this never happens to me) for the entire album I was unable to think about anything other than how amazing this music was. I was alternately laughing at the sheer unexpected brilliance of it, or sitting there with my mouth agape in wonder. Even though her songs follow basic pop song format, they're entirely unpredictable. Without compromising the musicality. Melodically and harmonically some of the most interesting stuff I have ever heard. She obviously knows enough music theory that she knows what rules can be broken. Well.. I retract that, she just has her own music theory.
"Okay, so her music is brilliant and musically advanced," you say. "But give me styles! Genres! What does her stuff sound like? What does it remind you of?" Graciously overlooking your conclusory preposition, I would have to truthfully answer you by saying that her music was so fresh and innovative that I could not place her alongside any other artist. At least, not for more than a few seconds.
But I'll try. If you will, combine
the delicacy, vocal chameleonism and creativity of Jewel
the huskiness/screaminess of Melissa Etheridge
the experimental creativity of Bjork
the tonal/vibrato control of a jazz great like Ella
dynamic emotional expression
...and that's just her voice. Now let's have that voice sing incredibly creative, evocative and difficult YET CATCHY melodies over amazing chord changes and textures in strange blends of any or all (but seldom just one) of the following:
20th Century Classical
TV Game Show
oh... and rock.
...then format the songs in standard pop format, but with incredibly creative and well-recorded production. Her long-standing producer/bass player Seiji Kameda has grown with her and helped her produce cohesive and delicious samplings of Shiina's unique dialect of the language of music.
If you search for her online, you will find two things: respect and drool. And both are well-deserved. I pretty much can't describe how wonderful the music of Shiina is. I have amassed nearly everything she has put out, and can't wait for her next thing. She has singlehandedly changed my understanding of creativity in music.
Although I could go on, I will merely say... check her out. The album I mentioned above is earth-shatteringly good, and the rest are still better than most music out there.