This article is translated from an interview done with BoA by Excite.
Translation by sljinu
Excite: Your latest release, BEST&USA is a two-in-one which features a Japanese ‘Best Of’ album and your American debut album. First, we’d like to discuss your long-desired breakthrough into the American market. When you heard that your debut was finally going to become a reality, how did you feel?
BoA: Those plans actually began three years ago.
Excite: Oh, so you already knew quite awhile ago then.
BoA: Yes, I did. The actual recording for this album started about one and a half years ago. It didn’t really hit me when I first heard the discussion about me, debuting in America. At that time, I was going back and forth from Korea to Japan and it was quite tiring. That’s why if you ask me what my true feelings were, I can’t really say so since I didn’t really have any. The album hasn’t been released yet and I’m still yet to receive my copy of it. Once I receive it, maybe I’ll finally realize that it’s going to happen but until then, I can’t really say how I feel about all this.
Excite: Did you actively participate in the selection of the songs on the US album?
BoA: I’m still studying the American market so I received lots of opinions, ideas and advice regarding it. In the end though, I’d say I feel like I’m just studying from that.
Excite: Did you record everything in America?
BoA: The foundations were in America. The recording location varied according to the producer though, for example Australia. I even recorded in Thailand.
Excite: This is your biggest expansion in the world yet. Did you find anything really difficult about going into an even bigger, foreign market?
BoA: Definitely the English. All the songs are in English so it was quite difficult synchronizing the words with the melody. There were parts were I also had to speak really fast so I found those situations in particular, quite difficult.
Excite: So the English was still difficult, even for someone as proficient at it as you?
BoA: Yeah. I’m not sure why, but for some reason people think I can speak English (laughs).
Excite: Yes, you seem as though you can speak it fluently.
BoA: That’s not true because I can’t really speak English at all. So that’s why when I found out that I was going to America, I started taking English lessons.
Excite: Have you ever recorded in America before?
BoA: No, this is my first time.
Excite: Did you discover anything new about the recording process in America that you never encountered anywhere else before?
BoA: I could pretty much just focus on the actual recording this time. In Japan or Korea, they record companies often pile on all these promotional events on top of the actual recording, so despite having a set time for recording, it really puts a lot of pressure on you to meet the deadline. Well, it’s not that much of a rush. But in America, they have a specific time for the promotion to take place so it’s like, you could focus just on the recording. I could just enjoy myself and take it easy.
Excite: During the one and a half years, did you also record in Japan or Korea?
BoA: In Korea, the schedule was quite tight so I could never spend that long recording. In America, the tasks are divided up so you can concentrate on each thing, one at a time. Even so, it got quite hectic near the end of last year, trying to complete my US debut album and the single Eien/UNIVERSE/Believe in LOVE. Both of them turned out quite well though so that was a relief.
Excite: At the time this interview took place, it’s about a month until your album is released. Are you excited?
BoA: Hmm I wonder…I still have a lot of promotional activities to attend to in America so I can’t really say I’m relaxed just yet. But my ‘Best Of’ album is basically just a collection of all my works so far and I also worked hard in preparing my US debut album. Both of these albums are of extreme importance to me so I guess I could say I’m quite excited to hear what people think about it.
Excite: You mentioned your new single, Eien/UNIVERSE/Believe in LOVE earlier. It’s going to be released before BEST&USA and I believe it gives us an idea of what to expect from the album. I felt that the collaboration between you, Crystal Kay and VERBAL was particularly fresh.
BoA: This is actually the third time I’ve worked with VERBAL but it was the first time I worked with Kuri-chan. It seemed highly unlikely that the three of us would ever collaborate but we were all acquaintances or friends already. That’s why, when I heard that the three of us would be working together, I thought “Wow! This sounds really fun!”
Excite: What was the atmosphere of the actual recording like?
BoA: There are portions where we sang separately but when we layered over each other’s voices during the rap sections or the chorus, we all got together. It was during those sections that I truly felt at east and could really enjoy recording the song. It was fantastic for me but I don’t know what the others thought (laughs). I sure hope they feel the same way though.
Excite: Having worked with VERBAL for the first time in a few years, did you notice anything about you that has changed? For example, something that you can do now that you couldn’t do back then.
BoA: Hmm, I don’t really think so. I mean, of course I will have changed but I don’t think there’s any change up to a point I would notice…hmm, I wonder about that. Naturally, I’m the one who knows what I get up to everyday (laughs). But I don’t think I’ve ever seriously thought about or recognised any changes or growth in me.
Excite: I was really impressed by how much you’ve improved with your dance skills in your characteristic music video for Eien.
BoA: Thank you very much. It was choreographed by an American and so the style was quite different compared to what I’ve done before. It didn’t look particularly showy but it was still quite complicated with all these small movements to it. So even if it doesn’t look like I’m moving much, I actually am moving a lot!
Excite: Did you do anything else in America aside from recording? For example, voice training or dance lessons etcetera.
BoA: No, not really. Rather than lessons, it was more like, I just had to learn the dance routine. Maybe the rehearsal became my dance lesson? Anyway, I’ve always been good at the more masculine type of dancing. However, since I’ve also released a lot of feminine songs in Japan, the choreography had to be designed to suit the song. The person who choreographed Eien, Reset Bustamante, also provided the choreography for BAD DRIVE and Style during last year’s “BoA THE LIVE” and I believe I performed quite a mannish dance.
Excite: Looks like we’ve strayed off topic now. I’d like to discuss with you some more about BEST&USA but first, which song left the greatest impression on you?
BoA: Definitely UNIVERSE.
Excite: UNIVERSE is the opening track to your ‘Best Of’ album. It certainly looks like recording with people you get along with leaves a great impression.
BoA: I’m always recording songs by myself so the time spent collaborating with others makes things so much more enjoyable. It’s almost like just hanging out with friends instead of working, as time passes by in the blink of an eye. But with this song, it certainly feels like we’ve created a new sound again. It was really worthwhile.
Excite: A ‘Best Of’ album usually only has past tracks featured on it, however the addition of this song suggests that this isn’t just any ‘Best Of’ album; it’s a sign of the direction you are taking with regards to your music. Your playlist you are going to officially release is different to the sample we have now so what did you think about the new version?
BoA: I simply just enjoyed it. The style also gradually changes (throughout the album) and I gave myself a pat on the back for it (laughs).
Excite: Which song did you feel was a turning point for you?
BoA: It’s hard to select a particular song. I felt that rather than concentrate on a particular genre, I’d try out a range of styles and then go back to basics afterwards. As a result of that, I can sing different types of songs and there is also an increased variety.
Excite: If that’s the case then your USA album shows your focus on the dance type of music. I believe that the American music scene has got clearly defined genres so when deciding which one to enter, did you have any insecurities?
BoA: I had already decided to focus on dance music rather than have a variety of styles on my USA album. Because I had already made that decision, the songs I had in mind would all follow the same style as today’s hottest dance tracks. The fact that I don’t even have one ballad on the album proves that doesn’t it? Since the concept of singing and dancing was what I had from the very beginning, I thought it was important to show the audience straight up what I do best. In that respect, I felt it was very clear what I wanted to do.
Excite: So you could say it is an album ‘in the offensive’. On the other hand, your ‘Best Of’ album features a BEST&USA version of Meri Kuri and Valenti. What sort of criteria did you follow for these two songs?
BoA: Meri Kuri was used as the CM song for Audio-Technica and it was recorded with natural string instruments. Valenti was supposed to be like a bonus track and it is for the listener to enjoy. Also, I thought that’s the song I want to put in from the period of when I was around fifteen to sixteen (laughs). But changing the arrangement for the album means the vocals should also change so we re-recorded everything.
Excite: Do you often listen to your past songs?
BoA: Hardly ever (laughs).
Excite: A lot of artists seem to say the same thing (laughs). So with Valenti, you re-recorded it because you wanted to express how you feel now, as opposed to what you felt back when you originally sung the song.
BoA: Sang it differently before…I don’t think there are many singers who think that way (laughs). I still think that to sing is to express your feelings in the most natural way possible. I often get told that my singing style has changed over time but it’s not like it’s something that you can change intentionally; it’s just a natural course. My first ‘Best Of’ album, BEST OF SOUL is quite different to my latest ‘Best Of’ album but that’s because you see things differently in your teen years and your adult years. Having said that, the two songs that were re-recorded definitely sound quite different to their respective original versions so you might find it quite interesting if you compare the two.
Excite: Once again, there are two DVD’s that come with the limited first press editions. The first one has all the music videos since DO THE MOTION but is there any particular video that you really liked?
BoA: Personally, I really liked make a secret and Eien. I also quite like DO THE MOTION’s video. I really want show my ‘dance’ videos to everyone.
Excite: The second DVD interests me for it not only has the music video for Eat You Up but a documentary film as well.
BoA: Yes, it does. When we started recording, a lot of impressions were associated with the US album and I think you should be able to enjoy this DVD.
Excite: You’ve had to travel to many more places than ever before to create this album. Did everything become really hectic for you (laughs)?
BoA: Yes it did (laughs). It’s not like I went to America and stayed there for the entire period. I was coming and going quite frequently. The longest I stayed for was around one month. When I actually went, I amazingly knew where I was but I never remembered it for long. After awhile, I’d be like “Huh? Where did I go again?” or something like that (laughs). When too much happens in a short period of time then you tend to forget things pretty quickly (bitter smile).
Excite: It must be confusing to have all these tasks in Korea, Japan and now even America. What kind of plans do you have after this?
BoA: My number one wish is to have everything balanced and planned out really nicely. I also want to meet my fans in Japan so I can have a chance to thank all those who support me!
Excite: Which country do you feel is the easiest place to work in?
BoA: Well, each place has its pluses and minuses. With the US album, obviously it’d be easier if I worked in America and the people here would know what they are talking about. However, I want the listener to enjoy it as though it were new. To be able to work in Korea, Japan and America…that’s quite a rare thing isn’t it? I always think like “Just enjoy yourself over there”.
Excite: I thought of this upon hearing Eien but the lyric’s impression seems to fit you perfectly so it’d be really great if you could show us more of your feminine side as well as that really cool image of yours.
BoA: Yeah, that would be really good wouldn’t it? I’ll press on with my US debut and I’ll also try even harder with all my Japanese productions too!