Hitomi’s fading career

by Rinoa on January 8, 2010 · 6 comments · AddThis

Hitomi Shimatani
Shimatani for Otoko Uta ~20 Seiki Nostalgia~

Today I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and I ended up listening to Camellia, which was released during Hitomi Shimatani’s crossover era. This song is one of her most polished examples of the well-received crossover genre that many fans loved in the past.

Consequently I ended up echoing the rhetorical question that so many people have been asking. Where has Hitomi’s career gone? Hitomi used to be a symbol of grace and class but she seems to have gotten downgraded into singing covers rather than working on original works with talented musicians as she well deserves to be doing.

Hitomi was never one of those artists who achieved records and sold albums like hotcakes. However avex always seemed to give her a modest budget, which was fairly adequate for her modest success. She is easily one of the most beautiful female artists in Japan, with her natural and feminine looks and she has a lovely voice which has charmed many. Furthermore Hitomi has the type of personality which is liked by everyone and she easily fit in well in variety shows. Hitomi seemed to find her niche with her crossover genre, where she showcased her clear and melodic vocals and classical inclinations. It’s fairly obvious that Hitomi looks at her best in evening gowns and feminine dresses, which accentuate her beauty.

Nonetheless ever since she ditched her crossover style and cut her lovely tresses, Hitomi has been taking a direction which seems to be leading to mediocrity. Hitomi has been going through a slippery slope since 2008 with Flare probably being her most uninspired and unpopular album in her career and two similarly unattractively packaged singles. Maybe it had to do with the credit crunch, or maybe it had more to do with avex’s loss of confidence in Hitomi but in 2008 everything Hitomi released or did was on a tight budget. Hitomi stopped appearing on popular variety shows and end of year specials, with the exception of the CDTV Special.

Hitomi's 2009
Hitomi in 2009

Although 2009 sounded promising at first, things took an even worse turn. Last year was Hitomi’s 10th anniversary and disappointingly enough she only released one single and a best compilation. Her Hawaiian tour was canceled at the last minute and replaced with a very simple anniversary live which had a setlist riddled with ballads and covers, suggesting that this downgrade was what was in store for Hitomi’s career in the future.

However to be entirely fair, Hitomi’s decline in popularity is also a reflection of Japan’s rapidly changing tastes. In her peak, Hitomi and other popular artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki and Ami Suzuki thrived on pop music. Now it seems that most pop artists which were popular in the 1990’s and early 2000’s are now struggling on the charts and trying to salvage their popularity and create new fanbases in order to support their career.

The few lucky ones who have managed to stay at the top were the ones who were not afraid to take a risk and stand out with strong choreographies, powerful tunes and outrageous fashion choices coupled with scandals. On the other hand, Hitomi seems to blend in with the crowd, as if she meekly wants to please everyone, rather than trying to take charge of her career and do what she actually likes or wants to do.

In her 10 years of her musical career, Hitomi has rarely seen as being in charge of the creative process bar the few lyrics she penned. She never seemed interested in taking a daring twist in her music videos or aim towards something controversial. Although Hitomi’s fashion sense is sophisticated and classy, it also borders on the conservative and traditional. During her unofficial hiatus from the music scene, Hitomi frequently mentioned how much she missed singing but seemed helplessly stuck with such a fate. Admittedly being so nice and polite is part of her charm and why everyone likes her but it seems to have contributed to a lack of interest from the public. Consequently apart from being one of the most beautiful singers and being crowned the Cover Queen, Hitomi doesn’t seem to have anything else which makes her stand out. And to make matters worse, Hitomi’s loyal fanbase is small and her sales patterns are inconsistent.

Will 2010 prove to be more promising for this singer and will Hitomi get out of this slump? It’s hard to say since several artists have proved to be capable of making a comeback and getting a new fanbase. To be entirely honest though, right now it seems highly unlikely for Hitomi. avex trax seems set on playing it safe and focusing on cover albums since sadly enough these are the only releases which actually sell relatively well without going through the expenses of creating original tracks. Maybe it is time for her to switch labels and have more creative input in her releases.

Therefore unless Hitomi gets a tie-in which proves to be popular enough to gain decent sales and as a result renew avex’s interest in her, I’m afraid we’ll be stuck with cover albums and sparse singles. It’s a real shame especially knowing Hitomi has such a potential to release gems such as Heart & Symphony and Destiny -Taiyo no Hana- and has proved over the time that with the right combination of music genres and tie-ins is still capable of selling well. What she desperately needs is a hit single which attracts new fans and the interest of fans who have lost interest in her dwindling career.

On a more positive Hitomi still seems to have her love for music and always looks very happy when she is recording a new song. Furthermore she still looks utterly gorgeous, especially for her upcoming cover album Otoko Uta ~20 Seiki Nostalgia~, which will hopefully have an interesting package for her fans and will be followed by a more interesting year for Hitomi. Hopefully for us fans Hitomi’s musical career is not over yet and she’ll persevere.

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About the author

Rinoa enjoys spending her free time writing articles, most particularly reviews, biographies and news articles. Her favourite artist is Ayumi Hamasaki but she enjoys listening to a wide range of musical talents from all over the world.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

誰でしょう March 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Great article! I thought what you said overall was very insightful and correct.

I am extremely anxious that she’s going nowhere, and is stuck in a rut that she wont get out of. When I heard that she was releasing a new album I got really excited thinking, “That’s what she’s been up to during her hiatus!”
But alas, another cover album.
I loved the album, don’t get me wrong, but I loved titles like “Falco”, “Neva Eva”, “Perseus”, and many many others. I just wish she would do something new and original.
She showed us that she could dance with “Neva Eva” and past titles, so why doesn’t she do something like that?

I guess I’m just a little bitter that one of my favorite artists from the beginning is starting to fade into the background of the Japanese music scene.
I’m still going to stand behind her, but she really needs to win me and Japan back with something new, original, or daring.(Maybe all three.)


EnvyEyes February 7, 2010 at 1:35 am

How can someone on the outside looking in say matter of factly that Hitomi has no drive and lacks confidence as if they’re infallible? Singing covers means she doesn’t care?

Well anyway, I must say when I first saw Hitomi in her “Destiny -Taiyo no Hana-” music video, she was beautiful.

Then I saw a live performance of hers, she may have been performing that same song, and she was literally wearing rags. It didn’t look like the same woman. She looked older and aged. Maybe the rags and Fredazzled hair obscured her face but wow. She’s obviously not a vane and materialistic woman, but I wouldn’t say she doesn’t care about her career and lacks drive.

Contentness does not denote Laziness.

P.S.–>Shout out to Utada for being one of those artists from the 90s-Early 2000s that has managed to maintain her popularity and consistency in sales like no other as noted in this piece.


Pops REPUBLIC OF KOREA January 18, 2010 at 6:09 am

Insightful article, thanks for characterizing Shimatani San’s career situation. I can’t say I know about her creativity, drive or initiative, but perhaps a new label would be in order if Avex isn’t managing her well and has her stuck in a rut. Shimatani Hitomi has awesome talent, as we have seen in her music. So there is plenty of potential for her to revive her career. I hope she will be able to pursue her dreams and continue to share her rich talent with us without the undue parasitic drag of mediocre or disinterested management.


Rinoa January 24, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Glad you enjoyed the article! I think there is a possibility that a new label might be capable of drawing out her career more but I think there is also a lack of motivation from her side which probably makes her unwilling to switch labels. In the end all we can hope for is that her record label starts paying more attention to her or for Hitomi to regain her confidence and love for music.


Andre January 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

Great article, Rinoa. I feel the same about her carreer, despite the fact that Shimatani has been sucessful in your musical experiences, and she looks fine doing that stuff. But, moving back to her singing carreer, I always argue about the lack of Hitomi’s creativity and/or participation on her stuff.

Well, she still talent, I hope that she reactive the carreer and bring to us some fresh and new songs!


Rinoa January 9, 2010 at 11:07 am

I agree with your points Andre. Granted that she can pull off almost anything while singing, Hitomi lacks a lot of initiative/drive which seems to make her, well… a puppet, in a way. I guess in the end that’s why her latest original work seemed to be the leftovers that other artists didn’t want and she seems to accept it. So the lack of a creative input is definitely one of the top reasons why Hitomi’s career isn’t going downhill too.


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