Written by Jack Herbert
Broodingly handsome R&B crooner
Ken Hirai is the newly-crowned king of Japanese R&B, one of the industry's fastest growing and most popular genres.
Although he is a "pure-blooded" Japanese, his curly hair and distinctively Caucasian profile set him apart from other J-Pop singers.
He released his debut album, 'un-balanced', in 1995. One of his singles was used as the theme for a popular TV drama, generating sufficient attention for him to rush out a second album, 'Stare At', the following year.
Unhappy with this situation, Hirai took a 4-year break (potentially fatal for the career of a new singer) before releasing 'The Changing Same' in 2000. This album, particularly lead single 'Rakuen', earned him renewed popularity across Asia. Reinvigorated by its hiatus, his soulful falsetto has been unstoppable ever since.