Hello, Arama! Japan readers! As you may have noticed, our Featured Artist series has been dormant for over a year now, and I said that I wanted to revive it a few weeks ago. I thought about who to do a feature on, and then I realized that I said I would do one on ACO back when I reviewed CICADA’s debut album about a year ago. And seeing as how she released her new album in celebration of her 20th anniversary last month, now seems like the perfect time.
Who is ACO?
ACO is a singer-songwriter and composer from Aichi Prefecture who was born in 1977. She debuted in 1995 with the single “Fuan na no.” Her music was originally R&B, but as her career went on, she got more involved in electronic music. She would now be best described as being an alternative artist. Over the course of her career, she has worked in many genres besides R&B and electronic music, including jazz, trip hop, hip hop, downtempo, and rock. ACO has collaborated with many artists throughout her career, including Dragon Ash, DJ KRUSH, Sunahara Yoshinori, and Carsten Nicolai. In fact, the Dragon Ash song, “Grateful Days”, is ACO’s biggest claim to fame, due to the song selling over 1 million copies.
What is so special about her?
ACO has an interesting voice. When I first heard her, it reminded me a bit of Chara, in that they both have that raspy, babyish quality to their voices. But ACO’s voice is more than just that. She can smooth it out and make it more soulful. She can also make her voice light as air and hit some higher notes. Another thing that is special about ACO is how she has crossed multiple genre lines without losing her sense of self. When she crosses over into a new sound, it seems like something organic rather than a calculated move in an effort to raise sales.
Where do I start?
When approaching an artist that has been around for several years, there is always the question of where to start. I personally always say to either start with their debut album or their most recent best album. ACO has 1 best album, 2007’s “ACO BEST ~girl’s Diary~.” It doesn’t really give the full scope of her sound, seeing as how she has released 4 studio albums since its release. But that being said, I would say that it is a good place to start, seeing as how you do see a transition in that 2-disc album from her R&B sound to her more alternative sound.
I personally am more fond of her R&B sound and the earlier portion of her alternative career. Right now, I’ll go through some of her releases.
ACO’s debut album, “Kittenish Love”, was released in 1996. The album sees ACO coming onto the scene as a singer of smooth R&B.
ACO’s second album, “NUDE”, was released in 1997 and sees her continuing with R&B.
Released in 1998, ACO’s third album, “Lady Soul”, doesn’t stray too far from the path ACO has already traveled.
Released in 1999, “absolute ego”, ACO’s fourth album, is her masterpiece. It is her best selling album and the album with her best selling song, “Yorokobi ni Saku Hana.” It is an amazing album and my favorite of hers by far. The album also features my favorite ACO song, “Natsu no Hi.” “absolute ego” was really a turning point for ACO, where we see her start to go into more electronic territory.
ACO released her fifth album, “Material” in 2001. At this point, she’s traveling down the electronic road. The song “4gatsu no Hero” is my second favorite song by her.
“irony”, ACO’s sixth album, was released in 2003. It’s a much more ambient affair than her previous albums.
ACO released her first mini album in 2006, “mask.” This release was different for her since it featured a more mainstream electropop sound. It also saw her re-doing her debut single “Fuan no no” in this style.
In 2007, ACO released her first best album, “ACO BEST ~girl’s Diary~.” After this, she left Sony Records, the label she had been with since her debut. Shen then, she’s been an independent artist.
ACO returned to music in 2010 with the album “devil’s hands”, her seventh. From this point forward, she has had a more stereotypical alternative sound.
ACO’s eighth album, “LUCK”, was released in 2012.
In 2013, ACO released “TRAD”, her ninth album. This album saw her covering some of her old songs like “SPLEEN” and “4gatsu no Hero” in new her style.
In 2015, ACO released her most recent album, “Valentine.”
So where can I find her?
ACO’s post-Sony releases can be found on iTunes worldwide. Her Sony-era work can be found physically and digitally in Japan. ACO doesn’t do social media, but she does have an official website.