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She goes all out to charm Hong Kong
J-pop queen Ayumi Hamasaki looks beyond Japan
By Chang May Choon
June 13, 2007 Print Ready   Email Article  

EITHER she really adores Hong Kong, or J-pop queen Ayumi Hamasaki is determined to make her presence felt there.

Click to see larger image
(Left) Ayumi arriving in Hong Kong. (Right) Ayumi filming the music video with Shawn Yue.

It started innocuously enough, with her penning the theme song of the Tony Leung-Takeshi Kaneshiro movie Confession Of Pain and gracing the film's premiere at the Fragrant Harbour last December.

Then came her concert tour that included three Asian stops - Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai - in March and April.

Her latest move?

Ayumi, 29, flew to Hong Kong last week and stayed eight days to shoot the music video for her upcoming new single, Glitter/Fated.

She even roped in Hong Kong heart-throb Shawn Yue as her co-star, marking her first collaboration with a Chinese actor.

So, does it mean we will be seeing more of this super diva best known as Japan's Madonna and a walking paparazzi magnet?

Yes, said Mr James Kang, marketing director of Warner Music Singapore, which distributes Ayumi's albums.

'As Japanese artistes reach a saturation stage in their career in Japan, they will need new breakthroughs and new ventures.

'What Ayumi is doing now is to expand her horizon to the whole of Asia and, with so many big stars coming up, she has to woo her Asian fans by making them relate to her and feel like she has come to them.'

After all, there has been numerous reports suggesting that Ayumi's star had fallen back home in Japan, where she sorely lost out to her biggest pop rival Kumi Koda in terms of album sales and media exposure last year.

THREATENED

Mr Kang, whose company has made household names out of Ayumi and other J-pop acts like Speed and Kiroro here, admitted that Ayumi probably feels 'threatened' by Kumi's outstanding performance last year.

Perhaps, the rivalry is more intensely felt as both artistes belong to the same record label, Avex Trax, where Ayumi has reigned as queen for years before Kumi came along and nearly usurped her throne.

Hong Kong is a 'natural' place to start, not only because it is Asia's showbiz news centre but also because it is home to Avex Trax's regional head office, said Mr Kang.

Just look at how the indomitable Hong Kong media tracked Ayumi's every move last week, and how quickly the news spilled over to China, Taiwan and Singapore.

Even though she gave no interviews and was kept far from reach by her massive entourage of black-clad personal bodyguards, she still won reporters over with her gracious, friendly ways.

The petite songbird with dyed-blonde locks had a smile for everyone and, when not filming, she would turn to wave to the army of photographers who were constantly crowding around the film set.

Not once did she throw tantrums or lose her patience.

Not when she had to redo a kissing scene with Shawn about 20times, reportedly because they could not contain their laughter during the filming.

Nor did she protest when told to run repeatedly in a beautiful but bulky wedding gown at least 10 times.

The song tells of a love story, and Ayumi plays herself in the music video.

During a promotional visit to Hong Kong, the singer meets and falls in love with one of her local bodyguards (Shawn).

One night, the couple sneak out for a date, which ends with a kiss. Obviously basking in love, she spoon-feeds him fishballs and gives him her ring.

They decide to elope, but tragedy strikes when he ends up in a motorbike accident and leaves her stranded in her wedding gown.

Apparently, Ayumi was in high spirits throughout the week, which is a far cry from earlier reports that suggested she was depressed over Hong Kong singer Eason Chan's criticism about her lip-synching during her concert.

Unlike earlier trips to Hong Kong when she indulged in shopping for designer labels, Ayumi focused on work this time.

She appeared to be enjoying Shawn's company and, at one point, she reached out to pat his head and he made a face in return.

Probably out of respect to her, Shawn declined to talk to reporters during the filming process.

Only when it was over did his tongue loosen - briefly.

Shawn, who beat Edison Chen to snag the role, would only say that it was difficult to communicate with Ayumi given their language barrier, but they are friends now.

He wouldn't say if he has her handphone number.

Shawn, 26, also described his co-star as an artiste with her own mind, who would demand a clear understanding of everything she needs to do, reported Oriental Daily News.

But, to fans, Ayumi was Miss Congeniality personified.

Reports said she took the initiative to walk towards fans waiting for her outside her hotel and signed autographs for them.

About 30 fans reportedly chased her around town to catch an extra glimpse of their favourite J-pop star.

PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN?

Overall, it looked like a massive publicity campaign that has worked in Ayumi's favour.

So, what is next for her?

Mr Kang said she will probably venture into China soon because 'it's the biggest market (in Asia) and the closest territory to Hong Kong'.

Maybe more news will follow when she releases her new single next month.

But her Singapore fans will have to wait to see her again. She first visited the Lion City in 2002 to attend the inaugural MTV Asia Awards.

Mr Kang said: 'I think she will come here only for special mega Asian events. Nothing else can command her presence or price.'

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