Written by Zer0
Newer followers of Japanese music might not know it, but dance-pop diva Ami Suzuki was a household name among J-pop fans between 1998 and 2000. Produced by the legendary Tetsuya "TK" Komuro, Suzuki consistently charted very well, and was considered by the media to be the most worthy rival to Ayumi Hamasaki. Then, in 2001, Suzuki's family sued her management company, and suddenly no one wanted her. Her return to the music industry in 2005 was nothing short of a miracle - and the result of a daring act by avex trax's Max Matsuura.
Suzuki was discovered at the age of 15 via a Pop Idol-style competition on the TV show ASAYAN. She was the youngest competitor by several months. The race was close, and Suzuki very nearly came in second to an office lady. As a result of the show, Suzuki joined the production company AG Communication and was signed to Sony Music Entertainment Japan. She released her first single, "love the island," on June 1, 1998. That song, as well as her second single "Alone in my room," were used in advertising for tourism to Guam. Suzuki was promoted very heavily, and both singles were in the top 5 on the Oricon charts.
Suzuki got a radio show in October, had singles played constantly at the extremely popular Velfarre disco, and even won the Japan Record Award for Best New Artist at the end of 1998. Her albums and photobook did well, and her single "BE TOGETHER" beat Hamasaki's "Boys & Girls" to the number one spot in their first week of release. In 2000, Suzuki began having a stronger creative hand in her work, writing the lyrics for her tenth single, "Don't Need to Say Good Bye." However, this upswing to her career would not last very long.
In 2000, Eiji Yamada, president of AG Communication, was convicted on counts of tax evasion. This conviction brought it to light that AG had been withholding earnings and, thus, underpaying their artists. Suzuki's parents, afraid that association with such a company would tarnish their daughter's sweet image, sued AG, demanding that they terminate her contract. Suzuki and family won the lawsuit, and Suzuki's contract with AG ended. There would be no celebrations over this victory, however, as the Suzukis broke one huge de facto law of the Japanese entertainment industry.
It is highly frowned upon for an artist to sue their agency or record label in Japan, as they are considered to be the artist's superiors. Suzuki was blacklisted from the Japanese entertainment industry as a result of the lawsuit. Although Yamada was in the wrong, Suzuki's parents inadvertently killed their daughter's career with this act. No production companies would take her after the lawsuit, Komuro severed ties with her, and most mainstream journalists in Japan simply did not cover the story.
In a last-ditch effort to make as much money as possible off of Suzuki before she became unacceptable to associate with, Sony released a best-of collection in May of 2001, "FUN for FAN." It included her best-selling singles as well as the singles released since her last studio album. However, Suzuki's contract with Sony was not set to end until December 2004, and in the interim, Sony released nothing with her name on it. In the meantime, Suzuki shopped herself around to various record labels, but to no avail. She released two singles independently in 2004, and performed as many shows as she could in the hopes of an eventual comeback.
Suzuki performed at a Nihon Unversity festival near the end of 2004, and some of the University's alumni were in attendance. One alumnus in particular was co-founder and CEO of avex trax, Max Matsuura. Matsuura knew of Ami's previous work, and, impressed with her performance, took a brave chance and signed her to his label. On December 30th, it was formally announced that Suzuki would be returning to the music world, and on January 1st, her new official website opened. The site consisted only of the announcement of a new single, the appropriately-titled "Hopeful," due for release in February. The physical release was cancelled, and the original mix of the song would only ever be released as a cell phone download. In March, Suzuki's first physical single was released under avex, entitled "Delightful."
Under Sony, Suzuki never released a single that charted below number five on the Oricon charts. However, since her time with avex trax began, only one single, "Delightful," has done that well. Only one other avex single has even reached the top 10. Suzuki's contract with AG was terminated before she could hit a proper peak, and she has never fully recovered. Despite this seemingly large downturn in her career, Suzuki has had the chance to collaborate with a wide variety of artists and producers, including Otsuka Ai, Nakata Yasutaka, and taku takahashi. Her acting career has also had a boost, broadening Suzuki's options for the future. It seems the Japanese entertainment industry has not completely given up on her, and this podcaster certainly wishes her the best of luck for however long her career may last.