Squeezing among all of the rebirth of the female aidoru via Hello Project, the glory days of SMAP and the other young turks at Johnny's Entertainment, and the big burst of J-R&B at the beginning of the 21st century was Mai Kuraki（倉木麻衣）. Well, I don't think it's fair to use the verb "squeeze" since it would hint that the lass was somehow struggling to keep her head above water at the time, and that certainly wasn't the case here. She carved a nice little niche for herself in terms of the charts and public attention as someone who was not an aidoru and not an R&B chanteuse but an up-and-coming singer with her own brand of gentle pop. Perhaps the reason that I had mistakenly assumed that she was a native or near-native speaker of English was that her delivery of her first few singles struck me as being so American...not along the lines of a Britney Spears but more along the lines of earlier teen popsters such as Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.
Like her breakthrough single, "Love, Day After Tomorrow", her 2nd single, "Stay By My Side" was one of those songs whose video excerpt popped up all over the TV for months and yet, it was awfully hard to see her perform it on the telly through shows like "Music Station". But at the time, I found that a number of singers also refrained from TV appearances such as Misia and bird. Not that I complained too much since I could understand the desire to keep the mystery and freshness of a talented singer from getting overexposed.
In any case, "Stay By My Side" is a pleasant and gentle ballad written by Kuraki and composed by Aika Ohno（大野愛果）which came out in March 2000. Not only did it hit the top spot for 2 weeks on Oricon, it went Triple Platinum and became the 17th-ranked song of the year. And although it took a few years, Kuraki was finally invited onto the 2003 Kohaku Utagassen to perform it live from a temple in Kyoto. As for the setting in the music video, it was filmed at Oimachi Church in Tokyo.
Up to now, I never purchased a Mai Kuraki album or single but remembering some of the excerpts of songs that she has released over the past 16 or so years, I would be tempted in getting a BEST compilation. The only strike I might have against her is that I've perceived a certain sameness in her singles output at least. However, I hope that I can be proved wrong. Perhaps a Mai fan could give his or her opinion on this.