The biggest Japanese music event in 2000 was Hikaru Utada's Bohemian Summer tour, which was launched at Tokyo's Yoyogi Pool that June. Since emerging in December 1998 with the single "Automatic," followed by the debut album "First Love" four months later, the 17-year-old singer-songwriter, daughter of a folk singer mother and a musician-producer father, had become the most important individual to emerge on the Japanese pop scene since Tetsuya Komuro discovered Eurobeat in the 1980s, and it was her first extended tour. She played 18 shows in nine cities. Tickets sold out within hours, and three concerts were quickly added at the Chiba Marine Stadium. Tickets for those were gone in a half hour.

"First Love" changed everything. In the '90s, J-pop was dominated on the one hand by the usual complement of boy bands and female idols and on the other by Komuro and the acts he produced for Avex, which consequently became the dominant label for Japanese artists. One of Komuro's most popular acolytes was Namie Amuro, an Okinawan who sang in the nasally head tones of teen idols but did it while dancing to Komuro's melodious disco.

Utada didn't replace Amuro so much as leapfrog her. She wrote her own material, influenced by the urban music she listened to as a teen after moving to New York with her parents when she was 10. More importantly, she sang what she heard, from the diaphragm and with her own take on the kind of melisma that became de rigueur in American pop after the ascendance of Mariah Carey. Previous Japanese pop artists, who were bred not born — and certainly not self-invented — couldn't handle this style for the simple reason that they weren't trained for it. Boy bands like the ubiquitous SMAP couldn't even sing harmony.