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There was a time when Japanese music labels were concerned that Ai Carina Uemura’s music sounded too American due to her R&B style.

“Like, from the beginning of my career. They told me all the time, ‘People aren’t going to understand that type of music,'” she says from the EMI office in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood. “I was like … why? They listen to Janet Jackson, Ashanti. Why can’t we do that type of music?”

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