O!susume – Bonnie Pink

For this month’s O!susume, I’ve chosen to recommend Bonnie Pink, a solo artist with a prolific career of nearly 30 years. I was first introduced to her music via the Tales of Vesperia opening theme, “Ring a Bell”, or 鐘を鳴らして (kane wo narashite) in Japanese; she sang both the English and Japanese versions of the track. In my personal opinion, Bonnie Pink’s general discography, while expansive, tends to blend into itself from album to album. However, once in awhile she seems to strike gold, and I’ve collected a few songs of hers that remain on my “best of” jpop playlists.


Years Active: 1995 – Present (2023)

Point of Origin: Kyoto

The artist was born as Asada Kaori (浅田香織) in Kyoto in 1973. She got an early start with music, being influenced by her older brother’s tastes in both domestic and Western artists. After seeing her friend taking piano lessons in 2nd grade, she insisted on learning herself, even going so far as to cut into her friend’s practice time to try it out. Once her father bought a piano for their own household, she was able to practice as much as she pleased.

Asada debuted under her own name in 1995 with the single “Orenji”; it wouldn’t be until her career gained some traction that she would take on the stage name of Bonnie Pink. She had debuted as a singer, but that singular role apparently felt too limiting; Asada felt the need to write her own music, and turned to composing on the piano after many years away from the instrument. Asada released her first album Blue Jam with Pony Canyon Records later that year, but would not stay with the label for long, as she switched over to Warner Music Japan sometime in the early 2000’s.

Her next two or three albums were largely written during a stint of international travel and inspiration. Bonnie Pink’s early career was strongly defined by her meeting and work with Tore Johansson, producer of Swedish rock band The Cardigans. Allegedly struggling with a depressive episode while isolated in a Swedish villa, she wrote her second and third albums Heaven’s Kitchen (1997) and Evil & Flowers (1998). Her fourth album Let Go marked her stay in New York City and her collaboration with Elvis Costello producer Mitchell Froom.

Bonnie Pink’s career gained momentum over the course of the 2000’s; by 2005, she was performing at SXSW (South by Southwest music festival) as part of their Japan Nite event, and had her most successful stint on the Oricon weekly charts the following year with “A Perfect Sky”, used for a Shiseido makeup commercial. Asada even broke onto the big screen with a bit part in the 2006 movie Memories of Matsuko, for which she also supplied the theme song “Love is Bubble”. Her aforementioned song “Ring a Bell” released with the Tales of Vesperia game in 2008, likely bringing her a whole new audience (including myself).

Bonnie Pink’s last studio album Chasing Hope was released in 2012, marking a shift in the focus of the singer’s career. Over the next five years, she would still produce singles and collaborate with other artists and projects, along with various other appearances. In 2017, she gave birth to her only daughter, and further withdrew from the music scene to focus on raising her. She reports that her child is eager to learn the keyboard as well, perhaps following in her mother’s footsteps.

While Bonnie Pink’s career slowed down somewhat during the previous decade, it’s hard to say that she’s had anything but great and long-lasting success in the industry, with a dozen albums released and most securing excellent Oricon chart rankings, and many other opportunities to share her unique style of music. Reviews of her first album described her sound as an eclectic fusion of jazz, blues, pop and rock, and I think that elements of all those genres can be found throughout her discography. If the mood of one of her albums doesn’t entice you, there’s surely something else she’s done that will sound surprisingly different. Asada will be celebrating her 50th birthday in the coming month of 2023, so the timing of this article feels somewhat serendipitous. Happy Birthday to a “Quiet Queen of the J-pop Scene!”




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