Yui's rise to Japanese stardom is as simple in retelling as it was difficult in execution, deserving a manga adaptation or a movie of its own. At 16, the music-loving Yoshioka Yui, who grew up without a father, followed the recommendation of a friend and switched from a normal high school to a private music school in Fukuoka. There she honed her performing and composing skills, dragging her guitar around with her everywhere she went and doing street performances, which also helped her in her battle with shyness. The battle was clearly won by 2003, when she participated in an audition organized by Sony Music, having to hold her ground against no less than 20,000 opponents and managing to score a record contract. This led to her only "indie" single, "It's a Happy Line," released in 2004. The A-side song was heard by the director of a prime-time TV drama, Fukigen Na Gene (Grumpy Gene), and impressed him enough to get Yui's music employed in the show. The success immediately earned Yui a place on the Sony Music roster.
Being her own songwriter didn't prevent Yui from reaching chart success usually reserved for more conventional pop stars lending their faces to music created by someone else. Her first major-label single, "Feel My Soul" (also featured on Fukigen Na Gene), sold 100,000 copies, and her debut LP, From Me to You, which followed in 2006, sold twice as many copies and reached number four on the Oricon charts. In the same year Yui also launched her acting career, starring in the main role in Taiyou No Uta (Midnight Sun) -- a sad and, of course, romantic story about a young musician with a terminal disease that prevents her from appearing in the sunlight. The movie even made it to the world-famous Cannes Film Festival. Two of Yui's songs were also picked for the opening and closing credits of one of the most popular Japanese anime series, Bleach, and after this it was only natural that her second LP, Can't Buy My Love, topped the Oricon charts in 2007, selling half a million copies. Since then, Yui provided songs for another TV drama and two movies, and played a sold-out show at Budokan, Japan's number one music venue. Her third album, I Loved Yesterday, was released in April 2008, followed by My Short Stories -- the first B-side collection to debut at number one on the Oricon charts -- in November of that year. ~ Alexey Eremenko