With jazz in her blood (her father, Makoto Hirahara, is a noted Japanese saxophonist, and her grandfather a trumpeter), Ayaka Hirahara seemed an unlikely candidate for pop stardom.
Performing ballet and classical alto saxophone in school, her first single was indeed a pop vocal adaptation (partially in English) of Gustav Holst's suite The Planets, complete with a small string section in the background. The song climbed the Oricon charts quickly, peaking at number two and leading the way for her first full-length album, Odyssey. A sophomore album, The Voice, sold strongly, overshadowing numerous singles released during the same period by Hirahara. In conjunction with a major national tour in 2005, a cover album was released to moderate success, as was 2006's 4tsu No L. Released in 2007, Sora saw Hirahara broadening to a wider world influence with additional classical influences and the enlistment of songwriters from all populated continents. The album briefly cracked the Top Ten, but sold weakly compared to previous endeavors. With a greatest-hits compilation released in early 2008, Hirahara had returned to Top Five status on the Oricon charts and cemented her status as a household name in Japanese pop. ~ Adam Greenberg, Rovi