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It truly is a week of firsts for Japanese pop star Jin Akanishi. Sure, the singer has charted eleven consecutive number one hits back in his native country, but this week he officially launched in to the United States. On Tuesday, Akanishi released Japonicana, his debut U.S. album. This Friday, the Asian star kicks off his first ever North American tour. But before either of those took place, Jin made his American radio debut on Monday. Akanishi checked in to “The Ralphie Radio Show” via Skype from Tokyo, in an interview that was taped the previous week.

“I’m expecting a lot of dancing, partying… drinking,” Akanishi semi-joked when asked what he was looking forward to in his first go round in North America. “I just want to have a good time.”

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The singer will cover a good amount of land – starting this week in Los Angeles before touching down in Vancouver, Honolulu, New York, and wrapping up in San Francisco. Akanishi recorded Japonicana in LA, but he revealed that there is a special connection between him and the Big Apple.

“It’s different, but it’s kind of similar to Tokyo,” Akanishi explained. “I was staying in LA for a long time, and I was kind of missing Tokyo. When I went to New York, I felt [like] I was back home.”

It was on the west coast where Akanishi linked up with the likes of Justin Bieber, Sean Kingston, and Jason Derulo – the later whom he collaborated with for “Test Drive.”

“I learned a lot of things from him,” Jin said of working with Derulo. “I was happy to hear his ‘Jason Derulo’ in the introduction, with my name.”

But besides hearing Jason’s trademark signature, Akanishi was able to witness firsthand how the multi-platinum recording artist works.

“Jason works on a track hard,” he said. “He’ll sing over and over and over until he’s satisfied. I really like that.”

Akanishi won’t just be using his voice – but also his acting ability to make a good first impression in America. The 27 year-old was cast for the movie “47 Ronin,” starring Keanu Reeves.

“I taught him how to play Japanese chess,” Akanishi revealed before light-heartedly adding. “I guess I can brag about it.”

Clearly, he’s adapting to his new surroundings quite nicely.

“The Voice” season one contestant Raquel Castro doesn’t care what the media says about Christina Aguilera.

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“To me, Christina was a very good role model because she taught us about her mistakes,” the 17 year-old singer said in a Skype interview that aired Tuesday on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “She told us to learn from them, and if something like this happens, just don’t worry about it, don’t stress about it.”

Aguilera picked Castro on first season of the NBC competition to join her team, and the teenager found the superstar’s knowledge priceless.

“She’s experienced things that some people haven’t yet, so she can kind of guide you in a way, so you don’t make those same mistakes yourself,” Castro said. “I think that makes a great role model.”

Castro has experienced quite a bit herself for only being 17. The Long Island native received her big break in showbiz at age 9, co-starring with Ben Affleck in the movie, “Jersey Girl.” Since, she’s appeared in a number of film and TV shows – and was even cast for Ludacris’ “Runaway Love” music video.

The artist now finds herself working on her own music video. Castro filmed the piece for her new single, “Diary” last Saturday, and expects to release it within a month. The song is about a relationship, although the New Yorker says that she kept a private journal while growing up.

“I had like three different diaries,” recalls Castro, even remembering the cover of a specific diary. “My first one was a Britney Spears diary I got in first grade.”

Ironic given that while she was writing daily happenings and private crushes in a book with Spears on the cover, she would eventually come to work with and learn about how to obtain her dreams firsthand from the woman compared to and with Britney the most.

Neon Hitch comes off as an aggressive ex-girlfriend in her track, “F*** You Betta,” the first single from her soon-to-be-released album, Beg, Borrow, and Steal. Apparently while shooting the music video, which will premiere online next month, she mimicked the aggressiveness of the song.

“I still have cuts from (the shoot),” Hitch said to me during a Skype interview, while showing me a bruise on her webcam. “I did a lot of training for it, but it was all worth it.”

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The interesting thing is – the injuries are self-inflicted. The singer is the only person in the production.

“Me and a mannequin, we’re the only people in the video,” she divulged. “But there was a lot of dance routines, like there’s this one where I’m doing this whole dance routine in this black oil, and you know, it got pretty painful.”

Neon Hitch, yes that’s her real name, is no stranger to pain or bizarre. She was born in the UK and spent a good part of her childhood as a gypsy, traveling in a circus. Fast forward a few years to when super-producer Benny Blanco (Ke$ha, 3OH!3) found her on MySpace and flew her to the States, and voila, Neon Hitch has a record deal and a forthcoming LP.

Hitch is also featured on the latest single from Gym Class Heroes, “Ass Back Home.” Performing the track live with Travie McCoy and crew has taken her to Madison Square Garden and now next month, the Super Bowl.

“I’m so excited!” the singer exclaimed from her bed. “I’m so grateful to Gym Class Heroes for involving me. This is so amazing.”

The singer will join GCH at the VH1 Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam, airing live on the cable network Thursday February 2 at 9 PM from Indianapolis, the host city for this year’s big game.

Sammy Adams is ready to “blow up” and fill a void that he sees in the current pop music landscape.

“There’s not really a white pop star or singer/rapper/hybrid that really has footing like Katy Perry and Britney Spears and the female pop artists,” Adams said in a Skype interview from Miami this week. And he makes a point, although immediately when he gave that example, I thought of his record label-mate, Mike Posner.

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“We are both making pop music, but he’s a little more R&B, even a little more urban, especially with some of his new records,” Adams explained, while also mentioning that he and Posner are good friends and he loves the singer’s music. “But yeah, we get compared.”

Adams, real name Samuel Adams Wisner, shares another similarity with the “Cooler Than Me” emcee: both attended college and began recording music in their dorm rooms. But while Posner graduated from Duke, Wisner ditched his political science major and soccer scholarship at Trinity College to tour the globe. He had attended college for a total of three and a half years.

“Once I started touring, my plans to get my work in…” Adams trailed off, while making a guillotine-like motion by his neck, signaling that the plans were cut off. “I was a college kid, traveling around the country, playing shows, making music that I wanted to hear; music that most college kids could relate to.”

And can still relate to. “Blow Up” is a college kid’s anthem, for every student pulling all-nighters and wondering when enough is finally enough. When Adams had enough and focused solely on music, he believes he figured out what the key to success was.

“You have to find your identity as an artist,” he advised. “It really comes down to finding out who you are, what kind of music you want to make. Yunno, these days, a lot of stuff’s changed, and you got to be able to build your fan base and really stay true to yourself.”

Adams was in Miami finishing up the recording for his major label debut album, which he says is “probably 90 percent” done. He still has a couple working titles, and is looking at a spring release on RCA Records.

Boston-based female vocal group Jada is back with the release of Supersonique, a five track EP.

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“This one was in the making for a while,” April Forrest said of the extended play. All four members of the group joined “The Ralphie Radio Show” via Skype. “We took some of our really older songs that we really wanted to release… recorded like, a year and a half ago, and then some of the other songs are brand new.”

“This Party is on Fire” is one of the older singles released with Supersonique, which also includes the new club-friendly title track, produced by RIO.

Jada – “Supersonique”


“You know when you go out and you just feel that beat and you want to put your arms up in the air?” Forrest asked, explaining the inspiration behind the song and its up-tempo sound. “But we didn’t want the message to be like, ‘We’re partying! Cool.’ It has a deeper message of how music inspires us.”

In addition to Forrest, Elle Wine, Jacyn Tremblay, and Lauren O’Keefe all talked about the EP’s creation and confirmed that the group will shoot a music video for “Supersonique,” while even extending an invite my way to appear in the video.

David Rush is signed to Pitbull’s Mr. 305, Inc. While the “Give Me Everything” rapper had an all-star type year in 2011, his artist’s past year and a half could be considered even more spectacular.

Rush, who first linked up with the Miami emcee on the 2007 track, “Go Girl,” received a kidney transplant, got married, and welcomed a baby son in to the world all within the span of about a year. Apparently that isn’t enough for Rush, who now returns to the music scene with “She Ain’t You,” an up-tempo single that features Jason Derulo crooning on the chorus.

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“I work hard,” Rush stated from his New Jersey home in a Skype interview on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “But now, it’s like I’m working not just for me, not for my wife, but just our son and it’s another inspiration, another reason to wake up, another reason to get what I want.”

The Jersey-native’s story is an inspiration in its own. Rush dealt with kidney issues for years, and traveled across the country supporting Pitbull on a 40 date tour with a dialysis machine in tow, used every night at every hotel room he stayed at before performing. The artist earned the distinction of the first person to successful tour cross-country with the piece of equipment.

In November of 2010, Rush received a kidney transplant from his brother, who also doubles as the rapper’s road manager. Currently, Rush is healthy, and ready to arrive back in DJ crates with a single that he says “fell on to his lap.”

David Rush f. Jason Derulo – “She Ain’t You”


“Mr. 305, they always want (their artists) to produce hits,” Rush explained. “We had an opportunity to get the record; I sent it back as a reference, not knowing where it was going to go.”

“She Ain’t You” struck Rush as such a big song he literally couldn’t wait to finish it, sending back the first treatment about two hours after it hit his e-mail. He didn’t even realize Derulo was on the hook until after he wrote to the track. Thankfully, Pitbull’s camp and Pit himself also liked the track, and made the necessary calls to secure it for their artist.

And despite his large amount of success and superstar status, Pitbull is just a call… or rather, text message, away from Rush at all times.

“He’s usually a great texter,” Rush said of Pitbull. “Calls is another deal. But text message, I can guarantee a text message or e-mail response within a day. Even if it’s just a, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ or ‘Chico, rooting for you,’ you know what I mean?”

Sure, “it was a really, really messed up week” for Hot Chelle Rae as per the opening of “Tonight Tonight.” But since that single climbed the top of the charts, it’s also been a really, really great year for the Nashville-based quartet.

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“Dude, I’m absolutely loving it, every minute,” guitarist Nash Overstreet told me via Skype on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” Overstreet checked in from Charlotte, NC where HCR was supporting The Script on tour. “We’re really, really busy, busier than we’ve ever been. But I would definitely not have it any other way.”

In addition to touring and making the media rounds, the guys have been busy finalizing Whatever, Hot Chelle Rae’s sophomore LP. The album hits stores November 29.

“They show up knowing all the words to everything,” Overstreet said of the crowds that the band has experienced on tour thus far. Apparently, HCR’s fans even know the lyrics to unreleased tracks. “It’s just really amazing to us to see people being so up-to-date on what we do.”

As of this moment, there may be no better example to support that notion than the number of views HCR’s “I Like It Like That” video has. The single eclipsed the million views mark weeks quicker than it took “Tonight Tonight” to surpass it. Nash revealed the band shot the video themselves while touring with a bus, as opposed to a van, for the first time.

The song and video feature the rap duo New Boyz, whom HCR linked up with in Syracuse, NY after a radio event.

“We went out in Syracuse one night and threw down, spent a few hours making trouble,” Overstreet recalled. “They’re really cool guys, great artists, and great writers, and they killed it.”

It may look like the band Cobra Starship has been enjoying one huge party since its inception in 2005. That may be the case, but after a year which included a top ten single and a worldwide tour, don’t try and tell lead singer Gabe Saporta that it’s all fun and games.

“As good as it was to break mainstream, it was a really hard year for me,” the front man said of his band’s success. Saporta checked in to “The Ralphie Radio Show” via Skype in an interview which aired Monday evening. “My girlfriend that I had since before I started Cobra Starship, I lost her and it’s a typical cliché story of you start getting famous and it just becomes too much.”

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Saporta said that the whole experience – having to deal with such a tough breakup while watching his band succeed – made him hate music. Knowing that he needed some time to straighten things out, the lead singer took a trip for “self-discovery.”

“I actually went to South America for two months,” he revealed. “I lived on a little house on the outskirts of a forest in Brazil. There was electricity, it wasn’t that bad, but there was no TV, no Internet, no cell phone. All I ate was rice for ten days.”

By the end of his stay in the house, Saporta was so weak that a person would make a daily trip to his kitchen just to cook the rice. Now back in the States, it looks like the singer has returned to his comfort zone. Cobra Starship is finalizing the track listing for its fourth studio LP, and Saporta is keeping busy with studio time and promoting the band’s new track, “You Make Me Feel…”

Plus Saporta has a girlfriend, fashion designer Erin Fetherston. The singer definitely doesn’t seem to mind talking about his relationship – a change from the past.

“I think part of the reason I didn’t talk about it was because I felt like, all of the exposure from the media was tainting my personal life, and I like to keep it private because it’s so precious to me,” he explained. “But yunno, I’m thinking maybe that wasn’t the best thing because I ended up having almost two lives, and it just wasn’t very healthy.”

The singer isn’t acknowledging his personal life in interviews exclusively – Saporta notes there are more love songs than he’s “ever written… ever,” on the new LP, titled Night Shades. The first single is all about finding yourself attracted to someone else. Singer/rapper Sabi is featured on the hook of “You Make Me Feel…” The Cali-based artist started with a group popular in “jerking” circles called The Bangz. Saporta knew about her for a minute – and he actually hoped to collaborate with her on the band’s last album, Hot Mess.


“(The record label) was like, ‘You can get Leighton Meester, but you can’t get Sabi,’” he said. “I tried for a long time, for months. I don’t know why, sometimes its politics, things don’t happen. Then all of the sudden, it just kind of came back around.”

It’s pretty funny how things end up coming full circle, but given his past year, I’m sure that’s something you don’t have to try and tell Saporta either.

It wasn’t the third, or the fourth, and nope, not the fifth try as the charm for the Los Angeles-based Lights Over Paris. When the dust settled, it took the pop-rockers six different versions of the band’s new single, “I’m Not a Gangsta” to find the one that the guys hope will be the right one. Although, the sixth version was bound to stick out from the rest – it features a verse from fellow west coast artist Game.

“Nothing really got us going but The Game because of the name of the song… and how The Game is and how he represents his music, his lyrics, was awesome,” said LOP front man Robb University. The lead singer checked in from his Hollywood home and participated in the first ever Skype interview on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “(My friends) were like, ‘The Game’s coming to the studio, he loves the song! He’s gonna do it!’ I’m like, ‘Dude, you guys are pulling an April Fool’s Joke.’”

Yes, Robb will more than likely always remember April 1, 2011 – that was the day that he and Game met up in a California studio and the rapper cut his verse for the new track. Given the fun-loving nature of Robb’s friends and band mates – it certainly wasn’t far-fetched for the lead singer to think he was the subject of a big rib. But thankfully for he and the band, Game’s cameo on the track was no joke.


Interview Audio:

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“When (Game) does his verse, that is very gangster,” the lead singer noted. “A lot of his fans and people don’t understand until they actually listen to the track, and they’ll really get that LOP is singing about one thing, and he comes in and totally does his thing.”

Game will also be doing his thing in the music video for “I’m Not a Gangsta” – which was scheduled to be shot in L.A. on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Lights Over Paris will continue to work on the band’s debut LP, which Robb says will be a dual-disc release.