Boyle to breathe new life into Japan's Red and White Battle

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The Independent Culture

Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer whose first album has become the best-selling debut in British chart history, has arrived in Japan to breathe new life into the flagging "Red and White Song Battle" on television here.

Boyle - who stunned the audience and judges when she appeared on the Britain's Got Talent show in April when she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables - was applauded by fans and accepted bouquets after arriving at Tokyo's Narita Airport on Tuesday morning.

As she was being escorted through the airport, 48-year-old Boyle turned down a request from a TV company to give a rendition of her trademark song, saying her fans would have to wait until New Year's Eve.

Also well-known in Japan - thanks largely to her television performance becoming a worldwide hit on YouTube - Boyle's invitation to appear at the annual music extravaganza, known here as Kohaku Uta Gassen, is an effort to boost its popularity.

The show - which pits a group of male singers against their female counterparts to ring out the old year - first went out over the radio back in 1951 before switching to TV. It has attracted more than 80 percent of the nation's viewers in its heyday. The 80 percent figure has not been neared since 1972, and it fell below 50 percent in 1989.

Today, rival commercial channels have sufficient financial clout to put on programs that compete, while the internet and computer games have won over a large proportion of people who would have watched the program a generation or two ago.

The show runs for nearly four-and-a-half hours, and the honor of taking the stage at the NHK Hall in Tokyo is strictly by invitation and focuses primarily on homegrown talent, although previous foreign participants have included Paul Simon, Sarah Brightman and Cyndi Lauper.

Boyle will be competing alongside Kumi Koda, the 27-year-old singer who has been credited in Japan with starting the trend for revealing increasing amounts of cleavage and making the wearing of lingerie in public more acceptable.

The show, which will finish shortly before the stroke of midnight, will also feature a tribute to the late Michael Jackson.