Yui Yoshioka was born in Fukuoka, Japan. She grew up in a single-parent family; her father left her mother before she was born. She stated that she had always been close to music; she would remember the beats from music she heard on the radio, and could sing it. By the time she was in elementary school she thought she would like to become a singer.
During her third year in middle school, at her mother's suggestion, Yui began writing a journal of her feelings and tried to compose them into poems. By the time she was in high school, she began to write songs. While in high school, she worked part-time to help pay for tuition. She thought that, being so busy, she no longer had the time to realize her dreams of a music career. Eventually she got ill.While in hospital, she was overwhelmed with the desire to make music. She decided that school and music could not coexist. Upon leaving the hospital, she encountered a live street performance and expressed her desire to pursue a musical career to the band, Bianco Nero, at the end of the concert. Bianco Nero advised Yui to join a private music school. Yui soon dropped out of high school and began to study guitar and songwriting at a juku in her hometown of Fukuoka. Aspiring to become a professional, she took to street performing at Fukuoka's Tenjin Station. These street performances helped Yui to overcome her shyness.
Her professional career began in March 2004 when, at the recommendation of her juku instructors, she applied for an audition hosted by Sony Music Japan. Despite the audition rule that a participant could only perform two songs, Yui was allowed to sing three. She first sang "Why Me" (a song later included in her debut single), followed by "It's Happy Line" and "I Know". The judges gave her the maximum score, causing a fierce scramble among record labels to sign her. Because "I Know" was incomplete at the time, the judges were able to get a glimpse of what would later be dubbed "Yui-go", or Yui-speak (Yui語 in Japanese), nonsensical English hummed to a tune during her songwriting process — an example of Yui-go can be found in the film Song of the Sun when Yui is working on the song "Goodbye Days".
On December 24, 2004, she released her debut single "It's Happy Line" under the indie label Leaflet Records, coupled with the track "I Know". The pressing was limited to only 2,000 copies in her home area.
From Me to You (2005–2006)
Upon leaving her hometown in Fukuoka for Tokyo, Yui wrote the song "Feel My Soul" as a tribute to her hometown. She initially had planned its release on an indie label. However, when the song caught the ears of Fuji TV producer Mr. Yamaguchi, who saw the demo video clip, he claimed that Yui's voice touched him so much that he went out of his way to visit the recording studio. Fuji Television's primetime drama Fukigen na Gene used Yui's debut track as an insert song.
On February 23, Yui released her first major debut single, "Feel My Soul". The music in Fukigen na Gene was based on her songs "Feel My Soul" and "It's Happy Line". With the publicity the drama tie-in drew in, "Feel My Soul" managed to sell over 100,000 copies and managed to chart at number 8 on Oricon Weekly Charts in its first week. Her next three singles, "Tomorrow's Way" (theme song for the Japanese movie, "Hinokio"), "Life" (5th ending theme for the anime series Bleach), and "Tokyo" did not chart as high as Feel My Soul did and were only moderately successful in comparison.
After the release of four singles, Yui released her debut album, titled From Me to You, a moderate success with sales of more than 200,000 copies.
Can't Buy My Love (2006–2007)
Yui made her acting debut in the full-length Japanese feature film Song of the Sun (Taiyou no uta, タイヨウのうた), which opened on June 17, 2006. The film was screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Yui attended the Japan Academy Prize and received the Best Newcomer Award for Midnight Sun. Prior to the release of the movie, Yui released her fifth single "Good-bye Days" written specifically for the film. The single is by far her highest selling at more than 200,000 copies sold. All three tracks on the single are featured in the "Midnight Sun." The single also re-released the track "It's Happy Line," originally released on her debut single.
Her next single, "I Remember You", did well in terms of sales, riding on the wave of the popularity of "Good-bye Days." Yui's seventh single "Rolling Star" was chosen as the 5th opening theme for the anime series Bleach. Her eighth single, "Cherry" was featured in commercial promoting KDDI au Listen Mobile Service.
She released her second album Can't Buy My Love on April 4, 2007. The album spending two weeks at number 1 on the Oricon charts, shattering her entire previous album's record sales in one week. Can't Buy My Love managed to sell over 680,000 copies. Due to the success of Can't Buy My Love, Yui's previous album, From Me to You charted once again, adding another 9,000 copies to the Oricon counting
Loved Yesterday (2007–2008)
Yui released her 9th single "My Generation/Understand" on June 13, 2007. It was her first double A-side single. "My Generation" was selected as the ending theme for the drama Seito Shokun!, and "Understand" was chosen as the theme song for the movie Dog in a Sidecar (サイドカーに犬), (starring her senpai at Stardust Promotion, Yūko Takeuchi). The single charted at number 1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts the first week of its release.
Her tenth single, "Love & Truth" was released on September 26, 2007. The title track is the theme song to the Japanese film, Closed Note (クローズド・ノート) (starring Erika Sawajiri, also of Stardust).
During this time, her previous two albums were re-released as Winter Sleeve Editions in alternative covers taken from her "Love & Truth" photoshoot. Her first live concert DVD "Thank You My Teens" was released on November 14, 2007, which contained footage of her second live concert tour. On November 19, 2007, Yui opened her first live show at Nippon Budokan. The tickets for the concert sold out.
Yui started 2008 with her eleventh single, Namidairo, released on February 27, 2008. Yui composed the song as a "mysterious and sad sounding" insert for the television drama 4 Shimai Tantei Dan. The chorus of the song was incidentally written by YUI long ago, during her singing debut.
A week following the release of her 11th single, the promotional video of a new song "Laugh Away", was released. The song was used in Glico's "Watering KissMint" commercial. "Laugh Away" was released as a digital single on March 10, 2008.
Her third studio album was released on April 9, 2008 titled I Loved Yesterday. It quickly charted at number 1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold more than 400,000 copies, only a little behind her second album. The 10th track on the album, titled "Oh Yeah", was used as the opening theme to Mezamashi TV, a morning television show. The limited edition version of the album included a DVD which contained music videos of her previous singles and live footage of her Nippon Budokan show.
Yui's third tour, named '"Oui": I Loved Yesterday' started in May 2008 and ran until July.
My Short Stories/Holidays in the Sun (2008–present)
Yui released "Summer Song" on July 2, 2008, again charting at number 1 on Oricon Weekly Charts. "Summer Song" sold 83,440 copies in a week, making "Summer Song" second highest in first week sales after "Love & Truth."
Yui released her B-side compilation album, My Short Stories, released 12 November 2008, again charted at number 1 on Oricon. The album included all the B-side tracks of all her singles to date, along with a new song "I'll Be". Yui is the second female artist whose B-side compilation album topped the charts, after Seiko Matsuda's "Touch Me" in 1984. The last compilation album that reached No. 1 was Mr. Children's B-Side in May 2007. On the success of "My Short Stories", sales of her first album From Me to You rose again.
In her "Yui Diary" blog entry on August 29, 2008, Yui mentioned that she would put her career on hold, not making any public appearances after the release of the album. With this break, she would be able to fully concentrate on her plans for the next year. During this break, she co-wrote the song "I Do It" with Okinawan girl band Stereopony. It was released as Stereopony's third single on April 22, 2009.
Yui announced her return from her 5-month hiatus on March 25, 2009 on her official website. The single celebrating her return is an up-tempo tune titled "Again." The track was chosen as the first opening theme of the new season of the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood anime series, premiered on April 5, 2009. The single was released on June 3, 2009. "Again" debuted atop the Oricon charts, selling over 110,000 copies in its first week. It currently has the highest opening week sales for a female act in 2009.
On July 27, 2009, Yui-net.com announced the release of her second double-A side single named, "It's All Too Much/Never Say Die". The two songs featured in a movie version of an anime, Kaiji as a both a theme and an insert song. The single was released on October 7, 2009 and Kaiji released on October 10, 2009. The single debuted at No. 1, selling 75,000 copies in its first week of sales. This is her fifth overall number 1 single.
Yui released "Gloria" on January 20, 2010. It was another chart-topper, selling 80,000 copies in the first week. Her next single, "To Mother," was released on June 2, 2010. On July 14, 2010, Yui released her fourth studio album, Holidays in the Sun, which includes her five singles from "Summer Song" to "To Mother". Her single "Rain" was released on November 24, 2010. Yui's newest addition is a double-A side of "It's My Life" and "Your Heaven," released on January 26, 2011. Yui traveled to Sweden for the shooting of the "Your Heaven" music video.
Yui's tour DVD, Holidays in the Sun will be available in Japan on March 9.
- 2006: From Me to You
- 2007: Can't Buy My Love
- 2008: I Loved Yesterday
- 2010: Holidays in the Sun
- 2008: My Short Stories