I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube, Oricon charts are courtesy of and my research is translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Candies -- Anata ni Muchu (あなたに夢中)

The last time I wrote about the famed aidoru trio of Candies(キャンディーズ), it was about their spiritually final single in 1978, "Hohoemigaeshi"(微笑がえし)which pretty much threw in every reminder regarding Miki, Su and Ran.

But this time, I'm going all the way back to the beginning. To 1973, to be specific. Candies debuted with "Anata ni Muchu" (Crazy for You) in September of that year, and like "Hohoemigaeshi", it was a song that I had heard before but hadn't known the title or its place in Candies' history. As with all debuts of legendary singers/bands, it's interesting to see and hear these ladies in the beginning. "Anata ni Muchu", which was written by Michio Yamagami(山上路夫)and composed by Koichi Morita(森田公一), had them singing with a slightly bigger emphasis on different harmonies, and Su was in the centre position as she would be for the early singles up to their first big hit, "Toshi Shita no Otoko no Ko"(年下の男の子)in 1975, when Ran would be switched in as the permanent centre.

Candies' debut single peaked at No. 36. It was also a track on the unit's debut album, "Anata ni Muchu - Uchiki na Candies" (あなたに夢中〜内気なキャンディーズ〜...Crazy for You - Bashful Candies) that came out in December 1973. A modest beginning but the best was yet to come.

Naoko Gushima -- Candy

I remember picking up this album "miss G" by Naoko Gushima(具島直子)a couple of decades ago, probably because I heard some of the tracks being played on the store speakers...most likely Tower Records. And in all likelihood, one of those tracks was "Candy". As was the case with all of the other tracks, Gushima provided the words and music for this softly bouncy song which the blogger for Japanese-language "Music Avenue" described as being an example of Urban Mellow.

Not sure if Urban Mellow is an actual genre name (a love child of J-AOR and City Pop?), but I guess "Candy" would fit the title. In any case, it is a cafe-friendly tune with Gushima's velvety vocals reminding me a bit of another singer who was in the same ballpark, genre-wise, Toko Furuuchi(古内東子). "miss G", by the way, was Gushima's debut album from 1996.

There's not a whole lot of information on Gushima unless you go straight to her website...not even a J-Wiki entry. She was born in 1969 in Tokyo, started learning piano at the age of 4, and then at 21, took those first steps into a music career as a backup singer and singer for commercials before releasing "miss G" some years later. According to her website, Gushima has released 5 albums up to now including her latest, which is also her BEST compilation, "magic wave" from 2009.

Daisuke Kitagawa -- Hama no Odoriko (横濱の踊り子)

It's been a while since I've picked out a song from the Oricon enka-yo charts, so I thought I'd do so on Wednesday since the new weekly list was out. A couple of the singles I saw had been there for about half a year and I'm still trying to fathom how they are still within the Top 20, some are new releases that came out just last Wednesday, and some have been there for about a month or so. Falling into the last category is "Hama no Odoriko", sung by one of enka's Ikemen 3, Daisuke Kitagawa (北川大介). Frankly, I don't think the Ikemen 3 are particularly good-looking. I mean, Kitagawa is sort of cute with that snaggle-toothed, dimpled smile, but the other two - Keisuke Yamauchi (山内惠介) and Hiroshi Takeshima (竹島宏) - are... well... not much to behold. And then again, I have hugely differing standards for what is considered a handsome dude from the typical Japanese woman, as you already may have noticed.

Moving on, ever since it's release on the 1st of July 2015, I've seen "Hama no Odoriko" floating up and down the enka-yo charts - it did well on the regular charts too, peaking at 25th - and since it was one of the few singles up there that left me curious as to how it sounded like every time I left the ranking page, I finally decided to give it a listen.

"Hama no Odoriko" is a catchy, jaunty and very cabaret-ish enka tune. The disco ball and that clubby beat at the start of the MV already gives you a pretty clear indication of what you're in for. And then you have two ladies joining the husky-voiced Kitagawa in a Michael Jackson-like blazer that's as shiny as the disco ball dancing up a storm - choreographed by afroed dancer and talent Papaya Suzuki (パパイヤ鈴木), who also made a cameo. It's actually quite cheesy when I think about it. However, from what I saw in the video's description, the song focuses on nightclubs anyway and is supposed to be a throwback to the mid 50's, so I guess they are on point.

Well, he looks cooler in a black blazer.

Makoto Kitajo (喜多條忠) was the one responsible for writing the lyrics to "Hama no Odoriko", and Gendai Kanou (叶弦大) composed it. Ah dang it, now I want to see Kitagawa sing this on "Kayo Concert" or "Nippon no Uta".


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Top 10 Albums of 2004

1.   Hikaru Utada                                    Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1
2.   Mr. Children                                     Shifuku no Oto
3.   Queen                                               Queen Jewels: The Very Best of Queen
4.   Exile                                                 Exile Entertainment
5.   Ayumi Hamasaki                             Memorial address
6.   Utada                                                Exodus
7.   Mai Kuraki                                       Wish You The Best
8.   Avril Lavigne                                   Under My Skin
9.   Pornograffitti                                    Pornograffitti Best Blue's
10. Pornograffitti                                    Pornograffitti Best Red's

Kazumasa Oda -- Kira Kira (キラキラ)

Around the Yuletide, the usual spate of Xmas-themed movies come out on the telly, especially on the Turner Movie Classics channel. Of course, one of them is "It's A Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed which, try as I might, still gets me lumping up in the throat and tear ducts at the end. Of course, that entire last act of the movie when bumbling-but-good Clarence the Angel convinces suicidal George Bailey to see that he is needed in the world has become the most famous part and has been used in TV shows and perhaps other movies since 1946 to the point of hoariness.

However, there was one other scene in "It's A Wonderful Life" that also pops up to mind whenever I remember it. It was the one where a much younger George woos his future wife, Mary, by promising no less than the moon itself if she so desired it:

"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary." (copied from

It's also that particular scene which comes to mind whenever I think of Kazumasa Oda's(小田和正)21st single "Kira Kira" (Twinkle). His lyrics about enticing that special someone to come with him for a better life together had me thinking about good ol' George Bailey in Bedford Falls.

But "Kira Kira" was actually meant for the characters of Toko and Kotaro on the J-Drama "Koi no Chikara"(恋ノチカラ...The Power of Love)back in 2002. Both of them start out as folks down on their luck before meeting up again and trying to get some redemption with the usual snarky back-and-forth. And I think there is that musical feeling of positivity and the light at the end of the tunnel in Oda's melody right from the opening strings.

The single was released in February 2002. When it comes to Oda's contributions to theme songs for dramas, all directions will inevitably point to "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni"(ラブ・ストーリーは突然にー), the theme tune for "Tokyo Love Story"(東京・ラブ・ストーリー)back in 1991. I mean, I still consider that particular song as Oda's magnum opus when it comes to his singles as a solo artist, but there is something that is also very attractive about "Kira Kira". With "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni", that single pluck of the guitar string in the first second launches the listener into the organized chaos that is Tokyo with the turbulence and excitement of metropolitan life and romance. "Kira Kira", on the other hand, has those strings taking us to a quieter and nicer neighbourhood away from the hustle and bustle. The neighbourhood may still be in Tokyo but it's now a decade later and perhaps the main characters from "Tokyo Love Story" are now settling into a more grounded bliss.

(cover version)

There is also something that is very comforting about listening to an Oda song. In a way, it's almost like listening to chamomile tea. Now I realize that there are J-Pop fans for whom Oda is not their cup of tea for the reason that I laid out in that first sentence, but to me, especially with some of his more uplifting songs such as "Kira Kira", I do finish that time listening to him feeling somewhat more buoyed for the experience.

"Kira Kira" got as high as No. 3 on Oricon, and compared to "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni", it finished the year somewhat more modestly at No. 33. Still, I cannot deny some of its more therapeutic effects. Perhaps, Oda might be acting like a Clarence here, too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Megumi Hayashibara/Miku Hatsune -- Osorezan Revoir (恐山ル・ヴォワール)

Megumi Hayashibara (林原めぐみ) may not be very active in recent years, but she’s still able to surprise her fans with golden gems when she wants to. That’s what she did in late 2011 after recording her own version of “Osorezan Revoir”, a song originally sung by the famous Vocaloid Miku Hatsune (初音ミク).

“Osorezan Revoir” is a poem from the famous Shaman King series (シャーマンキング). Megumi voiced the protagonist’s bride, Anna Kyouyama (恐山アンナ), and also sang the openings and endings to the anime series, with one of them, “Northern Lights” (2002), being the highest charting single of her career at a solid #3 position.

Back to “Osorezan Revoir”, one fan took the poem, created a gorgeous song and recorded it using Miku Hatsune. It soon became famous at Niconico (ニコニコ), and Megumi, after noticing it, recorded her own version of the song, which was also posted on Niconico. That was enough for making every Shaman King or Megumi Hayashibara fan crazy.

The song itself is great, thanks to the beautiful melody and the  traditional Japanese-styled arrangement. As for Megumi, being very honest, I don’t thing she was flawless in her rendition, but it’s surely one of the most emotional performances she ever gave. The high-pitched voice she chose to sing it may not be the best one out there, but I think it’s the pitch she is most confortable with.

To finish, here’s the original version sung by Miku Hatsune. Even though Megumi is not the greatest singer on earth, I still think she portrayed the emotions in a way that’s impossible for a Vocaloid. In the end, I’m always biased when it comes to Megumi.

“Osorezan Revoir” was uploaded on Niconico, but it was also released in very limited quantity on a rare CD that accompanied a magazine. As a fan, I hope she includes it in a future album. It’s difficult, but not impossible.

Lyrics, or words, as it’s originally a poem, were written by Shaman King’s creator Takei Hiroyuki (武井宏之), while music was composed by Vocaloid producer Capitaro.

Riho Iida -- Hajimaritai Kanon (始まりたいカノン)

One of my recent frustations was not being able to see Riho Iida’s (飯田里穂) live performance in last July’s “Festival do Japão” (Japan’s Festival). It would be my first true aidoru experience, and, who knows, maybe I could take a picture with her. In the end, I couldn't attend the festival, which made me feel a little bit gloomy for a while.

Well, at least I can listen to the nice songs from her debut album, “rippi-rippi”, which was released in July 2015. One of them is “Hajimaritai Kanon”, the lead song.

My first contact with Riho was watching this music video, but I soon discovered she’s a famous seiyuu and sexy gravure aidoru, so it was kind of weird to see her so light and immaculate in the music video for “Hajimaritai Kanon”. However, as I’m not really in the anime niche, I’ll probably only listen to her as a cute aidoru, so it’s okay. Well, I’m a liar... I will also see some of her bikini shoots sometimes as well.

“Hajimaritai Kanon” is not revolutionary by any means, and is quite a plain pop song driven mostly by acoustic intruments, which is something I usually avoid when listening to 21th century aidoru music. However, there are some lovely and dreamy synths being used here and there through the song, and I especially like when their sound appears between the first chorus and the second verses.

As for the lovely Riho Iida, her vocals are cute, but not very high-pitched, so that’s a good reason for trying out her full album. Believe me, she’s not overly “saccharine” as one might expect. Songs like “Love Motion” and “Stargazer”, for example, are great options for newcomers.

Lyrics were written by Hata Aki (畑亜貴), while music was composed by Yasuo Sakai (酒井康男).