Credits

I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yukiko Okada/Shoko Nakagawa -- Kuchibiru Network (くちびる Network)



During my first forays into Toronto's Chinatown to search for Japanese records, I often came across album covers of Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子) and Akina Nakamori(中森明菜) with their hypnotic come-hither stares ("Yes, I will buy you all with part of my student loans and grants, my mistresses...."), and there was one other album that I remembered seeing with plenty of regularity. The cover had a cute young lady with short hair and a wide smile wearing an electric-blue silk shoulder-less top and matching sleeves, as she rested her face on her palms. The album was "Venus Tanjo"ヴィーナス誕生....The Birth of Venus), and the singer was the late Yukiko Okada(岡田有希子). I never got the album since at the time I was pretty conservative (and economical) in my choices....going with just who I knew like Seiko, Akina and Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美).

Later on, though, I did get to listen to one of the tracks from "Venus Tanjo" on "Sounds of Japan". "Kuchibiru Network" (Lip Network) was one of the chirpiest and quintessentially aidoru tunes I'd ever heard by anyone. And as I had mentioned in one of the other articles on the singer, Okada struck me physically and musically as being one of the quintessential aidorus from that decade. She had the cute face, the short bob and that high wispy voice which seemed to quaver at certain points in a song.

Perhaps that aidoru-ness about her was the reason for not only for a lot of the big songwriting veterans such as Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子) and Chinfa Kan(康珍化) to get behind her, but also a number of artists themselves such as EPO, Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや) and Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美). "Kuchibiru Network" itself has quite some pedigree behind it: Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一) of The Yellow Magic Orchestra was the composer, and the Queen Aidoru herself, Seiko Matsuda, was the lyricist. According to the writeup on the song on J-Wiki, Matsuda had some initial misgivings about her work: "I'd thought that the lyrics were just a little too sexy, but when Yukiko-chan sang them, they became a cute and charming song." And certainly when I listened to it, I never got the impression that this was anything but a cute puppy love sort of ditty with Okada singing about how impatient she was getting over who was gonna make the first move.




This one actually has Yukiko's appearance on one of the big music shows.

"Kuchibiru Network" was released as a single in January 1986 with "Venus Tanjo" getting released on March 21. It became Okada's biggest hit, reaching No. 1, and later becoming the 36th-ranked single of the year. It was also used as a campaign song for Kanebo Cosmetics. However, less than 3 weeks after the album came out, the singer would take her own life at the age of 18.



(Unfortunately, the video showing Shokotan performing
"Kuchibiru Network" has been taken down, but you 
can enjoy a 3-minute retrospective of her life here.)

About a couple of years ago, the Otaku Aidoru, Shoko Nakagawa(中川翔子), released her 4th album of cover songs titled "Shokotan Cover 4"しょうこたん☆かばー4) (peaked at No. 14 on Oricon after its release in October 2011) in which she tackled the Okada classic. I first saw Nakagawa on a late-night quiz show of sorts, hosted by the Osaka manzai duo, Downtown, in which the panelists were given a topic for which they had to draw a 4-frame cartoon within a couple of minutes. I had never seen her before so I had thought that she was a young professional manga artist since she usually came up with the best drawings. But her fame quickly spread like Extra Light No. 1 maple syrup across TV and music, and soon she was not only popping up everywhere in the music shops and variety shows, but she had her own fluffy program on one of the music channels in which she waxed poetic on her favourite aidorus, her beloved pets and anime, among her other very varied interests. I've heard that she has even shown up at some of the international ComiCons over the years; not sure if she has ever been to the Toronto equivalents but I've got a feeling that if did ever show up, there would be a fair bit of mayhem. For a bit more information about her, and to see a bit more of her, you can try this link.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks J-Canuck for this great post on 岡田有希子's 「くちびる Network」 one of my all-time favorite J-Pop idol song. This post is actually pretty timely as April 8 will mark the 27th anniversary of Yukiko's tragic death. I'm definitely all for any type of tribute post you have planned on her (perhaps a "Best of" CD post or maybe a career retrospective piece).

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  2. Hey there, JTM.

    Basically, I've put up all of the Yukiko songs I know, so if you want to try your hand at a BEST introspective, please feel free to do so. Considering the number of sites dedicated to her, I think such a profile may bring in quite the number of viewers.

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  3. Very Good Entry!

    "Kuchibiru Network" is one of her greatest songs ever, one of my favourites song by her of course!




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    Replies
    1. Hello, Keiji and thank you for posting your comments. It would have been interesting how far she could've gotten beyond 1986.

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