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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.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Akina Nakamori -- OH NO, OH YES!


I think I was speaking with Marcos one time about how I had pulled myself away from Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)albums past her 1985 release "D404ME". At the time, I was still enamored enough with her singles that were getting her onto the various music TV shows, but there was a definite divergence between those singles and her album releases. For one thing, none of those singles were put on her original albums for a few years, and for another, from borrowing and purchasing some of those albums such as "Fushigi"(不思議...Strange), I did actually find the tracks on them a little too strange for me. Therefore, it was more for me to patiently wait for BEST compilations by her.


Now I'm starting to realize that what I needed was time and appreciation of the bigger picture of kayo kyoku/J-Pop. In the case of Akina's album material, I was simply too tied down to her Oricon-friendly hits at the time. The singer actually wanted to push the envelope a bit and delve into more interesting pop.

In all honesty, I did buy Akina's 10th studio album from December 1986, "Crimson" as an audiotape from Wah Yueh and listened to it a couple of times. After those two listens, I put it away in a drawer for my tapes and have never listened to it again. That haunting cover photo of her and the seemingly non-Akina Akina songs just didn't do it for me. After borrowing my friend's LP of "Fushigi" which was her previous release, one look at that cover photo from "Crimson" had me rolling my eyes. Ack, not again with the artsy stuff, I scoffed.

Well, now that I am well into the 21st century, I feel like I should flagellate myself with a long stiff shoe horn for my snobbery (I've got a metal one that can kill a man). I will put on that tape again later tonight since I have heard the original recorded version of "OH NO, OH YES!" from "Crimson". Actually, I did hear the concert version of it on my videotape of "AKINA EAST LIVE INDEX-XXIII" but didn't realize that it was from that original album. It was an OK performance but didn't particularly think it was special along the lines of that epic "Tattoo" which started things off. But again, that was back in the late 1980s.

I gotta say that if I had to choose among Akina's range of voices during her career, I will still take her dynamic vocals in the mid-80s before "Fushigi" that she also used on her singles over her subdued and somewhat fragile ones from the 90s onwards although I know that those latter vocals fit certain other songs by her.


The softer vocals do come out on "OH NO, OH YES!" but they do fit this ballad about potential forbidden love. And I now appreciate the words and music by Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや). The melody has that certain genteel but urban atmosphere from the guitar, bass and synth as Akina sings about running to meet that paramour sub rosa somewhere in the big city. Is her significant other a fellow work colleague, her boss, some persona non grata figure or even a same same-sex partner? She's figuratively beside herself over whether she should continue to pursue the affair and face possible social consequences despite the other feeling that this person is THE one for her.

I did use the word "snobbery" earlier, didn't I? Well, I could imagine someone like Mariya or Akiko Kobayashi(小林明子)singing something this mature so why couldn't I accept cutesy aidoru Akina singing this one in her other voice? I don't really have any acceptable excuses anymore. Therefore I will happily accept eating some humble pie and find out more about "Crimson". And so, I should especially when that first track and at least a couple of others were composed by the aforementioned Kobayashi, one of my favourite Japanese pop singers.

So to end this on a wacky note, I initially said "OH NO!" but now I may be proclaiming "OH YES!"

5 comments:

  1. J-Canuck, how're you doing? I got sick for 3 weeks after getting back to San Francisco from Toronto. Have been pretty busy. I'll be going to Hong Kong and Tokyo with my Mom for 2 weeks end of March. I hope we can catch the cherry blossom. Very excited.

    I like the Crimson album a lot. I bought the entire album on iTunes a couple of years ago. "Oh No Oh Yes" is one of my favorites in that album, along with Eki, Yakusoku & Ekizodika. All songs were either written by Takeuchi Mariya or Kobayashi Akiko, which I guess shows Akina's status in her peak years.

    I didn't pay attention to the lyrics at all. Now you got me interested :)

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    1. Hi, Larry.

      Sorry to hear that you were so sick in January but I'm glad that you've recovered. And I'm definitely envious that you and your mother will be heading to Japan very soon.

      Yeah, I managed to finally dig up my tape of "Crimson". I will most likely listen to it on the recorder this afternoon as I do my work. I was also quite intrigued about the lyrics for "OH NO, OH YES!" so I will be paying attention to the words of the other songs.

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    2. I just read the lyrics. Oh no!

      I didn't know that there're some more English lyrics in it besides Oh No Oh Yes. Sorry Akina. Should not pick on people's English.

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  2. Hi, J-Canuck.

    I've had a hard time with "Crimson" as well, basically because of its more calm nature if compared to some explosive songs she was recording at the time ("DESIRE", for example). I've always found it a very classy album, but it didn't click as a standout to me, even if it won awards and suchs at the time. Right now, I can say my favorites from "Crimson" are "Mind Game", "Yakusoku", "Oh No, Oh Yes!", "Mosaic no Shiro" and "Aka no Enamel". And Akina seems to like "Eki" very much, since she sang it in some of her 90s and 00s concerts.

    One particular thing I noticed while listening to "Crimson" is how Akina sang the songs in a softer tone if compared to the huskier and aggressive voice she sometimes used in the mid-to-late 80s. Like you said, she really liked to push the envelope when it came to her album releases. Even on her overshadowed English album "Cross My Palm", you could easily hear a different Akina. She just had this variety of voices and tones at the time.

    Even though I like her very early albums, they were typical aidoru stuff from the early 80s, with strong orchestration and such. However, after the great "Bitter & Sweet" Akina started doing different things with her music and that's when the true artist appeared. I don't know how much imput she had in the concepts and all, but she surely wasn't just a mere subordinated aidoru anymore.

    Finally, as for my favorite Akina album, and the only one I own the CD, it's "Femme Fatale" (1988). In this specific album, Akina worked exclusively with female composers (hence the title) and ended with a very nice mix of sexy songs ranging from synthpop to funk. Also, her vocals were more on the husky side, contrary to what we heard in "Crimson". I always wonder if the smoking habit was already changing her voice a little bit at the time (at the start, the changes didn't sound bad, though).

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    1. Hi Marcos.

      I think you may have hit the nail on the head with your first sentence. The album was far more uncomfortably calmer than I was accustomed to during Akina's heyday. Basically the only uptempo song that was on the album in my estimation was the final track "Mick Jagger ni Hohoemi wo".

      Akina definitely broke out of the aidoru mold. In a way, I see her and Seiko Matsuda beforehand as bee larvae that were given that special formula to become queens rather than drones. But no doubt, Akina had that special something in her right from the beginning.

      "Cross My Palm" is in my LP rack and I've got "Femme Fatale" as a tape. Again, neither of them have been touched in well over 25 years. I will have to give them their second chances as well in the days to come.

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