Friday, April 14, 2017
Marcos V.’s Early 2017 Special Selection
Rio de Janeiro, October 2016
Hello, folks. Out of nowhere, I decided to write about some of the songs I discovered recently. There’s no particular theme or order in this list, so it’s nothing more than a collection of random J-Pop songs, old or new, that I’ve been listening to in the past couple of months.
CHAGE and ASKA -- Boku wa Kono Me de Uso wo Tsuku (僕はこの瞳で嘘をつく)
First, a hit from famous duo CHAGE and ASKA: “Boku wa Kono Me de Uso wo Tsuku”, which was released back in November 1991. Even though I’m not a fan of the duo (sorry, Noelle), I couldn’t resist ASKA’s powerful vocals coupled with this funky rock arrangement. Also, I can see how the duo became a hit in the Japanese early 90s landscape, when artistry was becoming more valued rather than all the overproduced aidoru of the 80s. I still prefer the glossy 80s, but this particular song by CHAGE and ASKA caught me off guard. It’s really good!
Fairies -- BLING BLING MY LOVE
Generally speaking, I don’t really care for Avex’s groups, with the exception of TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE (東京女子流), but Fairies’ (フェアリーズ) “BLING BLING MY LOVE”, from September 2014, is a super catchy and modern dance tune that makes me want to sing and dance (THAT CHORUS IS AMAZING!!!). Other than that, I’m aware it shares some similarities with Ke$ha’s hit “Tik Tok”, but both songs are fine… and I’d rather listen to Fairies than Ke$ha because I’m a J-Pop supporter (funny thing is that I saw Ke$ha live at Rock in Rio 2011, because Jamiroquai was going to enter the stage right after her show. I remember how my friends were not very receptive towards her songs, so I ended up dancing and jumping with some 13, 14 years old girls who were next to me. I was 21 years old back then, by the way).
Seiko Matsuda -- Seychelles no Yuuhi (セイシェルの夕陽)
Seiko Matsuda’s (松田聖子) 80s singles are hyper famous aidoru-pop classics, but some of her album cuts are great as well. That’s basically why I decided to dive through her enormous discography a little bit to discover some gems… and “Utopia’s” (ユートピア) “Seychelles no Yuuhi” is one song that could have been a single alongside “Komugi Iro no Mermaid” (小麦色のマーメイド), for example. In an interesting side note, Seiko-chan stated “Seychelles no Yuuhi” is a song she truly loves from the “Utopia” album (which, by the way, was released in June 1983), and that’s why she includes it in several concerts. As for the song itself, I could listen to it in a relaxed beach coast (I can even imagine some water sounds mixed in the arrangement). It’s that sort of Japanese 80s song that makes the listener feel this way.
Fuyumi Sakamoto -- Asia no Kaizoku (アジアの海賊)
Released in January 2009, this song is truly at home in Fuyumi Sakamoto’s (坂本冬美) discography. It reminds me of the risks she took trying to mix enka with other music genres when her “magnum opus” hit “Yozakura Oshichi” (夜桜お七) was released back in 1994. In fact, even though nothing could come out as epic-sounding as the aforementioned hit, I think “Asia no Kaizoku” is strong enough to cause a good impression. The hook is simple and very straightforward, but the gorgeous Japanese-styled arrangement and Sakamoto’s vocal delivery are enough to make me pay attention.
Monari Wakita -- Boy Friend
From enka straight to cheesy synthpop that could have come out of PWL in the late 80s: that’s the essence of this list. Ex-Especia member Monari Wakita (脇田もなり) debuted with a safe City Pop song last year, but now it’s time for some sugary pop with “Boy Friend”, which was aptly released back in February 2017. In the end, aside from the over-the-top 80s synths and simple structure, there’s a very bright chorus and an even brighter Monari Wakita acting extremely cute and adorable while trying to make every life form on Earth forget that the video is as cheap as possible. It works for me, so it's fine!
PASSPO -- PlayGround
PASSPO☆ is an aidoru group focused in recording pop-rock songs while maintaining a strange flight attendant gimmick. I’m not a fan of their music, aside from a couple of singles released back in 2012, but new promotional song “PlayGround”, which was released in February 2017, is a very good piece of funk-rock that doesn’t make me ashamed of headbanging a little bit while on the bus. As for the video, the zombie theme is warned out these days, so I don’t know why they’ve chosen to do it, but the music makes up for all the crappy acting.
Yumeko Kitaoka -- Mou Ichido Aetara (もういちど逢えたら)
And here we are with “Mou Ichido Aetara”, a very tender song from the late 80s in the voice of Yumeko Kitaoka (北岡夢子). That’s another song that makes me feel nostalgic… probably because it sounds a little bit sad, especially in the chorus. Released in June 1989, it also represents a period when aidoru music’s popularity was decling. So, at the time, mostly strong names were able to sell, and new aidoru had a hard time maintaining a career. It’s a pity, since “Mou ichido Aetara” is a pretty solid forgotten gem.
Yuki Maeda -- Tokyo Kirigirisu (東京きりぎりす)
Just like Sanae Jonouchi (城之内早苗) back in the Onyanko Club (おニャン子クラブ) days, and even Misaki Iwasa (岩佐美咲) in AKB48’s recent boom, Yuki Maeda (前田有紀) was one of Hello! Project’s solo enka singers during the agency’s heydays (First Generation member Yuko Nakazawa [中澤裕子] was H!P’s prime enka singer, but I like Yuki Maeda more). A talented and beautiful young woman in the early 00s, she initially recorded light enka songs, which I appreciate a lot since I’m not the biggest fan of the more over the top vocals in enka. Released in July 2003, the catchy “Tokyo Kirigirisu”, for example, just shows how restrained her music was back then, even if the melody and arrangement are evocative of Showa Era pop music. Instead of going deep in the enka style after some years in the industry, maybe she could have established herself as a mature ballad singer. Unfortunately, she probably decided to stick with her initial plans and success never arrived.
Golbies (from TPD) -- JUST LIKE MAGIC (ジャスト・ライク・マジック)
Ok, “JUST LIKE MAGIC” is that type of straightforward, repetitive and mechanic Eurobeat song that was being mass-produced during the late 80s/early 90s in Japan, but I like the epic main synth hook, the raw aidoru vocals, and also the catchy chorus (which is a must in Eurobeat songs, since they don’t have much to offer anyway). It was released in May 1990 by Golbies (ゴルビーズ), a subunit from the aidoru group Tokyo Performance Doll (東京パフォーマンスドール). Apparently, Ryoko Shinohara (篠原涼子) was a member of this subunit during her stay in TPD.
Arisa Mizuki -- Kimi ga Suki Dakara (君が好きだから)
To finish, we have “Kimi ga Suki Dakara”, a song composed by songstress Yumi Matsutoya (松任谷由実) for early 90s aidoru Arisa Mizuki (観月ありさ), which was released as a single back in August 1993. Even though it wasn’t a big hit like “Densetsu no Shoujo” (伝説の少女), “TOO SHY SHY BOY” or “Happy wake up!”, and is often overshadowed by them, this song offers some simple yet beautiful piano hook right from the beginning. Other than that, I agree it’s a grower, and maybe not an instant favorite, but there’s a melancholy in the song that makes me want to listen to it several times.