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, February 1, 2012

Akina Nakamori(中森明菜) -- Bitter and Sweet
Ahhhh...I remember when I was but a wee (well, I was actually quite big but "wee"sounds better in print) lad at the University of Toronto in 1986, my friend, Anthony, and I used to hit the Wah Yueh record store in downtown Chinatown (Dundas and Huron), and searched for Japanese pop albums. I'd already become a full-fledged kayo kyoku freak by then, and had bought Seiko Matsuda's "Train" LP and Akina Nakamori's "D404 ME". I have NO idea how they came up with a title like that for an Akina album, except that it sounds like something you spray on a rusty doorknob. But both albums got heavy play on my record player at home.

But then I came across the album that preceded "D404 ME", "Bitter and Sweet". And it blew me away. I mean, if I were to recommend any album to a KK newbie, this would be the one. Great hooks, great pedigree in the choice of composers, and pretty much every song is a winner. This was the album that finally destroyed the needle on my record player....and perhaps my parents' patience.

The first two songs especially packed a punch. "Kazarijanainoyo Namida wa"(飾りじゃないのよ涙は)was written and composed by crooning KK legend, Yosui Inoue(井上陽水). Reading the lyrics, I could imagine young Akina walking home after getting her heart wrenched out and stomped on, exhorting to the entire world that these were indeed real tears she was crying ( et tu, Seiko-chan?) The second track, "Romantic na Yoru da wa" ロマンチックな夜だわ)was created by City Pop princess, EPO, and it's a bit unlike her style since her stuff had been more poppy and happy.

"Romantic" throws out the funk right from the opening groove, and the horn section gives a trashy performance as if they were doing a gig in a strip bar. The lyrics have Akina hinting at something hot and heavy with a potential boy toy. So I guess, in a temporal sense, this song would've come before the first track.

Not surprisingly, the album title has the raunchy bitter stuff on Side A, while Side B has the sweet ballady tunes.

I think it was with this album that Akina graduated from her aidoru days to that of J-Pop diva. The writing pedigree illustrated that. Certainly, her voice started to drop an octave from "Bitter & Sweet" onward, although it had yet to reach her current sultry depths.

Just to give the facts here: this was Akina's 7th album, released in April 1985. It spent 2 weeks at No. 1 just after release and attained No. 9 in the Top 10 albums of the year.

(August 22 2014: I made a follow-up to the album right here.)

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