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, January 2, 2013

Ringo Shiina -- Muzai Moratorium (無罪モラトリアム)

In the final years of the 20th century, a lot of interesting music was coming into play in Japan: Shibuya-kei, a new aidoru wave represented by Johnny's Entertainment (guys) and Hello Project (girls), and J-R&B with more hip-hop sensibilities. But one day when I was in my friend's car, my pal turned on the radio, and out came this irresistible grungy pop song (with whistling, no less) sung by a woman who sounded like she ran with a biker gang. I asked who this was, and he answered that it was a new singer by the name of Ringo (Yumiko) Shiina(椎名林檎). The song was "Kabukicho no Jou"歌舞伎町の女王...Queen of Kabukicho). Unfortunately, I couldn't find the original song on YouTube but this cover version by the tribute band Voce is well done.

(Jan. 26 2013....managed to track down the original at the Dailymotion video service Sorry but I couldn't bring it over here but it's easy to find

I did see the original music video for "Kabukicho no Jou", and therefore Shiina herself. I thought she looked like Judy and Mary's lead vocal, YUKI, after spending several years in the house of The Addams Family; she had a facial expression that could probably melt several of the heavier elements. Shiina came up to Tokyo after a childhood and adolescence that spanned Saitama, Shizuoka and Fukuoka Prefectures, and one day after some scout for an S&M movie tried to recruit her while she was walking around in Shibuya, she got the inspiration to create this song about the sex trade in Kabukicho, the notorious area in Shinjuku (not really that bad an area although the sleaze can be seen especially on a weekend night).

 The original single was released back in September 1998 as her 2nd single; it peaked at No. 50.

After listening to some subsequent songs by her, I decided to buy her first album, "Muzai Moratorium"(Innocence Moratorium) which was released in February 1999. The cover had a thinner Ringo surrounded by a gaggle of media types who are also crowding an official walking out of the end of a trial and sagely unfurling a banner with the title of the album. The album was interesting to say the least. Kinda like that box of chocolates that Forrest Gump talked about.

Along with Shiina's 2nd single, "Muzai Moratorium"also has a punky and frenetic version of her debut single, "Koufukuron"(幸福論...Theory of Happiness). Apparently, the singer had not been thrilled about the original version when it was released in May 1998, and didn't do all that well in its original release. However, with the rise in her star later on, the debut was re-released and it eventually hit the No. 10 spot. The above video has the album version while the one below is a shorter remixed version of the original by Rymdkraft. The original felt a little more techno.

There was another single from the album, "Koko de Kiss Shite"ここでキスして...Kiss Me Here), but I will leave that for another profile. Actually a non-single track that I wanted to profile here is "Akane Sasu Kiro Terasaredo"茜さす帰路照らされど...When It Begins To Get Dark) which also stands out for sounding like a 70s ballad with the piano and the strings. To go from screaming guitars to Loggins & Messina within the same album is an Olympic-sized jump.

The ballad was also used as the commercial song for Suntory's Cocktail Bar drinks. Shiina rarely made appearances outside of concerts, so to actually hear her do some narration for the ad probably got the fans talking.

The final song for this profile is "Tsumiki Asobi"積木遊び...Playing With Blocks), which Shiina has described as being somewhat of a fun palate-cleansing song. It's definitely eclectic: a rock song with a trombone and koto thrown in for good measure. And although it's just a small part of the song, but I like the way she ends the verses with a somewhat English-sounding pronunciation. for a kanji-laden line.

"Muzai Moratorium" became a million-seller in Japan, and peaked at No. 2. It took a while but it eventually became the 42nd-ranked album of 2000. And a legend was born.

Ringo Shiina -- Muzai Moratorium

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