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.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Megumi Hayashibara -- Forever Dreamer




It’s very difficult for me to talk about Megumi Hayashibara (林原 めぐみ). She was the first singer I ever liked, and still is my favorite. Don’t ask me why, because I probably can’t answer this rationally. But fanboyism apart, I’m going to introduce in this article one of so many songs that I like from her: “Forever Dreamer”. As the article got bigger than I originally thought it would, it’s important to rise to the occasion: I’m going to use this particular song to analyze some of the changes suffered by the italo-disco/eurobeat musical genre in Japan from the late 80s to mid 90s.

“Forever Dreamer” was never released as a single, and it was included in Hayashibara’s sixth album, “Enfleurage”, released in March 1995. Indeed, as I check Enfleurage’s booklet, I see that the song was firstly released in the anime album “MINKY MOMO in Tabidachi no Eki” (ミンキーモモ 旅だちの) in May 1994, supporting an OVA (Original Video Animation) of the same name.

The song itself is a nostalgic synth-pop ballad with some reminiscent eurobeat elements  from the late 80s/early 90s popping out in the instrumental backtrack. Even the out-of-place-at-first-sight guitar solo before the last choruses sounds fine after a few listens. All in all, it’s a very charming song that rescues a particular sonority in a time when eurobeat was turning out into something quite different from the old italo-disco sound that it was labeled from. In that sense, songs like “TRY ME ~Watashi wo Shinjite~” [TRY ME ~私を信じて] by Amuro Namie with SUPER MONKEYS and “TORA TORA TORA” by MAX, both released in 1995, are examples of hit singles released with this “new eurobeat style” (It’s important to remember, though, that both songs are covers of original Italian eurobeat songs. Those are “TRY ME” by Lolita and “TORA TORA TORA” by Domino). If the reader checks out those two tracks, he/she will probably agree with me that the “new eurobeat style”, although still made by the Italians and recognized by them as the same italo-disco, was more “frenetic” if compared with the old italo classics from mid-to-late 80s. From that point of view, I find “Forever Dreamer” kind of dislocated in time, and would not be surprised to listen it in a late 80s/early 90s album from Wink or Chisato Moritaka, as both acts were recording a lot of eurobeat tunes at the time. Megumi herself have a lot of italo-disco/eurobeat influenced songs in her early albums (“Manatsu no Valentine” [真夏のバレンタイ], from 1991’s album “Half and, Half”; “NAGARE BOSHI” [翔星 -NAGARE BOSHI-] from 1992’s album “WHATEVER”; and “DON’T SIGH” from 1993’s album “SHAMROCK”, to name a few). Some of those songs have more explicit eurobeat influences than “Forever Dreamer” which, as I’ve already pointed out, is a synth-pop ballad. However, we can’t call those Megumi’s songs “REAL” eurobeat tracks, because they were not made for nightclubs. Therefore, the final product ended having a poppier, more aidoru-oriented sound not so distant from what Japan had been doing since the 70s.

Here is the music video for “TORA TORA TORA” by MAX, an example of the “new eurobeat sound”.





Now, for comparison, I've chosen a Michael’s Fortunati song from 1986 called “Give Me Up”. This song, an italo-disco classic covered by the Japanese aidoru duo BaBe in 1987, is the first track of the first volume of a Japanese eurobeat compilation from 1986 called “That’s Eurobeat”. From that song, we can obtain an idea of what was sold as eurobeat in Japan back then.

(I'm sorry but the video has been taken down.)

To finish the video showout, I picked up the music video for Manatsu no Valentine by Megumi Hayashibara, an example of eurobeat influenced Japanese song with an aidoru approach. And don’t let Megumi’s lovely face and vocals forget you to pay attention to the instrumental backtrack.

Finishing the article, I can say that, for me, “Forever Dreamer” is kind of a lost gem. And, as I said before, it’s a nostalgic song. At some point of my life, I thought we had to have personal memories linked to a song to consider it nostalgic, but my father taught me that a song can have a nostalgic quality the first time you listen to it. Although I don’t remember what I thought of “Forever Dreamer” when I listened to the “Enfleurage” album for the first time back in 2005, I can say that, today, it’s one of my favorites Megumi songs, and I blame Megumi’s beautiful vocals and, particularly, the very dated synth arrangement for that.

“Forever Dreamer” was written and composed by Yuki Matsuura (松浦有) and the arrangement was made by Masaki Iwamoto (岩本正樹). As for the “Enfleurage” album, it ranked No. 6 on the weekly Oricon charts, selling over 97,000 (source: generasia).


To finish the article with an image, that's my own copy of Megumi's Enfleurage.

7 comments:

  1. Hi, Marcos. Glad that you were able to get this posting up before going off for the week after all. :)

    Every other Sunday, I get together with my anime friend, and mentioned to him that you were going to put up this Megumi Hayashibara article. He remarked that Hayashibara was quite the prominent ani-son singer of her time.

    My own observation on anime songs, even those produced and released now, is that they tend to sound like an arrangement from yesteryear. I think you mentioned the word "nostalgia", and that's what I've gotten from listening to a number of anime songs over the past year. I'm not sure if it's because the songs want to enhance the purity of the characters or the setting...maybe or maybe not. But "Forever Dreamer" strikes me that way as well.

    As for your point on how imported musical styles are altered somewhat when they get into Japan, that's been my understanding as well. And I think that goes with not just music but with a lot of different examples of popular culture: steak in Japan is not quite steak in the USA (I love both....kinda hints at my high cholesterol level but I'll leave it at that), Studio Ghibli in Japan is not quite Walt Disney in the USA, quiz shows in Japan are not quite like quiz shows in other countries. There's just that Japanese twist which is added to these imported ideas and concepts for domestic consumption. Ultimately, it's probably one of the big reasons that I got into kayo kyoku in the first place.

    Thanks very kindly for the post. Very interesting food for thought, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, J-Canuck.

      I had a lot of fun writing this article. I'm glad that you and the others liked.

      As your friend already told you, Megumi was really the prominet ani-son singer of her time. But she lost her throne to Nana Mizuki nowadays.

      I know what you mean about anime songs. I find a lot of arrangements very outdated too. I like, because, for me, its kind of a charm. But I heard a lot of criticisms as well.

      Yeah, about the "Japanese twist", I totally agree, as we had already debated earlier. And I find it very interesting as well. What makes Japanese music special to me, in the first place, is the same thing.

      As I wrote in the article, Megumi was the first singer I ever liked and a lot of her famous anime songs have a dance-oriented arrangement with some Komuro influences (90s + J-pop = Komuro, that's quite the equation). I remember listening to her songs and finding them kind of similar to some pop-dance songs of the West, but from a past time. It was very strange, but cool, at the same time.

      Thank you for the feedback, J-Canuck.

      Delete
    2. Always a pleasure, Marcos V. Let me clarify about me finding a lot of arrangements very outdated. I actually like them that way. As much as I like some of the current J-R&B there, it's always nice to hear the older stuff as well, and a number of the anime songs kinda brings that back to me. :)

      Delete
  2. I like Megumi Hayashibara she sing the opening and ending of the anime Saber Marionette J, J to X anda I love that anime I know that she sings another animes' song and about Italo-disco and eurobeat I like so much that style in the 80's had much influence of that genre I like groups like bad boys blue, modern talking, Sandra, C C Catch, Raf (selfcontrol), Yuri Shatunov in Russia etc etc :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, jarteaga obregon.

      Are you from Latin America? I'm from Brazil and I know that Saber Marionette series are huge in Latin's America anime fandom. I became a real Megumi fan after listening to the openings and endings to those series. "Lively Motion", ending of J to X, is probably my favorite Megumi song from all times, and I might make an article about it someday. But "Successful Mission", "I'll Be There" and "Proof of Myself" are excellent too. Even "Hesitation", from the OVA J Again, is very good. Indeed, if I had to choose a favorite anime, it would be Saber Marionette J.

      About Italo-disco and eurobeat, I like Sandra a lot too. My personal favorites are Eddy Huntington and Tom Hooker. But a lot of great songs from the genre are from one-time projects which resulted in one or two singles.

      More about Sandra, I don't know if you like "Arabesque" (Sandra's group before going solo). They were huge in Japan and their last two albums ("Dance Dance Dance" and "Time To Say Goodbye") are very good early italo productions.

      Delete
  3. Forever Dreamer is wonderful. My own favourite track is Nostalgic Lover. In the very early days of internet someone in Vancouver, if I remember right, did set up a Megumi Hayashibara Internet Fan Club. Naturally I had to join it and receive a membership card. Then the club admin announced he is taking a break because of illness, and I think I never heard anything more. Sometimes I wonder what happened to him, but all the clues and tracks of that short-lived virtual society have disappeared.

    However, I am still carrying the card.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Nostalgic Lover, and I think of it as a hidden gem as well. It carries a somewhat pop-rock/new wave vibe from the 80s. And it's one of my favorites songs from her "Bertemu" album.

      It's a pity that this Fan Club has disappeared. There isn't enough information about Megumi's singing career in English around the internet. It's probably because she is more recognizable as a seiyuu.

      And I would keep the card too.

      Delete

Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.