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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mie Nakao -- Kawaii Baby (可愛いベイビー)

Ensure that you haven't eaten any cakes or chocolates before viewing the above video. The sugar shock could kill you. It's indeed "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww"-some.

In any case, Mie Nakao's(中尾ミエ) debut tune, "Kawaii Baby"(Pretty Little Baby) is one of those songs that has buried itself in my brain so thoroughly as an early Japanese music hit that it's almost hard to believe that it had actually been a Connie Francis 1961 song. And I think it's been pretty much Nakao's trademark song since its release in April 1962. This was back in the pre-Oricon days, but it did hit the No. 1 spot in the rankings within the longtime Japanese music magazine, "Music Life". And what must've sent the then-16-year-old over the moon, her rendition of the Francis song ultimately sold 1 million copies. And I have to say that at least for me Nakao does sound as if Francis had internalized the Japanese language.

My image of Mie Nakao when I was over in Japan was of a friendly straight-talking middle-aged lady who occasionally appeared on variety shows or music retrospectives and more often on those late-night infomercials. If I hadn't heard her song on tape or seen her on video performing the song, I would never have pegged her as a former teen singer. But that she was. And in fact, she was placed alongside two other teen idols, Mari Sono and Yukari Ito(園まり・伊東ゆかり) as a triumvirate known as Spark Sannin Musumeスパーク3人娘....The 3 Spark Daughters). At the time, the three young ladies, who all belonged to the all-powerful Watanabe Productions (the same company who took care of The Peanuts and Candies), helped host a show titled "Morinaga Spark Show"(森永スパーク・ショー)for 18 months from 1962, ostensibly to show the talents of Takashi Fujiki(藤木孝), a rockabilly singer. However, when Nakao, Sono and Ito gained even further popularity, Spark Sannin Musume stuck around for a few more years.

The above video is of the 1963 Kohaku Utagassen with the Musume doing something called "The Cutie Pie Medley" with Ito, Sono and Nakao performing in that order. During the medley, Nakao does another cover of another old 60s hit, "Bye Bye Birdie". It's interesting to watch as a snippet of how a certain segment of Japanese pop music at the time liked to emulate American pop culture in terms of music and fashion.

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