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, December 30, 2013

Marcos V.'s 80s Playlist - Eurobeat Edition


Hi everyone. It’s my time to contribute with a list of some personal favorite Japanese songs from the 80s. I don’t pretend to waste many lines in the introduction, but some important characteristics of my list must be told before starting with the proper songs.

First, my main theme, eurobeat, is one of the key music genres of mainstream Japanese music during the mid-to-late 80s as it contributed with new musical and fashion aesthetics to the Japanese pop landscape. Based on that, my method in most of the entries is to introduce one special song and kinda tell a story related to the particular style of eurobeat of the song and, also, related to the performer. It’s an interesting exercise I’ve been developing in the blog since I started contributing earlier this year. This practice also helped me organize my ideas and conclusions, and I’m very grateful to JTM, nikala, Jari and especially J-Canuck for letting me write my confuse thoughts in this very special space.

Second, an important, and maybe secondary, characteristic of my list is that it’s only comprised of aidoru singers, with no single exception. Some of them might be perceived as being more aidoru than others, but, in the end, they’re all aidoru singers. This particular feature is secondary because, in no moment, I had the intention of doing an aidoru list. To be honest, most of the aidoru singers I chose to be part of my list would be out of any serious aidoru-focused list. That’s why I put emphasis on the eurobeat theme and not in the aidoru one. Summarizing, I see my list as a compilation of interesting fusion moments between aidoru and the eurobeat sound. Also, this post isn’t just about the songs. Sometimes I’m going to talk more about other things, like fashion or the transformation suffered by the aidoru world, than of the songs themselves. But the writing is ALWAYS based on the song, so try to understand what I’m talking about with the song and the video (when it’s available) in mind.

Third, I must warn that although my list is MAINLY based on eurobeat, some songs are not in this category. They are kinda shuffled with the others, but it’s not that difficult to identify them.

Last but not least, the reader must pay attention to one important thing. This list is, by no means, absolute. My main intention while selecting the songs was to construct a nice balance between singles (some of them hit singles, some of them not) and album tracks. This choice was very arbitrary, as I wanted to highlight some hidden gems over the well known singles and hit songs. With other acts, I simply chose to talk about famous singles.

Well, I ended wasting everyone’s patience with the introduction. Let’s just start this list and have a great time.

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10) Hidemi Ishikawa (石川秀美) -- Everynight




I always found very interesting how trends come and go. As the aidoru days were slowly coming to an end, some accomplished aidoru singers just decided to change their styles and adapt themselves to new trends, like the eurobeat trend that emerged after the mid-80s.

The beautiful and tanned Hidemi Ishikawa, owner of one of the cutest cheeks of the aidoru world, started releasing synthpop inspired songs around 1986 with a cover of the Pet Shop Boys sophomore single “Love Comes Quickly”. But “Everynight” is, for me, the best example of her eurobeat ambitions before retiring from the music scene in 1990 after a scandal involving pregnancy and rushed marriage. Typical unfortunate aidoru story.

Released in 1988, “Everynight” is different in sound from the "Stock Aitken Waterman" brand of eurobeat that became very popular in Japan one year after, in 1989, with Chisato Moritaka’s (森高千里) “17-sai” (17才), Wink’s “Ai ga Tomaranai ~Turn it Into Love~” (愛が止まらない), Minako Tanaka’s (田中美奈子) “Namida no Taiyou” (涙の太陽) and Eriko Tamura’s (田村英里子) “Shinken (Honki)” (真剣). That said, it was an early type of eurobeat more comparable with the Italo Disco sound that was starting to fade away in Europe in favor of House music.

About this subject, it’s interesting to note that while Italo Disco and eurobeat were decreasing in popularity in Europe, it was, at the same time, becoming even more popular in Japan (and in Soviet Union, but that’s not the point here). This process resulted in a natural change of focus as Japan virtually became the only Italo Disco importer during the late 80s and early 90s. Basically, Japan became the main cash cow to Italy’s disco producers, a phenomenon that constituted what I call Japan’s “first dance craze”. This phenomenon faded around 1992 and 1993 to resurge even more powerful in 1995 as the “second dance craze”, when Namie Amuro (安室奈美恵) conquered the charts with her eurobeat covers of Lolita’s “Try Me”, Veronica Sale’s “Season” and Sophie’s “Stop the Music”.

Back to the “first dance craze”, Italo Disco also faced competition from the English brand of eurobeat masterminded by Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW). Their main “product”, the cute little Australian singer Kylie Minogue, hit really big in Japan around 1988 and 1989. This instant popularity led to many Japanese covers of her hits, like the aforementioned Chisato Moritaka, which covered Kylie’s version of “The Locomotion” in her “Mite Special Live Concert” (見て ~スペシャル~ライヴ in 汐留PITII 4.15.'89), and Wink, which covered many songs of the teen star, with “Ai ga Tomaranai ~Turn It Into Love~” being the most representative of them.

In the end, both Italo Disco and SAW’s artists were popular in Japan, while Italo Disco experienced a much more important role in the advance of eurobeat with the “Super Eurobeat” compilation series that started in 1990 and… well, it’s still going on in 2013.

In the case of Hidemi’s “Everynight”, its charm consists of the aggressive synths and the edginess portrayed by Hidemi’s vocals. Aidoru singers who started recording eurobeat songs during the “first dance craze” period had two options. First, the fluffy and sugary vocals combined with playful eurobeat melodies and, second, a more serious and clubby approach. Hidemi went with the second option here on “Every Night”, and it was a nice idea as she was kind of leaving the cute aidoru days behind.

All in all, I enjoy Hidemi’s “Everynight” a lot. It represents very well this transition from mildly successful aidoru singer into a more “dance diva” kind of singer that happened quite frequently during the late 80s.

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09) Eriko Tamura (田村英里子) -- Tsumetaku Shinaide (冷たくしないで)



Eriko Tamura is not a common artist in any list, but I had to include her beautiful “Tsumetaku Shinaide” in my list for one specific reason: the melodramatic melody combined with the orchestral synthpop arrangement offers a nice example of majestic pop sensibility that was common during the 80s. Of course Eriko’s voice (and pin-up beauty) was a nice treat too. I always think that she should have been a more successful aidoru based on her vocals, but some lackluster songs didn’t help her achieve the deserved fame. We must remember that the late 80s also represents the end of the aidoru era, and Eriko’s image was more suitable for the early-to-mid 80s than for the end of the decade. Despite that, her debut album, “May Be Dream” (released in July 1989), is a nice and polished selection of late 80s dance-pop/eurobeat songs. Based on that, the inclusion of “Tsumetaku Shinaide” in this list is my tribute to this great phase of her career.

Being honest, though, Eriko’s material is not the best example of 80s dance-pop, neither is “Tsumetaku Shinaide” an outstanding song that stood the test of time. At the same time, although her production team was clearly emulating a trendy sound in order to sell more records, the melodic pop sensibility that I talked earlier is very noticeable in this little romantic piece. In fact, Eriko sings it like a Cinderella. A beautiful song, indeed.

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08) Yuka Onishi (大西結花) -- Shadow Hunter (シャドウ・ハンター)




This song is probably the most out of place of the bunch, but I like it so much that I needed to include it in this list. On the other hand, it would not be so off in JTM’s list that was posted earlier.

Not an eurobeat or synthpop song, “Shadow Hunter” (released in February 1987) could be better placed in the early-to-mid 80s, during the start of the burikko aidoru era inaugurated by Seiko Matsuda (松田 聖子). It reminds me vaguely of some Kyoko Koizumi’s (小泉 今日子) hits around 1984/85. Also, the song has quite a dynamic with all the horns and the bouncy bass line. Its overall sound makes me think of some spy movie or series. In reality, it was a “Sukeban Deka III” (スケバン刑事III) related song, which may explain its live action sound and adventurous feeling.

Yuka Onishi was never the best aidoru singer, nor the most famous one, but the "Sukeban Deka III" exposure had quite a positive impact on her career (she was one of Yui Asaka’s [浅香 唯] sisters in the series). Around 1989, though, instead of switching to an eurobeat sound like many of her contemporaries, she invested in a rock sound with an aidoru approach. She was quite daring trying to compete with PRINCESS PRINCESS and other all-female rock bands. Even the talented Minako Honda (本田 美奈子) failed to be successful with a similar strategy.

Back to Onishi, she slowly retired from the music career, and eventually got nude in a photo shoot (1999). I must confess that it wasn’t nice to see a former 80s aidoru getting naked in exchange of some bucks. I felt bad for her, and seeing the photos I can almost assure she wasn’t happy at all. Or maybe I’m being too sentimental about my 80s aidoru.

Nonetheless, the young and cheery Yuka Onishi will always be in my memory singing “Shadow Hunter”. I bought an old Yuka Onishi CD just because of this song (I ended liking the whole CD, though).

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07) Megumi Hayashibara (林原めぐみ) -- Yoake no Shooting Star (夜明けのShooting Star)



Megumi Hayashibara is not a 80s singer. Although some rare and not memorable late 80s songs can be found in her discography, her major label debut as a singer was only in early 1991. On the other hand, she recorded one solid pop song in the 80s, “Yoake no Shooting Star”, an image song for the character Christina “Chris” MacKenzie (クリスチーナ・マッケンジー) from the anime OVA “Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in My Pocket” (機動戦士ガンダム0080 ポケットの中の戦争).

“Yoake no Shooting Star” is a nice song, but nothing spectacular. The arrangement is just straightforward pop with a loud and cool synth melody that tastes like 80s right from the beginning. But what make it stand out is Megumi’s vocals, which are strong, full of cheerfulness and charisma. Based on that, it’s interesting to notice that “Yoake no Shooting Star” was also Megumi’s first recording ever. According to her autobiography manga series, she had to sing the song at an event in place of Megumi Shiina (椎名恵). Firstly, though, she had to have her vocal range tested, and in that specific day, she was sick with a high fever, which resulted in horrible vocals. But a man from the King Records (キングレコード株式会社) label listened to her and, somehow, liked what Hayashibara delivered. Finally, it was decided afterwards that “our” Megumi was going to officially record the song, which she did (for the source of this story, click here). And that’s the story behind Megumi Hayashibara’s first recording in early 1989.

“Yoake no Shooting Star” got a spot in Megumi’s sophomore album “WHATEVER” (1992), and in two of her compilations, “VINTAGE A” (2000) and “VINTAGE WHITE” (2011). Also, Megumi seems to like the song very much because she often includes it in her concerts, like in the 2002 concert that is featured above. The arrangement is the original 1989 one (Megumi rarely sings with a live band in her concerts), but with Megumi’s live vocals.

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06) Aya Sugimoto (杉本彩) -- 13-Nichi no Runa (13日のルナ)


The late 80s/early 90s were a very curious moment of Japanese mainstream pop music. Some strange characters, like Chisato Moritaka and Minako Tanaka, were artistically created in this period, and with a sexy appeal that was buried since the late 70s. We all know that, overall, the 80s aidoru era was a time where the virgin and naïve aesthetics were an essential factor in the construction of female stars. Of course a very specific type of sexuality was present in this discourse, but it was different from what aidoru acts during a pre-Seiko Matsuda period, like Pink Lady (ピンク・レディー) and Momoe Yamaguchi (山口百恵), represented.

Although the aforementioned Chisato Moritaka and Minako Tanaka were sexy aidoru singers, Aya Sugimoto was more explicit and wild if compared to them. Her stage persona, directly influenced by Italian eurobeat singer Sabrina Salerno, was famous for some raunchy and over-the-top performances. For instance, Aya’s debut single, “Boys”, was a cover of Sabrina’s hit that became famous around Europe because of the explicit music video where she happily reveals her large breasts in a swimming pool (check this AMAZING video here. Unfortunatly you need to have a YouTube account because of some age restriction). And although Aya couldn’t go that far in Japan, her bouncy breasts were also a highlight of her dance-oriented performances.

As for “13-Nichi no Runa”, which was released in December 1988, I don’t quite remember when I discovered it, but I do remember that I became quickly addicted to its catchiness. And yes, I know Aya Sugimoto was a very bad live singer, but I just tend to ignore her lack of singing talent in favor of nice disco songs and some sexy appeal. Back to the song, like most of her other wannabe hits, it’s a nice example of the eurobeat/Hi-NRG sound of the late 80s. Her energetic performances were nice to watch too.

After reading a 2008 interview with Aya Sugimoto (for the interview, click here), I concluded that she acts like a self aware woman who was defending feminine empowerment back in the late 80s. In her words, “it would be difficult to wear clothes like that if it were not accompanied by a new kind of spirit”. Also, “when I [Aya Sugimoto] wore sexy clothes in the ’80s and the ’90s, it caused a stir”. These phrases induces the reader to believe that Aya Sugimoto was almost revolutionary at the time, which is kind of ambiguous as she was more like a sex toy teasing a male fan base than a female empowerment icon. Besides that, she really devoted her entire career in maintaining the status of a sexy symbol that defends sexual freedom.

Aya’s concrete and apparent sexiness, like the tamer sexiness portrayed by Chisato Moritaka and Minako Tanaka, was one example of the transformations experienced by the aidoru category during the late 80s/early 90s. That strange transition of pure/virgin aidoru into a more sexualized type of aidoru is one of my favorite subjects and one that it’s not very discussed in the English speaking world. I, for example, consider singers like Aya, Chisato and Minako to be kind of ahead their time, just because sexy divas like Namie Amuro and MAX were yet to rule the J-Pop world. These three young ladies were not actual aidoru artists, but not out of this particular landscape either. And I just find kind of strange how everyone actually ignores the blatant sex appeal of these artists when constructing the J-Pop history. It gives the impression that the kawaii and virgin aidoru ideal model of the 80s gave space to the energetic and sexualized image of Namie Amuro in the mid-90s while nothing else was created between these two extremes. Based on that, I believe that Aya Sugimoto, for example, can be seen as a transition artist, or something like that. I’m also aware that this type of sexualized aidoru singer was not very successful, with the exception of Chisato Moritaka. The lack of success is probably a reason for their constant absence in the J-Pop history, and that’s understandable. It’s also important to remember that the fall of the aidoru category from the top of the entertainment world represented a niche division where different types of aidoru singers with a specific fan base in mind were created, and the sexy aidoru type was one of many new types that were trying to survive with a limited fan base.  Well, I’m not advancing in this territory now, but some other artists of this specific list are going to be used to talk a little more about this subject.

Strange theories aside, Aya Sugimoto is one of my many guilty pleasures. I just have a thing for cheap dance-pop music of the 80s and not so talented performers. As for “13-Nichi no Runa”, it’s not a groundbreaking song, but I remember how much I liked to study while listening to it and other Aya Sugimoto’s songs during my graduation years. She was probably the first “forgotten aidoru” I became a fan.

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05) Tomomi Nishimura (西村知美) -- Nemurihime (眠り姫)



I was in serious doubt if Tomomi Nishimura’s “Nemurihime” was the right song for my eurobeat list. This song was in a serious battle with Noriko “Nori-P” Sakai’s (酒井法子) “Wagamama Syndrome” (ワガママ・シンドローム) (you can listen to it here, if you want), but I ended up with “Nemurihime”. Basically, I chose it because of a more complex arrangement if compared to Nori-P’s “Wagamama Syndrome”. I like both, but I don’t think Nori-P’s song would add something new to this list. Besides being a catchy and straightforward pop song, “Wagamama Syndrome” didn’t offer significant twists and innovations.

Back to “Nemurihime”, it’s a 1989 eurobeat song with some interesting elements. Although I’ never been a true fan of Tomomi Nishimura, mostly because of her weak vocals, I liked her delivery in “Nemurihime”, especially when the ballad introduction gives place to the full synth arrangement.

One of the main characteristic of “Nemurihime”, and of Nori-P’s “Wagamama Syndrome” as well, was the mixture of a mildly cutesy style with a mysterious synth arrangement. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of place in a Wink album of the late 80s.

In the “Yoru no Hit Studio” live version presented above, a lot of the synths are not audible. Like in many “Yoru no Hit Studio” performances, the horns are actually taking the place of the synths. I only decided to post this performance because the song is played almost in its entirety, and, well… 80s, for me, is almost synonym of “Yoru no Hit Studio”. But trust me, “Nemurihime” is a cool eurobeat song, and not a full orchestra disco.

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04) Minako Tanaka (田中美奈子) -- Namida no Taiyou (涙の太陽)


Maybe I’m just a fool, but I like Minako Tanaka very much. I like her image, her beauty, her sound and her vocals a lot. No deeper reasons. Just like it. And do I know her entire discography? No, it’s rare. I only know her singles and some of her album songs, nothing more. But I consider myself a fan.

The first time I saw Minako Tanaka on YouTube singing “Namida no Taiyou” I just couldn’t stop thinking of Chisato Moritaka. It was the same style of music and a very similar image (Chisato’s image became a lot more extravagant and campy, though). But besides being a “copy”, I liked Minako’s vocals and beauty very much, which was a plus for her. Like I said above, I’m a fan, and I started considering myself one right after the moment I just described. It was around May or June 2011.

“Namida no Taiyou” was Minako’s debut single in 1989. Let’s just call it the eurobeat rendition of “Namida no Taiyou”, as the song was covered by a lot (and I really mean a lot) of different artists since it was originally recorded in English as “Crying in a Storm” (1965) by “Japanese-born-but-raised-in-England” singer Emy Jackson (エミー・ジャクソン) (for Emy's original version, click here). About that, I think Japanese eurobeat singers had a thing for turning non eurobeat songs into eurobeat. Chisato Moritaka did that with the classic “17-sai”, while Wink… well, Wink did that with so many songs that it’s hard to make a proper account. In fact, Minako Tanaka’s second single, “Be My Baby”, was also an eurobeat cover of an old classic.

Back to Minako’s version of “Namida no Taiyou”, I find it very energetic. The arrangement is not made of classy or laidback electronic sounds, but of loud, memorable and sharp synths. And combined with Minako’s girly vocals, the result was an interesting listening experience. The bridge is also something to keep an eye for (or ear, in this case) as the keyboard sounds are mixed with a robust bass that features a lot of slapping.

Minako’s version of “Namida no Taiyou” was not a big hit, reaching only #18 on the Oricon charts. To be honest, none of her songs would conquer the status of hits. She was just a sexy female pop singer that could hardly be labeled as an aidoru. Nevertheless, I thought she deserved a spot on my personal list.

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BONUS TRACK) Sophie -- SOFT TIME (RED MONSTER MIX)



“SOFT TIME” is just a bonus I decided to include in my “eurobeat” list before my top three songs. As it’s a classic 1989 eurobeat song which was included in the first volume of the “Super Eurobeat” series, the only thing that makes it an outsider is the fact that it isn’t a Japanese song, but the original Italian recording sung by Sophie (Elena Ferretti).

I first discovered this song in early 2011 when my Wink fanboyism was bigger than the stratosphere. Although I had had contact with eurobeat before in two different times, in special when I discovered Chisato Moritaka a year before, in 2010, I just didn’t became a fan of the genre before 2011. As I recall, Chisato got me into the overall aidoru world, and eurobeat was just a secondary factor for me at the time. It was really with Wink and their “Stock Aitken Waterman” brand of dance-pop (which was somehow called eurobeat) that I started listening to eurobeat more seriously, and “SOFT TIME”, a song I found listening to this first “Super Eurobeat” volume, still is my favorite song of the genre (I soon discovered that almost nothing really sounds like it, but that’s another story).

As for “SOFT TIME”, well…, the song is just amazing, and this “RED MONSTER MIX” I decided to include just take things to another level (it’s an official remix. I have it on CD). It’s not very different from the original in structure, but the slight changes are just amazing, just like when the synths in 6:13 mark are apparently going into a higher register, and then Sophie comes back with the chorus before the ending. What I also like is the common eurobeat practice of intercalating vocals with the arrangement, just like after the 4:53 mark. Finally, the vocals, just like the title, are very soft and beautiful, which contributes to the overall melancholic vibe of the song. In the end, it’s a killer song, for sure.

But let's go back to my top three songs...

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03) Miho Nakayama (中山美穂) -- Mermaid (人魚姫-mermaid-)


Nothing better than a song starting with very sharp 80s synths and a groovy bass line.

“Mermaid” is my favorite song by classy aidoru singer Miho Nakayama. Released in 1988, this summer gem is a funk/synthpop masterpiece. I just can’t get enough of the raw and sharp synths used in this song. As for Miho, her vocals became very mature around late 1987/early 1988, and that’s visible in “Mermaid”. She really did a good job with this one. It’s a pity she couldn’t deliver a high-level performance of it in live TV shows, although she nailed it in her 1991 concert (you can watch it here).

Besides being a very pretty young lady and a decent singer, I never found Miho very charismatic on stage. Her songs, on the other hand, were very nice during the 80s. Just like Wink’s “Samishii Nettagiyo” (淋しい熱帯魚), “Mermaid” is a very synth rich song, which is an important characteristic of the 80s. Unlike today’s American mainstream electronic music, which relies heavily in one or two synth hooks, mainstream electronic music in the 80s was, overall, more sophisticated (although raw and rudimentary in its sound). As synthesizers were one of the main new musical technologies of the decade, experimentation (and exaggeration) was at its peak. Nowadays, on the other hand, synthesizers are not used in a very creative way. Maybe the overall musical aesthetics changed a lot in the last thirty or twenty five years. Of course that’s just a personal feeling, but I thought it was nice to share my view.

Back to “Mermaid”, it earned Miho’s third #1 single on the Oricon charts. Also, it was released in the same day of her seventh album “Mind Game”. Although it wasn’t featured in the album, “Mermaid” is a nice start to the overall feeling and sound of this album, as both relies in a summery funk/synthpop sound. In that way, it works like an appetizer before the main dish. Some songs from the album, like “Strange Parade” (my favorite from the album. Check it here right after the 5:40 mark) and “Mind Game” (listen to it here), are even kind of similar to “Mermaid” in structure and arrangement, which is not a bad thing at all. All in all, I deeply recommend this one Miho album, “Mind Game”. It’s my favorite from her career.

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02) Chisato Moritaka (森高千里) -- Korekkiri Bye Bye (これっきりバイバイ)


Her name has appeared many times before in this list, but her real time was yet to come. She's the main artist now, and she holds the second position in my ranking.

First of all, I must confess that I have the bad, very bad habit of including this song in most of my “favorite songs” lists. And the poor Moritaka, a singer with an overall great catalogue, ends up being represented with this song, one she probably isn’t proud of nowadays. Cheap talk aside, I love this song very much. It represents Moritaka’s extravaganza at its best, both sonically and visually. We can really tell that after “17-sai’s” success, she went even far into the campy style.

With typical late 80s synths, “Korekkiri Bye Bye” is a very cheesy and horribly outdated song, or, in a more positive view, a straightforward shameless bubblegum dance-pop song from the late 80s (“Stock Aitken Waterman”, I’m looking right at you). The girl surely had guts to perform a song like "Korekkiri Bye Bye" dressed like… well, I don’t know how to describe THIS "fashion style", but it looks like a heroine from a cartoon, at least (and this was before “Sailor Moon”, for god’s sake). I’d really like to know what Moritaka and her fashion staff were thinking when they came up with this look.

“Korekkiri Bye Bye” can be found in Moritaka’s fouth studio album “Hijitsuryokuha Sengen” (非実力派宣言), which was released in July 1989. This particular album represents the start of Moritaka’s peak as an aidoru singer. To be honest, though, there’s quite a discussion about Moritaka’s status of an aidoru. As pointed out by Ian Martin, “she [Chisato Moritaka] existed in a strange sort of limbo between the end of the kayokyoku in the late 80s and the birth of J-Pop in the early 90s” (click here to read the full article). Also, Patrick St. Michel wrote that “the peak of her career happened after the golden-age of ’80s J-Pop, and just before acts like Namie Amuro and Ayumi Hamasaki became powerhouses across all of Asia” (click here to read the full article). As I agree with both of them, I understand that it’s difficult to call Moritaka an aidoru strictus sensus, but I can’t help thinking of her as such. That’s a tough dilemma.

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01) Wink -- Samishii Nettaigyo (淋しい熱帯魚)




Wink’s “Samishii Nettaigyo” could not stay out of my list. Although “Ai ga Tomaranai ~Turn It Into Love~” is a personal favorite, “Samishii Nettaigyo”, which was released in 1989, is not very far. Also, the plus of this song, or the reason why I chose to reserve a spot for it in my list, is that it’s a very influential pop song. Besides being a classic on its own, “Samishii Nettaigyo” has been covered by a lot of artists, like actress Nana Katase (listen to it here), 90s eurobeat girl group MAX (listen to it here), Hello! Project aidoru duo W (listen to it here), and also by Anglo-Irish girl group from the 70s The Nolans, which Wink also covered some of their songs like “Sexy Music” and “I’m in the Mood for Dancing” (by the way, The Nolan’s english version of “Samishii Nettaigyo” is called “Tidal Wave”. Listen to it here).

For me, personally, “Samishii Nettaigyo” also marks the real birth of Wink as a musical act on its own. I’m saying that because most of their earlier hits were Japanese covers of European pop/disco songs, while with “Samishii Nettaigyo” the duo started to make their successful path as a true act, and not a cover based act (they continued relying heavily in cover songs, but they also released a bunch of successful original tracks). Their songwriting team did that emulating the overall trendy synthpop/eurobeat sound of their time, and also combining it with Wink’s emotionless and vulnerable stage personas. The result was the great “Samishii Nettaigyo”, an upbeat but sad dance-pop song about an unrequited love and some water metaphors. Also, worthy of note are some specific parts of the song like the main synth melody, the instrumental breakdown with the melancholic synth notes and, of course, the catchy chorus. Overall, this song offers an amazing synth arrangement full of details and spacey sounds in the background (my favorite performance of this song is from "Yoru no Hit Studio" where three keyboard players were reproducing all the electronic sounds live. It was a dream to see a band with so much live synthesizers being played and just one guitar player. Something like the revenge of the synthesizers. You can check it here after the 5:40 mark). Making it even better, like a cherry at the top of the cake, the bass line is monstrously groovy. In the end, “Samishii Nettaigyo” surely deserved to be the smash hit it was and, also, the top song of my list.

As a funny story, one of my best friends says he can’t like Wink, especially this “fish” song (that’s how he calls it). The raw synthesizers are probably too much for him, and Wink’s lifeless stage personas don’t help at all. One day, after a discussion involving Wink, I put a Perfume concert, and he instantly said it was a lot better than Wink. But he’s a nice guy who watched the whole Wink concert in DVD with me some years ago simply because we’re friends.

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Well guys, that’s it for today. Thanks a lot for taking some time to read this long post. I just hope this selection introduces some nice songs and a couple of ideas I chose to develop as well. It was a very difficult, but pleasurable exercise. Of course I could change this list almost every day, but that’s just one bad consequence of “best of lists”: in the end, we are never truly satisfied with them. But I think it’s ok for now.

Happy New Year for everyone.

Marcos V., from Brazil.

17 comments:

  1. Hi, Marcos. And thanks for putting up your list of 80s songs....I've gotten a lot of enjoyment from reading your information on the underlying dance music that was anchoring a lot of these songs. My knowledge on dance music is pretty superficial although I myself have to admit that I used to hit the discos way back when.

    I've gone through Ishikawa, Tamura and Onishi so far. Ishikawa is basically someone that I've only really seen through the pages of Myojo and Heibon, so I hadn't known about what she sounded like until I heard "Every Night". I remember listening to the Japanese cover of PSB's "Love Comes Quickly" but not knowing who was behind the vocals.

    As for Eriko Tamura, yeah, I think that layer of Eurobeat in the melody really didn't need to be inserted for the song to be a decent aidoru tune. The Onishi song, "Shadow Hunter", just screamed cop-and-robbers from the title and music, especially the plucky bass. You mentioned that there was some Kyon-Kyon in Onishi's vocals....yep, I can hear that, but I can also pick out a deeper version of Shizuka Kudo's vocal stylings as well.

    I've been reading and seeing these minor aidoru for years now, and so I'm happy to finally get that reason to delve a bit further into their discographies now. Looking forward to reading more on the rest of them.

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    1. Hi J-Canuck.

      I’m glad you’re having a good time with my list. I really wanted to showcase some different tunes and aidoru singers this time, so I’m very happy you liked the idea.

      Hidemi Ishikawa has some nice songs. Like I said, she was a typical aidoru before transitioning to a more eurobeat singer. I don’t know if she officially covered Akina’s “Kazari Janai No Yo Namida Wa”, but I’ve seen her performing it live once. And she wasn’t near as great as Akina, of course. Besides that, from her aidoru period I really recommend the great and classic “Motto Sekkin Shimasho” as it has a very carnival-like arrangement with some smooth vocals by Hidemi. You may also find “Mystery Woman” an interesting song as well. Finally, I really enjoyed her cover of the PSB’s song. As I’m also a big fan of the duo, it was nice to hear a female vocalist performing their song.

      About Eriko Tamura, I really like her debut album in its entirety, so I had a hard time choosing the right song to post here. My other options were the beautiful “Watashi wa Soyokaze”, the funky “Ijiwaru” and the fun “Tsuretette”, but I ended with “Tsumetaku Shinaide” which, while not very memorable, is a “decent” aidoru tune, like you said. To be honest, none of the songs in this album are memorable, but I can’t help liking it a lot.

      As for Yuka Onishi, she was an odd aidoru I discovered accidentally and quickly became a fan. Most of her early songs rely heavily in this kind of strong bass line, like the one featured in “Shadow Hunter”. There’s a nice one called “Hankouki”, which I think is her second single.

      I really hope you enjoy the rest of the list. You may know some of the songs, but I’m almost certain that a couple of them are going to be nice, or at least interesting, surprises.

      Thanks a lot for the comment, and let’s keep working hard in 2014 for this unique and special blog you created.

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    2. Hi, Marcos. And I hope you have been enjoying your New Year's Day. Yes, I've been enjoying reading everyone's lists and since it looks like nikala will be posting hers this weekend, we'll have another one to look forward to as well.

      As you said at the end of your comments on Eriko Tamura, perhaps the songs in her debut album may not have been critical standouts, but the important thing is that you like them and are willing to talk about them. That's been pretty much the aim with this blog, so by all means, talk about what you particularly enjoy even if they were never hits....although of course we also like some of the big songs.

      Let's see what more we can do this year!

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  2. Thanks Marcos V for posting your J-Pop Eurobeat playlist. Awesome list of songs! I'm pleasantly surprised by the choices and selection as it is very different from what I was expecting.

    I was certain you were going to go with prennial 80s dance favorites like Oginome Yoko's "Dancing Hero", Nakayama Miho's "Waku Waku Sasetteyou", BaBe's "Give Me Up", Nakamori Akina's "Desire - Jonetsu" or Wink's "Ai O Tomaranai" but am glad that you decided to go outside of the box and cover other great lesser known dance/Europop/idol songs.

    I love Ishikawa Hidemi's "Everynight" and Wink's "Samishii Nettaigyo". Although I still like Moritaka Chisato's "Overheat Night" better, "Korekkiri Bye Bye" is also a great and fun dance song (and Moritaka looks so damn cute in the concert video). I wasn't familiar with Tamura Eriko's "Tsumetaku Shinaide" and am glad you included it your list. I've heard the original version of "Namida No Taiyo" by Emy Jackson before and some of the other subsequent covers but didn't know that Tanaka Minako did a cover too.

    Although they don't fit into your "idol" criteria, I would have been cool to include songs like Ikeda Satoshi's "Monochrome Venus", Anri's "Sixteen Beat", Narita Masaru's "Into The Night" or Ishii Akemi's "Olive No Kubikazari" as these song also have that "Eurobeat" vibe and are synthesizer heavy .

    That being said, this is an awesome list and I loved all the trivia and commentary you included with all the songs.

    Thanks again for posting this playlist and looking forward to reading your future posts on the blog.

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    1. Hi, JTM.

      I’m glad you were surprised with the list. Not being too obvious was one of my main intentions. It would’ve been easier to go with songs like Yoko Oginome’s “Dancing Hero”, Miho Nakayama’s “WAKU WAKU Sasete” or even Chisato Moritaka’s “17-sai”. While they’re all great songs and, like you said, perennial classics, I’ve seen various lists of 80s songs around the internet in which they were easily included. So I had the idea to make something different and introduce some “forgotten” gems. It was harder, but I think it compensated.

      About Moritaka, I also prefer “Overheat Night”, but my only problem with the song is that her vocals were still very weak when she recorded it back in 1987. She later recorded an uptempo version of “Overheat Night” for her “Moritaka Land” best self-cover album. And her vocals were great in this version. As for “Korekkiri Bye Bye”, it’s really a fun song. It’s by no means a classic, but I enjoy it very much, especially when I’m watching the “Hijitsuryokuha Sengen” concert. And yes, she was absurdly cute with those silly clothes.

      Of the songs you talked about, the only one I didn’t know about was Ikeda Satoshi’s “Monochrome Venus”. As for Narita Masaru’s “Into The Night”, I’m a big fan of the original by Michael Fortunati so I kind of neglect the Japanese cover. But it’s a great song.
      And thanks again for you comment, JTM. Let’s keep up with the good work in 2014.

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  3. Hi, Marcos. Just went through your 7th, 6th and 5th entries. That's a great story you dug up on Megumi Hayashibara....sounds like a plot from an old movie like "A Star Is Born". I can only imagine that the young lady was probably crying her eyes out since she thought she didn't make it due to her fever, only for the producer to come over with contract in hand. :) Actually, the song isn't too bad at all since I was quite happy with the 80s synths from both Japan and the West at the time.

    I barely remember Aya Sugimoto as a singer since her image for the past decade or so as a Japanese Cougar has pretty much obliterated any memories of her before 1994. But I remember her singing on Beat Takeshi's afternoon variety show (I think in that same zebra-striped jumper from the video) one time and one of the male tarento suddenly stripped off his clothes, jumped in and started dancing with her while wearing the tightest, skimpiest loincloths. She was rather horrified at the time, but the Aya Sugimoto of now would just merely snicker and wave him off.

    Tomomi Nishimura is another J-celebrity that I've known more in her role as TV personality although I was aware that she had been an aidoru. Yep, her vocals on "Nemurihime" aren't particularly strong but like that Eriko Tamura song, the Eurobeat bass line didn't really need to be there to make a fairly decent aidoru tune for her. In a way, her singing kinda reminds me of Agnes Chan.

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    1. Hi, J-Canuck. And thanks for your second round of comments. I’m always happy to read your comments.

      I also enjoy this Megumi story so I was happy to share it in this post. I also think of her as a funny character, just like when she distributed oranges to the judges when auditioning to be a trainee in a voice acting arts school. According to the story, she was accepted because the judges actually liked her “cool attitude” with the oranges, besides her “not-very-good” grade. In other words, she caused quite an impact with this simple action.

      About Aya Sugimoto, she really invests in this cougar persona you talked about. I remember watching an Arashi show where she was a guest and the Arashi “boys” were always talking about how sexy she was even in her age. They probably grew up watching her on television like that.

      As for your comment on Tomomi Nishimura, I find fascinating how aidoru music fused so well with eurobeat in the mid-to-late 80s. Just like you said, if we get out with all the eurobeat elements, “Nemurihime” and Eriko’s “Tsumetaku Shinaide” are just plain aidoru songs. In my opinion, the same couldn’t be said about Chisato Moritaka, though.

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  4. Finished up the list just now, Marcos. Of course, the one song that will be the most familiar to me is your No. 1. It was just one of those songs that was everywhere in my first year in Gunma. Mass media couldn't get enough of the Wink girls.

    As for Chisato Moritaka, it's the first time I have ever listened to "Korekkiri Bye Bye" and it definitely has that early Chisato sound. I don't think I'll be able to excise her voice sampling from my brain for the next several hours. Perhaps the song won't go down as her most-beloved entry with many people (or even the singer herself) but I think the musical style has some nostalgic value.

    I remember hearing Miporin's "Mermaid" over the years. Never saw the video, though, and I guess the powers-that-be really threw the money into the production values and perhaps the fashion as well. If I'm not mistaken, the original cover for the single had a painting of Miho in a skimpy bikini which got my attention.

    The big surprise for me was coming across Minako Tanaka's cover of "Namida no Taiyo". To be honest, I remember her performing on "Music Station" live in 1990, and she had one of the worst deliveries...rather breathtaking, actually. But listening to "Namida no Taiyo" here, she did pretty well in the studio. I've heard the song done many many times on various shows but never knew who the original singer was until I read your sentence on Emy Jackson....and it was done in English, too.

    Finally, listening to the bonus track with Sophie brought back memories of Bananarama's "I Heard A Rumour" and the other SAW songs of the late 80s. And I may just write something up on Kayoco's cover of Sinitta's "Toy Boy" because of it. Thanks very much!

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    1. Hi, J-Canuck. I’m happy you finished my list.

      Chisato’s “Korekkiri Bye Bye” is quite catchy if you can get over its overall annoying sound. The late 80s “Stock Aitken Waterman” sound can be really tough for some people to enjoy. I’ve listened to the whole “Hijitsuryokuha Sengen” album today and “Korekkiri Bye Bye” is always a highlight for me.

      About “Mermaid’s” cover, you are right. The cover shows a painted Miho in skimpy bikini, just like you described, and that’s also the cover of the “Mind Game” album I talked about in the entry. As for the video, I like it very much. As far as I know, besides the song being from 1988, the video is actually from 1990. Miho was very beautiful in the video, especially in the scenes where she is with her hair all wet.

      It’s strange to hear that Minako Tanaka delivered such a poor performance while singing “Namida no Taiyou” in Music Station. I know she is far from being a terrific singer, but she usually doesn’t disappoint. Maybe she wasn’t in a very good day. Besides that, we always have the studio recordings. Even Aya Sugimoto wasn’t so terrible in the studio versions of her songs.

      As for Sophie’s “SOFT TIME”, it’s my favorite eurobeat song, and I’m happy to read that it somehow inspired you. And “Toy Boy” is a cheesy, yet nice song. I listen to Sinitta’s extended version quite regularly. About Kayoco’s version, it was a nice surprise to me when Jari talked about it in a post last year. I remember that I liked the arrangement as it had slight differences if compared to Sinitta’s original.

      Finally, Wink is quite something. I really like them a lot and still hope they reunite someday.

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    2. Yeah, as for the SAW sound, I think for a lot of people who were growing up or heading for the discos at that time, those remixes are just wonderful to hear again. But for folks who got into the grunge movement in the early 90s, maybe not so much.

      As for my comments on Minako on "Music Station", my apologies....I didn't mean to say that she was singing "Namida no Taiyo" when she appeared. I think it was a totally different song but she was really off-tune for some reason.

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  5. I enjoyed reading your write-up in these songs and late-80's music trends very much. Like J-Canuck, I wouldn't say I take dance music seriously, but that's because I usually think of cheesy 90's eurohouse whenever I hear that term. So your post was quite educational.

    About the selection, I found it pretty varied even though you claimed it was largely eurobeat-based. Nishimura's "Nemurihime", for instance, had a beautiful fairytale aura to it which I imagine isn't absent from the studio version (but correct me if I'm wrong).

    Ishikawa's "Everynight" was very cool and the guitar solo in the bridge was a nice touch. I was only vaguely familiar with her early songs, so it was refreshing to see her show some chops and attitude. Also thank you for noting the difference between italo disco and late 80's eurobeat. I always wondered how to classify those songs my parents played to me through my childhood (Russian background here), so now I know. Maybe that's why 80's J-Pop stuck to me quickly....

    Nakayama's "Mermaid" was awesome, but that's no surprise considering that I'm a huge 80's R&B and City Pop fan. The sophisticated synth arrangement is to die for. I also enjoyed "Mind Game" very much but not to the extent to her previous album "Catch the Nite", which had superb synth arrangements courtesy of Toshiki Kadomatsu.

    Interesting choice for Moritaka's song. I knew you were a fan of hers, but I never expected you to pick such a quirky song. I enjoyed it very much, and now it's going to be stuck in my ears for ages.

    I would agree with putting Wink's hit at the top. Their production team were genius in making such a trendy style sound unique for the duo, especially when combined with their mournful delivery, and no wonder they were so popular. I think you nailed it in breaking down all the good elements of the song, so I won't go into repeating anything.

    Overall, thank you for your hard work. There were some songs I've never heard before that I took a liking to like "Shadow Hunter" and "13-nichi no Luna". :)

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    1. Hi, nikala.

      Thank you very much for your thoughts about my selection of songs.

      About the difference between Italo Disco and Eurobeat, it’s really a very subtle thing. It was hard for me to distinguish one from another and, to be honest, I don’t really know if an official difference really exists. What I talked about in the post is nothing more than a synthesis of some observations I made during the years. It’s nothing very polished, but I think it’s quite interesting to think about the subject.

      Italo Disco was, somehow, very popular in Russia. They still make Italo Disco festivals in Russia, and they’re always fun to watch. I always get them in a Russian tracker. There’s one great song called “U.S.S.R.” sung by English singer Eddy Huntington. He eventually goes to Russia to sing his Italo Disco classic.

      And thanks for highlighting the variety in my list. It was my intention to include different types of Eurobeat songs. As you pointed, Tomomi Nishimura’s “Nemurihime” truly has that “fairytale aura”. I feel the same about it but couldn’t remember a term as good as that one when I was writing about the song. As I said in the post, the studio version is almost the same as the “Yoru no Hit Studio” live, with the only notable difference being, of course, the amount of synths in the studio version, something that was absent from the live in favor of horns.

      As for Miho Nakayama, her albums, in general, were very good. She really nailed some music genres like City Pop, Funk, Eurobeat and Synthpop. I also love the “Catch the Nite” album, but, I don’t know why, “Mind Game” always tops it in my head. Maybe because of “Strange Parade” as it’s one of my favorite Miho’s songs.

      Moritaka’s “Korekkiri Bye Bye” is very peculiar. We all know it’s bad, but its overall strangeness makes it stand out somehow. My mother loves to “sing” it. Well, the syllables repetitions are not so difficult, to be honest. In the end, I just wished to do something different with Moritaka as she’s one of my favorite artists.
      Finally, I can’t get enough of Wink. I’m addicted to them since I head “Ai ga Tomaranai ~Turn It Into Love~” for the first time years ago. I was so crazy about them that I bought their live DVD even before listening to their discography. I just knew “Ai ga Tomaranai” and “Samishii Nettaigyo”. It’s still one of my favorite DVDs.

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  6. Korekkiri Bye Bye is a delicious garbage. It's the McDonalds of music.

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    1. Hey, I just loved your description of "Korekkiri Bye Bye". It's just true in a humorous way.

      Thanks a lof for the comment, and I'm glad someone enjoys "Korekkiri Bye Bye", even though the song is quite...., well, hard on the ears for most people.

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    2. I do enjoy. It was my comment there, I don't know why I've posted as anonymous.

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  7. Miho Nakayama X Italo Disco : 1986's "Exotique" has at least 2 gems Track 2:  ペニスラモニング and Track 6 スウェーデンの城

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  8. Love this post to the death!!

    I am also a lover of the late 80s and early 90s fusion between the aidoru and the eurobeat-influenced sound.

    I like a lot "Korekkiri Bye Bye" by C.Moritaka, in fact is on my ipod when I go running or by bus ;). Maybe it is a little annoying song due to the edgy synthetizers and repetitiveness of Chisato's voice ... But I think it is a great example of late 80's japanese dance-pop.

    Mmm I like some songs by Eriko Tamura, but her first album sounds a little off to me. I mean... It is like all her songs want to approach an eurobeat sound and sound meh-meh to my ears. "Ijiwaru" is her best song from her debut album...

    By the way,I would like to recommend some of my favourite aidoru-eurobeat songs!;

    1) "Into the night" by Mika Chiba.
    2) "Le Soir" by Aya Sugimoto.
    3) "Ganbatte!" by Megumi Hayashibara. Oh boy, love this tune.
    4) "Future" by cute idol/songwriter Hitomi Mieno.
    5) "Power" by a duo called A.chi-a.chi. This song is so energetic and catchy...
    6) "Whisper" by Yumiko Takahashi. I got amused by the heavy synths in this song.
    7) "Who?" by Eri Nitta. Awesome song with its synths and catchiness. Very "early 90s".

    Saludos!!

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