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