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, February 26, 2014

Marcos V.'s Top Three Carnival inspired J-Pop songs

Hey guys! Carnival (Carnaval, in Portuguese) has unofficially started in Brazil and it will get started for real this weekend. Based on that, I selected three J-Pop songs that are connected to carnival or, somehow, made me remember of it. Also, this is by no means a very serious post because I don’t really know a lot of J-Pop songs with carnival as its main theme. I just wanted to have some fun with the theme and talk about three songs that I like very much. Also, although I’m not a big carnival fan, I just wished to pay homage to this very important date in Brazil’s calendar and one of our most recognizable cultural expressions abroad. Carnival is so important around here that a famous proverb teaches us that the year in Brazil just starts for real after carnival. Well, all in all, I just hope you guys like this short list.


3) Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ) -- Mi ()

NOTE: Sorry for this, but the full version of "Mi" was up on YouTube until yesterday. As it was blocked and I didn't want to erase it from this short list, I decided to represent "Mi" with the cute commercial that contains a small part of the song. As the commercial features the main part of "Mi", I think it's ok to work with it.

Starting this little carnival themed post, “Mi” is my chosen song for the third place. Honestly, “Mi” is not a carnival song, but as I was listening to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s 2013 “Nanda Collection” (なんだこれくしょん) album a couple of days ago, my father teased me saying how “Mi” reminded him of Bahia’s (one of the 26 states of Brazil, Bahia is located in the northeastern part of the country on the Atlantic coast) carnival songs, which are called Axé. He made the comparison because of the monosyllabic chorus, the percussion and the fast-paced Latin sound that “Mi” shares with a good portion of the Axé music world.

What you guys have seen above is an example of an Axé song with monosyllabic chorus. It was the only example I could remember right now, but there are plenty of songs of this type in the Axé music world. This one is called “Prefixo de Verão” (something like “Summer’s Prefix” or “Prefix of Summer”), which was originally released by Banda Mel in 1990. Although almost laidback and not as frenetic as the majority of the Axé music that became extremely mainstream in Brazil during the 90s, “Prefixo de Verão” is, for me, one of the best examples of the genre, a genre which, unfortunately, became kind of trashy and nonsense when cheap sex innuendos became the norm during the mid 90s. All in all, “Prefixo de Verão” kind of reminds me of a nostalgic sunset, if that makes sense.

Back to “Mi”, I don’t see much resemblance between it and Axé music, basically because the former is very robotic and video-game inspired if compared to the latter. Like I said, the only similar things are the somewhat Latin sound, the party atmosphere, the percussion and the use of a monosyllabic chorus (a common element in Axé music). My father was probably just teasing me like he always does when I’m listening to J-Pop. Nevertheless, the episode was kind of funny and, as I was already working on this post, I decided to share it here.


2) Akina Nakamori (中森明菜) -- Mi Amore [Meu amor é...] (ミ・アモーレ〔Meu amor é・・・〕)

J-Canuck had already talked about “Mi Amore [Meu amor é…]”, Akina Nakamori’s 11th single, here, but it also ended being my second favorite carnival inspired J-Pop song. Although Latin in essence, the single cut of “Mi Amore [Meu amor é…]” is more 80s J-Pop than carnival in the arrangement department, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The special album version, on the other hand, is arranged in a very Brazilian way during the beginning, and that’s why I was very happy to find it on YouTube.

When the song begins, I almost feel as if Akina was singing in the middle of a roda de samba (dance circle) while the sambistas kept moving on with the song. After the 1:35 mark, the bass comes along segued by a Latin, but not specifically Brazilian, piano before the song enters in its full arrangement form. When this happens, it resembles the single version, but it’s nice to have two different takes on this song at once.

As always, Akina sings “Mi Amore [Meu amor é…]” with deep and strong vocals while the lyrics talks about carnival in Rio de Janeiro and, of course, falling in love during carnival. Also, “Mi Amore [Meu amor é]”, which came out as a single in March 1985, was released at a time Akina was maturing as a singer and leaving the whole aidoru aesthetics behind. Based on that, the latter half of the 80s would see a sexy and dark Akina instead of the cute aidoru who sang about some audacious themes like in “Shoujo A” (少女A).

The interesting samba inspired special version of Mi Amore “[Meu amor é…]” can be found in the “D404Me” album, which was released in August 1985.


1) Megumi Hayashibara (林原めぐみ) -- Dance with me...Saigo no rakuen (Dance with me…最後の楽園)

On top of my list, here’s another Megumi Hayashibara gem. “Dance with me…Saigo no rakuen”, a song from her 1994 fifth album “SpHERE”, is not a direct Carnival song, but it talks about Rio de Janeiro in a cool way with a Latin arrangement in the background. The lyrics, for example, pays homage to interesting local terms like “Carioca’s summer” (karioka samaa), an expression that means Rio de Janeiro’s summer, and pinga, which means cachaça, a traditional Brazilian alcoholic beverage.

The arrangement, besides some synths and piano, is built around a steady dance beat with someone playing cuíca, a very traditional instrument used in samba and in carnival songs, in the background. Also, the lyrics describe Rio de Janeiro in a very positive way, making us believe that the city is just full of joy and it’s like a real paradise (the line atsui natsu no yoru paradaisu is just great to define how the song describes Rio). With that in mind, let’s not talk abour Rio's reality, because it could kill the carnival/festive mood of “Dance with me…Saigo no rakuen”. As for Megumi, she sounds sexy and does a great job with this song. Taking in consideration I’m a big fan of Megumi’s vocals, one can tell that I’m kind of biased stating that, but I really think her unique vocals did justice to this song. Now, I just wonder if Megumi ever came to Rio…


  1. Hi, Marcos.

    Thanks for bringing in your Top 3 Carnival-themed songs. I've only known about samba and bossa nova, so it was good to find out about axé music. After listening to "Prefixo de Verao", this particular song strikes me as being AOR....something to enjoy while downing a caipirinha. I also wonder if Rihanna borrowed a bit of the genre in some of her music, especially through the choral repetition.

    I figured that "Mi Amore" was gonna get onto your list, but that Hayashibara tune was a very pleasant journey as well. For decades, Japanese songwriters have often enjoyed using the Brazilian music idiom as a base to start from. I also managed to find a couple of 80s songs that give their own tribute to samba.

    Mariko Takahashi -- Samba Magic

    Taeko Ohnuki -- Samba de Mar

    That Ohnuki song was helped out by Ryuichi Sakamoto. For some reason, the music gets sped up and a bit silly, though.

    Anyways, have a happy Carnival!

    1. Hi J-Canuck.

      Samba and Bossa Nova are the main music genres Brazil had exported, but we actually don’t hear much of them in mainstream media nowadays. Axé music, Funk Carioca (a trashy slope of Freestyle and Miami Bass Style) and Sertanejo (Brazil’s own brand of Country music) are the main genres distributed by the media here. Now we also have some hybrid artists trying to fuse the genres above with mainstream American Pop music. All in all, it’s a strange market.

      I’m glad you like this like list and, although I’m not an Axé music fan, I quite like “Prefixo de Verão”. Also, it’s interesting to hear in which category you would put it. I’d never thing about AOR, probably because I don’t have a proper idea about the genre.

      Wow. Very nice samba inspired songs you introduced me here, J-Canuck. Both of them are very committed to a Brazilian sound, especially with the addiction of the cuíca. About Ohnuki’s Samba de Mar, I agree that the speeding up at the end wasn’t really necessary and it made me laugh a little. But I think we can tolerate it as being a clumsy experiment, at least.

      As for Carnival, I'll stay home watching some of my favorite live concerts by Akina, Megumi, Chisato, etc. while occasionaly taking a look at the parades. To be honest, the main parades are very late, like 3 or 4 in the morning, so I just go to sleep, haha.

    2. Strange but also quite interesting as to what might result. I think the same can be said about the whole techno umbrella. There are just so many sub-genres there that I cannot begin to imagine.

      As for AOR, my image of it is often beaches, sun and a glass of Perrier so when I heard "Prefixo", I thought it fit the genre rather nicely. For example, Sergio Mendes is often included in a number of AOR compilations.

      Enjoy watching those concerts.


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