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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Miyuki Nakajima -- Atai no Natsuyasumi (あたいの夏休み)

(karaoke version)

Thanks to various City Pop folks, the 80's have given us a fruitful amount of songs about summer vacations and resorts. Nothing like getting away from the mundane work life and relaxing (with that special someone) under the blazing summer sun somewhere far, far away... Miyuki Nakajima (中島みゆき), known for her heavy and often sobering approach to lyrics, also created a song about a summer vacation, but in her typical fashion she completely inverted the concept. Despite the flashy sound with a elaborate synths and a saxophone solo, "Atai no Natsuyasumi" (あたいの夏休み...My Summer Vacation), conveys some bitter reflections of a trapped and overworked woman who finally managed to earn three days off for a short vacation and it isn't quite as glamorous as one would hope. I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow analysis of the lyrics (you can take a look at the full translation at the end of the entry), but I just found it interesting how Nakajima brought attention to the fact that even vacations are not created equal and that some people just have better time than others due to their life situation. Her angry tone here really suits the protagonist's grouchy ramblings.

The music itself is also very interesting. On the one hand there's that dense synthesized sound that brings back memories of techno kayo and yet it also sounds urban without crossing into City Pop. The way Nakajima fires those lines forward makes her look more like a rock star than a relaxed songbird. When she first started out, she used to sing these sad folk songs, but with years her compositions and vocals became bolder and more dramatic. That's the image she still carries nowadays (side note: her "Yakai" performances are awesome). In 1986, she made a move to record a few singles and her 14th studio album "36.5℃" in New York, which was produced by Yoshihiro Kai (甲斐よしひろ) from Kai Band (甲斐バンド) and co-produced by the singer herself. Continuing from her previous album, "miss.M", there was that characteristic 80's synth sound with some arena rock tracks and melancholy ballads thrown in. It was one of my early introductions to Nakajima's music and I enjoyed it from start to finish. "Atai no Natsuyasumi" definitely earned the single cut as it was one of the standouts. It peaked at No.14 on Oricon Weeklies. The album fared much better at No.2 spot.

As for personnel, the song was written and composed by Nakajima, while Tsugutoshi Goto (後藤次利) handled the arrangement. There were numerous familiar names behind the instruments like Jake H. Concepcion on sax and Hideo Yamaki (山木秀夫) on drums. This particular track features someone very special on the synthesizer: Stevie Wonder!

Here are the translated lyrics, courtesy of J-Canuck (thank you!):

The ladies in their short pants with the tempered edges
Strolling arm-in-arm like yakuza punks
This is cottage country, not an amusement area
The shadows of lace curtains, whispering voices
Staying at a hotel for 3 days with my saved-up money is my summer vacation
Having the weekly magazines read to me, I'll link them together
Drinking down the cold soup as if it were flung at me
Even in a bunk bed, it's my summer vacation

Summer vacation, just for me
Summer vacation, what remains of it

Nothing bad worth putting into the papers
Nothing amazing to get an award for
And then a year goes by slowly
Finally I get my 3 days for my summer vacation
The door of the honoured guest room has VIP in gold
A summer vacation that has been peered at, picked and laid out
After all, I'm no country hick
I get drunk on the booze that I'm used to, all sorts of things swirling around in my head

Summer vacation, just for me
Summer vacation, what remains of it

But, hey, this summer is different, ain't it?
The coasters that I bought last night at the souvenir store
are cheap stuff but they're not for me, are they?
However there is a small reason behind my summer vacation this year
The sad thing is my dresses getting old
The sad thing is just keeping on eating curry
But even sadder is crying by myself
So this is undoubtedly the summer vacation I earned for myself

Summer vacation, just for me
Summer vacation, what remains of it
Summer vacation, just for me
Summer vacation, what remains of it

And last but not least, it came with a trippy PV full of children and colorful hand-drawn art. Nicovideo has 2 minutes of it.

(Unfortunately, the Nicovideo has been taken down. Instead, here is a karaoke version.)


1 comment:

  1. Hi, nikala.

    Leave it up to Ms. Nakajima to come up with what would be an otherwise usual pop song with a spike in it. When I was listening to it, I thought her voice was a bit more different than usual for some reason. Also, quite an interesting video considering the cute images put up against the slightly techno melody and the snarky lyrics.


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