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, April 23, 2014

Miyuki Nakajima -- Wakare Uta (わかれうた)

(cover version)

Recently, there was an NHK special on singer Miyuki Nakajima (中島みゆき)in which a few of her celebrity fans got together on a mock-up of a Nakajima fan club/bar and proceeded to exhort on her virtues. Of course, the talk/love-in was interspersed with some of Nakajima's lively performances which often bordered on performance art. However, there was also some man-on-the-street poll-taking in Ginza in which one of the questions was "What's your impression of Miyuki Nakajima?" The answers allowed spanned the entire spectrum from "vivacious" and "legendary" to "unapproachable" and "a bit of a flake".

I'm not sure about the third response since I have never been anywhere near her and I haven't heard anyone else use "unapproachable", but just from watching some of her concert clips (her appearances on TV are extremely rare), she definitely has that larger-than-life presence to the point that her performances are bordering on performance art. And her voice can go from fragile to force-of-nature within a couple of lines.

As has been mentioned in some of the other articles for Nakajima, the singer can cloak some pretty sad/dark lyrics within an upbeat melody. That is the case with "Wakare Uta" (The Parting Song). Released in September 1977 as her 5th single, there is a skippy beat that would hint at a nice little walk along the park under sunny skies but the words belie the pain of having to go through another romantic break-up. The first couple of lines lay it pretty bare: "Have you ever fallen on the street and kept calling out someone's name over and over?" Drama is not something that is lacking here. However, perhaps it might be because it was still early days in her career but her voice keeps an even keel here without some of the vocal cannon blasts that she has shown to be capable of.

"Wakare Uta" first showed up on her 4th album from April 1978, "Aishiteiru to Itte Kure"(愛していると伝ってくれ...Tell Me You Love Me), which got as high as No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and ended up as the 8th-ranked album of the year. Meanwhile, the song itself was Nakajima's first song to hit the top spot on the singles charts and it became the 10th-ranked song for 1978.

Several singers have covered the song over the years starting with Naoko Ken (研ナオコ)who did so in an album that was a tribute to Nakajima: "Naoko vs. Miyuki" (1978). One of Ken's hit songs was "Kamome wa Kamome" (かもめはかもめ...March 1978) which had been created by Nakajima.

And Ken Hirai (平井堅)with Spitz' Masamune Kusano (草野マサムネ)provided their take via Hirai's album, "Ken's Bar II" from 2009.

Miyuki Nakajima -- The Best

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