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 29, 2014

Larry's Akina Top 6 Picks (post-1991 era)

First of all, I'm extremely glad that Akina (中森明菜) is going to appear in this year's Kouhaku (紅白歌合戦).  I've heard this rumor some weeks back but it's never confirmed until now.  I'll definitely be searching all over the Internet for her footage after New Year, since I don't have any means to watch it live.

Regarding her return to Kouhaku, while it was a still a rumor, I came across a blog that described the situation as "delicate".  Originally, this year's Kouhaku is supposed to honor Seiko Matsuda (松田聖子), Akina's rival during the idol days in the 80s.  That's why they have Seiko appear last in the biggest show of the year.  However, ever since the Akina rumor leaked out, it has taken the spotlight instead.  So, NHK was trying to make sure that all parties were okay before they announced Akina's return officially.

Well, I could imagine that.  In any case, even though Akina and Seiko were rivals during the 80s, I doubt if they privately despised each other like their fans did to each other.  I don't even think they're close privately.  That they're at war with each other was probably the result of the media trying to stir up fans' emotion, with the goal of making more record sales.

Too much diversion.  Let's get back to my personal Akina Top 6 post-1991 songs.  J-Canuck posted his Akina Top 6 a few days ago.  That, along with Akina's return to Kouhaku, fired me up to write about my own picks.

I tend to mentally divide Akina's career into 2 parts - the glorious days before 1991, and the not-so-glorious period after that.  If I had to draw a line, it'd be the release of Futari Shizuka (二人静) in 1991.  Ever since Second Love (セカンド・ラブ), all her singles made either no.1 or no.2 on the weekly Oricon chart.  In fact, only 2 singles, Twilight/Yuugure Dayori (トワイライト・夕暮れ便り) and Kita Wing (北ウイング), were no.2 and never achieved no.1 place.  The highest that Futari Shizuka reached was no.3 on the weekly Oricon chart.  Like a bad omen, from that point onwards, Akina never had any singles or albums in top 5 again.   The last single that was among top 10 was Gekka (月華) in 1994 (it reached no.8).

After Furtari Shizuka, it's obvious that Akina's career began to decline.  And so, here are my top 6 picks during the latter part of Akina's not-so-glorious career.  The picks are in no particular order, as they're all my post-1991 favorites.

1. Rakkaryuusui (落花流水)

(cover version)

This was the theme song of Tokyo TV's New Year Special Historical Drama "Tenka Souran~Tokugawa San Dai No Inbou" (天下騒乱〜徳川三代の陰謀, The Country Revolts~Conspiracy Through Three Generations of Tokugawa Rule).

The translated song title is "Falling Petals, Running Stream".  The lyrics was written by Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆), with petal and stream together as an analogy to the love relationship between men and women. It denotes the uncontrollable nature of love.  The wind blows, a flower petal falls onto the water surface.  The river carries the petal along.  Sometimes, it encounters currents.  Sometimes, the wind blows away the petal, causing it to fall onto a separate river stream.  Love comes and goes.

I like its dramatic melody and its overall arrangement.  Akina's performance was superb.  At that point, Akina's voice did not resemble anything during her idol days.  Instead, it was replaced with a husky voice that I consider to be a pretty sexy.  I think it is especially suited to sing this kind of song.

The YouTube video shows her performance at her 2006 concert, when she's already 41.  It's quite amazing at her age to deliver such a performance.

2. Days
(cover version)

I love Days ever since I saw it on YouTube for the first time.  And it prompted me to buy her 2003 album, "I hope so", on Amazon Japan.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find that video anymore.

The song was a prayer to grant her strength so that she could overcome the hard times she's having.  Her lover has sunk into sadness and depression (most likely not the result of an argument, although the lyrics never clearly mentioned the reason).  She recalled the fond memories with her lover, and the "days that were given to her."  The song expressed her conviction to stay beside her lover, and to overcome any difficult moment that she's going to face.

3. Akai Hana (赤い花)
(cover version)

This is a Korean song sung by the late Park Yong Ha.  It was the theme song of the Korean TV Drama "All In", starring Lee Byung Hun and Song Hye Kyo.

There're 2 Japanese versions of this song.  The other version was called Hajimete Deatta Hi No You Ni (初めて出逢った日のように), and was the theme song of "All In" when it was shown in Japan.  On the other hand, there's no "tied-up" for Akai Hana.

I like Akai Hana more, even though the other version was arranged with piano, my favorite instrument.  It came down to Akina's performance.  When she sang Akai Hana, her voice was stronger and more emotional.  On the other hand, her voice was rather flat when she sang Hajimete Deatta Hi No You Ni.

4. Necessary

I watched this video on YouTube first, before I went to Amazon Japan to buy her 1995 album, La Alteracion.  The same album also carries my other pick, Genshi Onna wa Taiyou Datta (原始、女は太陽だった).  I just love its melody and Akina's live performance.  I wonder if she's thinking about her relationship with Matchy when she's performing on stage.  The video was showing her at her 1995 concert.

5. Genshi Onna wa Taiyou Datta (原始、女は太陽だった)

This was her 1995 single, and it's also included in her album, La alteracion.  For me, it's love by first sight.  It was fast, light and smooth.  I especially love that myterious introduction and the drum beats.

6. Siesta~Koi no mama de (Siesta~恋のままで)

The link shows her performance at her 2002 concert.  Her live performance is actually more impressive than what's on the CD, I think.  In 2002, Akina was 37!  Even when I was 17, I couldn't do what she did in that dance sequence at the end, when she bended herself backward all the way!

Siesta~Koi no mama de was actually a B-side song of her single, The Heat ~Musica Fiesta~.  Both songs feature a heavy Latino flavor, and in my opinion, shows Akina at her best.  Somehow, Akina has an uncanny ability to handle Latino music very well, similar to her signature hit Meu amor e (ミ・アモーレ).  I like The Heat ~Musica Fiesta~, but I like Siesta~Koi no mama de even more.

Also, honorable mention that didn't make my top 6 (post-1991 of course):

  • The Heat ~Musica Fiesta~
  • Utsutsu no Hana (うつつの花) (2nd last song in her "I hope so" album)
  • Ophelia (オフェリア)
  • Hana yo Odore (花よ踊れ)

With the honorable mentions, I guess I have my top 10 :)

Enjoy!  I'm looking forward to seeing Akina in Kouhaku.


  1. Hi, Larry.

    Very nice list up there. Yes, I think judging from your 6 songs, Akina has had an affinity for Latin (and perhaps some Middle Eastern) rhythms. And I think that trend is probably continuing with the premiere of her new single tomorrow at the Kohaku.

    My personal favourite from your list is No. 5 "Genshi, Onna wa Taiyo Datta"...I especially like the intro with the strings and the refrain with "Dare, dare, dare..." However, the others are also quite nice. I was not aware that "Rakkaryuusui" had been composed by Kenji Hayashida who was behind a number of songs for SMAP and Kinki Kids.

    "Necessary" was also quite a revelation. The arrangement kinda reminded me of an 80s kayo kyoku that isn't quite Mood Kayo or enka. I have a feeling that I will have to listen to this one a few more times to peel back the layers, so to speak.

    1. J-Canuck, glad you found something on my list that you like. I didn't know that Kenji Hayashida was famous for his SMAP songs. It seems that Akina at that point was still able to gather famous artists to write songs, lyrics and produce for her, like Tetsuya Komuro. Unfortunately, she couldn't return to her glory days.

      I stumbled upon "Necessary" by accident. I first found "Itai koi wo shita" (痛い恋をした) on YouTube and "Necessary" was next on the recommended list.

    2. Hi, Larry. Hope you have a safe trip back to San Francisco. Would like to hear your thoughts on how Akina's performance was on the Kohaku.

    3. J-Canuck, I was going to write about that before I go home. I watched the video from (I think it's a blog by a Singapore fan). The video is gone now so I'm glad I got the chance to watch it. It's the clearest video that I've watched.

      I think the song is okay. I didn't disappoint me. It's similar to her songs in the 90s, and even reminds me of Genshi, Onna wa Taiyou Datta that's on my top 6 post-1991 songs. But I'm not particularly impressed by the melody. I think her performance is better than what I had expected. However, I believe the singing part was pre-recorded. The beginning "interview" is live though, I think. Her voice was pretty weak and I wonder if she has fully recovered. She has probably made quite an effort to record the song. All in all, I'm glad that she made her first appearance after 4 years.

      On the other hand, Seiko's performance was quite disappointing. Not sure if it's just that YouTube video, but she couldn't seem to hit the high notes and she's on the verge of singing out of tone.

      What do you think?

    4. Yeah, I want to hear the original recorded version so I get a better read on "Roja Tierra". I was also wondering if Akina has fully recovered from whatever has been ailing her...perhaps it may be a chronic condition.

      I heard Seiko on the live broadcast while I was eating breakfast in the dining room so I didn't actually see her on the TV. I think I was too focused on my toast and coffee so I couldn't get a full impression of her performance but of course did recognize the song, although it's not up in my Top 10 of my favourite songs by her.

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