I've been a fan of Japanese popular music for over 35 years, and have managed to collect hundreds of CDs during that time. So I decided I wanted to talk about Showa Era music with like-minded fans. My particular era is the 70s and 80s (thus the "kayo kyoku"). The plus part includes a number of songs and artists from the last 20 years and even some of the early stuff. So,let's talk about New Music, aidoru, City Pop and enka. (Sorry but music163 is now dead so ignore those links.)
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, September 8, 2015
Michiyo Nakajima -- Nakajima Michiyo Private Selection I'll be there (中嶋美智代プライベート・セレクション I'll be there)
I bought a Michiyo Nakajima (中嶋美智代
/ 中嶋ミチヨ) best of
called “Nakajima Michiyo Private Selection I'll be there”, which was released in December 1994. I’m not the biggest fan
of Nakajima’s work, but the CD cost me very little, so I couldn’t resist buying
it. Also, the CD came with all the nice “souvenirs” that are common in the
Japanese aidoru industry, such as a gorgeous slipcase featuring Nakajima posing
in a swimsuit (picture above) and a 64-page photobook. So, paraphrasing KC and the Sunshine
Band’s 1975 hit, that’s the way I like it!!!
Nakajima was an aidoru that came out of a big girl group called Otomejuku (乙女塾), which was part of a TV show called Paradise
Their goal with Otomejuku was creating a return to the old aidoru aesthetic, something
that was being abandoned by the music industry in the late 80s/early 90s. Simply
put, Paradise GoGo!! didn’t want to let the golden aidoru days die, so they “assisted
training for girls to become talents from 1989 to 1991” (source: generasia.com).
It was basically the same thing Tsunku (つんく) fought for when he created Morning
Musume (モーニング娘。) and
Hello! Project (ハロー!プロジェクト) in the late 90s.
on the premise of not wanting to let cute aidoru vanish from the public view, Paradise
GoGo!! created the flagship aidoru group CoCo, some sister groups like ribbon (before
deciding for a solo career, the powers-that-be actually planned that Nakajima
would debut as a ribbon member back in 1990) and Qlair, but also a couple of
solo acts, such as Michiyo Nakajima and Yuko Hanashima (花島優子), to name a few. In addition, CoCo’s
members also started solo careers, with varying degrees of success, while still
working in the group. The only exception was Azusa Senou (瀬能あづさ), who left CoCo to focus only in her
Nakajima, at least during the first years, when the CoCo girls were still only
tied to the group, was probably the main soloist from the whole Paradise GoGo!!
series of aidoru acts (Yuko Hanashima debuted first, but her career as a singer
didn’t take off. You can read my article about Hanashima’s main song here). Her
work is a direct throwback to aidoru’s standards with the baby-like voice and
some melancholic pop ballads. In a way, just like J-Canuck commented on my past
Michiyo Nakajima article, “her appearance and vocals strikes as being
quintessentially aidoru...very adorable”.
not lie and say Michiyo Nakajima is one of the most interesting aidoru singers
out there, but I think her songs worked quite well in this sort of limbo when
the whole aidoru thing was in commercial decline. From the fourteen songs included
in the compilation I have in my hands, I selected five that encapsulates her
overall sound in its best. Although we could count it as the sixth track from
my selection, I’ll not talk about her debut song here, as I’ve done an article
covering it in the past. However, keep in mind that “Akai Hanataba” (赤い花束) is also an essential song in
Nakajima’s discography, so, if necessary, go listen and read what I wrote about
Now, let's start talking about Nakajima's music.
compilation kicks off with “Koi wo Shimashou” (恋をしましょう), Nakajima’s latest single at the time.
Released in July 1994, it’s an upbeat aidoru tune with a memorable synth hook
the comes right at the beginning. It also showcases a light rock vibe that
worked quite well with the peppy aidoru chorus. Honestly, I think it’s my
favorite from her more upbeat songs, even though there aren’t many of them to
choose from in the first place (at least in the compilations I’ve heard so
we have “Totemo Chiisana Monogatari” (とても小さな物語), a song that was released in September
1991. Unlike “Koi wo Shimashou”, this one sums up what a call Michiyo
Nakajima’s signature sound, a sentimental and melancholic aidoru pop sound with
heavy usage of keyboards and synths in a very 80s vein. Even though I quite
like it, nothing really stands out here, and that’s the reason why I decided to
not include other songs of the same type. And believe me, there are a lot of
them in Nakajima’s discography. In the end, if there’s something positive about
this type of song is that it surely evokes nostalgy.
The next song I bring to the table is “Hinageshi” (ひなげし),
which was actually Nakajima’s sophomore single from April 1991. In fact, I find
it quite similar to “Akai Hanataba”, her debut which got released three months
earlier. Maybe it’s the flower-related titles that both have in common, but the
similarity is not a bad thing, as “Hinageshi” somehow succeeds in becoming a
memorable song in the girl’s discography, just like its predecessor. I
especially like the arrangement with the fake strings, which are probably just
analog synths, and I think “Hinageshi” could have been a Seiko Matsuda (松田聖子) song with no big
(Sorry but the video has been taken down)
next song is “Koko ni Iru Kara” (ここにいるから), a song that was not a proper single,
but the coupling song to “Nikki no Kagi Kashimasu” (日記の鍵貸します), Nakajima’s sixth single, released in
May 1992. Ironically, “Nikki no Kagi Kashimasu”, actually a boring aidoru
ballad, didn’t appear in this compilation, but I’m not really complaining, as I
consider “Koko ni Iru Kara” a more interesting song if compared to the one it
was coupled with.
listening to this album, I had never heard “Koko ni Iru Kara” before. Based on
that, it was probably the best surprise I could come across at the point. I’ll
not lie and say it’s a brilliant song, because, in reality, it’s just a
formulaic pop song that also evokes some nostalgic feelings. However, I really
like the arrangement of this one with all the “icy” keyboards and some crude synth sounds that I just love to hear. Although far from a true upbeat song,
the steady medium-paced beat is a nice feature if we consider Nakajima’s past
last offer today is “Hazukashii Yume” (恥ずかしい夢),
which was released in January 1993. Don’t ask me why, but the beginning is
quite intriguing with the house/dance introduction. However, as we quickly acknowledge,
it becomes another typical Nakajima song, although I agree that the pace is a
little bit faster than normal here. Actually, “Hazukashii Yume” is one of my
personal favorites thanks to its melody. I especially enjoy when Nakajima sings
“hazukashii yume mo miruwa tokubetsuna kotojanai mono” (恥ずかしい夢も見るわ特別なことじゃないもの) just after the chorus.
things up, I never really thought of Michiyo Nakajima as an outstanding aidoru.
For me, nothing about her is very memorable. Neither her look or her songs.
However, it’s precisely this “blank” thing about Nakajima that I think is one
of her main selling points. I can really see her as a “girl next door” instead
of a true singer or celebrity, and that’s what aidoru, at least in essence,is all about. Her plain,
yet easy-listening and pleasant pop ballads, also works in the same way, even
though they were only minor hits at the time.
the end, I’m happy to have Michiyo Nakajima’s compilation. I confess it’s
probably enough for me, as I don’t see how her two studio albums could
introduce me to greater things than what I was able to find in “Nakajima
Michiyo Private Selection I'll be there”. With that in mind, I always listen to
Nakajima’s songs with a very unpretentious feeling, athough a truly confortable
Just as a quick side
note before finishing this long post, when I was taking some pictures of the
album to include here, my father entered the room and asked me why the girl was
posing in a swimsuit for the CD cover. According to him, the main point of the
CD is to sell music and not to show a girl doing model work. I just answered it’s
how things works in Japan and we ended laughing together with no apparent
reason. After he left the room I thought to myself: my father really doesn’t
know nothing about aidoru industry, even after all these years taking subtle looks at my videos.