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.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Tomomi Kahala -- Keep Yourself Alive

Another cultural touchstone of my life in the 1990s, I remember Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美)mainly for her biggest hit "I'm Proud", the disco-like anthem by Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)with the expensive music video in Los Angeles. But some 6 months earlier, she had debuted at the age of 21 with "Keep Yourself Alive" in September 1995.

Komuro was already hitting paydirt with TRF and Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)so when he introduced Kahala, I just thought he was really trying to carve out his own niche in J-Pop (and he was....Komuro Boom). I remember "Keep Yourself Alive" primarily for the music video with Komuro's young padawan all glossed up in makeup which had me imagining that bizarre fashion trend in Shibuya called yamamba when a certain segment of the gyaru corps there spackled on that makeup which made them look like photo negative versions of themselves. I wasn't too sad to see that fad fade.

So, strangely enough, it was only in the past few hours that I was finally able to hear the entire tune. With the enhancement of time and a sense of nostalgia, "Keep Yourself Alive" doesn't sound too bad. Unlike the disco of "I'm Proud", Kahala's debut has got that old-style punchy Komuro technopop running things behind the singer's high voice. The song got as high as No. 8 on Oricon and went Platinum. It was also on her hit debut album, "Love Brace" in June 1996.

One piece of trivia from the J-Wiki article on "Keep Yourself Alive" was that chanteuse Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)was apparently quite impressed with the quality of Kahala's vibrato when she listened to the song.


  1. Hi, J-Canuck.

    "keep yourself alive" is probably one of Kahala's most annoying and repetitive songs, but also one of my favorites from her. And just like Mariko Takahashi, I praise Kahala's vocals in this song. I thought she was a good singer back in the 90s, but she really improved nowadays... and "keep yourself alive" is a song she sometimes blasts on music shows like "FNS" (there's a performance of her with Komuro and Daisuke Asakura playing keyboards), or even in her recent tours.

    At the time of its release, Komuro had already abandoned the old Eurobeat sound (which had more in common with Italo Disco) he liked to use around 1989 and 1990, and was full on the Eurodance craze that was taking Japan by storm (Amuro's "Body Feels EXIT" and TRF's hits were examples of Eurodance). Actually, I don't know if the Japanese crowd differentiated both styles (as they were parallel trends), but they're fairly distinct. Komuro, on the other hand, was really in touch with Europe's club music. I remember how visionary he was for traveling to England during Stock Aitken Waterman's glory days just to learn from the masters themselves (TM Network's gems like "Dive Into Your Body" and "Get Wild '89" are probably Komuro's most SAW-inspired songs, and they were released soon after he went back to Japan).

    1. First off, Marcos. Thanks very kindly for putting up the two articles today. I was out all day today and by the time I got home I was pretty exhausted.

      I think Kahala has put in a lot of effort over the years to improve her vocals. Plus, she went to New York for several months or a few years for vocal training and other things. Mind you, her "trip of discovery" was documented on a variety show so I'm not sure how much of her sufferings was played up for the camera but it looks like she learned a fair bit of humility so I think her maturity factor got a good boost.

      I couldn't identify Komuro's influences on his music since as you know I'm not all that familiar with the different genres in techno/dance music, but I could hear that there was a distinct style he had. When I heard the amped-up theme song for "Speed 2" with Sandra Bullock, I thought it sounded just like a Komuro tune and as it turned out, it was indeed him behind it. Too bad the movie sank.


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