My awareness of The B-52s began with their appearance on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" sometime around the late 70s or early 80s, and as I was watching their bizarre performance of "Rock Lobster", I just went "Who the heck are these guys?!" I gathered that this was part of New Wave with Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson in those sky-high bouffants that seemed to pop out from my Mom's old photos from the 1960s. "Rock Lobster" may not have been my cup of tea at the time but I did get better with "Love Shack" and then came my favourite song by the band "Roam" in 1990.
JTM and I were having a talk the other night and our conversation slowly veered into the topic of bands such as Judy & Mary, and we were then trying to remember the name of that side project that J&M's vocalist, YUKI, got involved in around the end of the century while J&M was on hiatus. I knew that Kate Pierson from the aforementioned B-52s was YUKI's co-vocalist.
As it turned out, I was trying to remember NiNa which along with YUKI and Pierson also included Mick Karn from the band Japan, Takemi Shima & Masahide Sakuma（島武実・佐久間正英）from the Plastics, and drummer Steven Wolf. When I first heard about this project back in the late 90s, I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that there was going to be this overt collaboration between this 90s J-Pop singer and this American band member from the 80s.
The one song I remember from NiNa was "Happy Tomorrow" which I saw performed on television a number of times. It was released as their first single in July 1999, and it's a sunny laidback song that reminded me a lot of the jangly guitar pop/rock from the 90s in Japan before R&B and the Hello Project started entering the stage.
The lyrics for "Happy Tomorrow" were written by YUKI and Pierson, with YUKI and Sakuma (under his pseudonym of Ma-Chang) providing the music. Another notable thing about the song was that it was the theme song for both the anime "Arc The Lad" and a regular live-action J-Drama on Fuji-TV, "Kanojo-tachi no Jidai"（彼女たちの時代...Time of the Women）, which were both broadcast in the same year within a few months of each other. The single went Platinum while peaking at No. 9 and becoming the 77th-ranked song of the year. "Happy Tomorrow" also appeared as a track on NiNa's lone album "NiNa". It came out in November 1999, and hit No. 3 on the album charts, finishing 1999 as the 83rd-ranked release.
One last piece of trivia about NiNa. The name was derived from YUKI's age at the time which was 27 with "ni" representing 2 and "na" representing 7.