Thursday, August 4, 2016
Hikaru Nishida -- CLEAR
A couple of months ago, I bought Eriko Tamura’s (田村英里子) debut album “May Be Dream” on ebay. Unfortunately, it arrived broken in two pieces due to hardships on the trip (photo below). After I contacted the seller, he kindly accepted to replace the broken album with another one. So, from what he had available (not a lot of other aidoru albums, unfortunately), I ended choosing Hikaru Nishida’s (西田ひかる) debut album, “CLEAR”. It finally arrived this week, and in safe condition.
Nishida's debut album was something I wanted to grab my hands on for a while, but it wasn't on my mind to buy it right now. The thing is, I like to listen to the albums before buying them, but this wasn't possible in this case, as "CLEAR" wasn't available anywhere else. So, besides some singles, the whole album was an absolute new experience to me.
Note: According to J-Wiki, "CLEAR" was released in July 1989. However, my CD says it was released in 1988. I can't say which one is right, but I'll go with the CD here.
I quite liked “CLEAR”, but I wouldn’t say it’s one of the strongest aidoru albums of its time. Sure, there are plenty of good songs, from the straightforward pop singles “Fifteen” (フィフティーン), “Nice-catch!” and the Latin Freestyle-esque “Little Chance”, to album cuts like the City Pop-inspired “Yuugure no Jewelry” (夕暮れにジェラシー) and the funky “Kigen wo Naoshite...” (機嫌をなおして・・・), but the production is a little bit repetitive, and the two ballads, “Natsu no Prism” (夏のプリズム) and “SWEET GRADUATION”, are the weak spot of the whole album. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not because they’re ballads per se, but just because I didn’t like their main melodies and bits of Nishida’s vocals. Some notes seemed forced, especially in “Natsu no Prism”, but that’s probably because Nishida herself was only 15~16 years old, and very unexperienced, when the whole album was conceived and recorded. I can say she surely got better with time.
Back to the positive features, even if the production is repetitive, I like the Synthpop/Euro/Freestyle arrangement of the album. A good portion of the songs, if not all, is very mechanic, with the whole brass synths, electronic drums and emulated bass approach taken to its maximum level. It’s easily that dreaded late 80s sound hated by many people, but loved by me and some others.
Second single "Nice-catch!", for example, not only is cheerful and summery, but also resembles some Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) productions that were very popular in Japan back then. I especially like the dated synths, something that was a true product of its time.
Also, if there’s one Western artist to keep in mind while listening to this album or looking to its gravures, it’s Debbie Gibson. Nishida’s “CLEAR” clearly took inspiration from what the young singer/songwriter was doing in the United States, from the hats to the (then) modern and fresh processed pop sound that was a sign of what youngsters listened to at the time. In a way, Gibson was very close to what Japanese aidoru singers came to embody through the decade (80s), so it was a natural choice for Japanese producers to look up what she was successfully doing across the Pacific. Like I said earlier, third single "Little Chance" is a good example of Latin Freestyle, a music genre Gibson tackled back then. Honestly, the song sounds more like The Cover Girls' "Show Me" than anything Gibson has released, but whatever.
Note: The video below, for "Little Chance", is slowed down for some reason. So, instead of the “Normal” speed on YouTube, you can choose “1.25”, as it’s very close to the song’s original speed.
In the end, I'm pretty satisfied with Nishida's "CLEAR". Unfortunately, some very good songs, like the already mentioned "Yuugure no Jewelry" and "Kigen wo Naoshite...", are not available on YouTube. However, even with just the singles, accompanied by "Natsu no Prism", it's possible to get a grasp of Nishida's early sound. For stronger songs by her, you can take a listen to "Namida no PEARL MOON" (涙のPEARL MOON) and "Kitto Ai ga Aru" (きっと愛がある) clicking here and here, respectively.