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.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Miki Imai -- Bluebird/amour au chocolat

Speaking of bluebirds, our own version of it in the form of a professional baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, is in danger of letting any chance of post-season play slip away. Ach....I think it's pretty much game over already but hopefully they may be able to snatch the final wild card spot before the regular season ends tomorrow.

In any case, let's pivot to a happier version of bluebird....namely Miki Imai's(今井美樹)"Bluebird", her 9th single from July 1993. I was more of a collector of Imai's full albums and BEST releases rather than her individual singles so this one nearly slipped by me until I purchased her second compilation of hits "Ivory II" since it was probably the first album that included this really upbeat tune. Not that I ever considered Imai a singer of downbeat material but my impression of her is that she has had a good mastery of love ballads and mellow fare.

But of course, the singer with the wide-as-the-Mississippi smile has released her fair share of happiness and "Bluebird" has it in spades. Written by frequent Imai collaborator, Yuuho Iwasato(岩里祐穂), and composed by future husband Tomoyasu Hotei(布袋寅泰), this is a song that is a jump start for getting out of the blues and into the sunshine again. Certainly the concert performance above puts an emphatic point on that statement along with the rock guitars. It also feels different from the tone of her previous singles and albums.

And going on with this different feeling is the coupling song to "Bluebird" which was "amour au chocolat"...quite the pretentious title. I bought Imai's 1992 album, "flow into space" through "Eye-Ai" while I was back in Toronto, and this is where I first heard this dreamy and mellow piece. As I mentioned on the article for Imai's old-style "Blue Moon Blue" which is another track on the album, "flow into space" is notable for showing a more "organic" side for lack of a better expression. With a lot of her ballads and mid-tempo entries from the late 1980s, they could be heard at a small town cafe, but the tracks from her 7th album come off as if they were meant to be played over the speakers at a coffeehouse in a trendier neighbourhood in Tokyo, say, Aoyama or Shimo-Kitazawa. Probably for you readers who have never visited my old stomping grounds, that last sentence may not mean a whole lot but I tried. And I encourage you to go and visit!

"amour au chocolat" (at least the original album version...apparently, the coupling song is a new take) is the yang to the yin (or should that be the other way around?) of "Bluebird". Hotei's music goes at a leisurely pace with his guitar adding a dramatic Western twang and then even going a bit "drunk" near the end. I can imagine him having composed this on a wooden porch outside with a slight rain coming down. Meanwhile, Imai coquettishly delivers her own lyrics about helplessly falling in love with a man who is already taken. Perhaps that title might be analogizing the addictive properties of that emotion to one of the most beloved flavours. I can certainly sympathize. I'm no longer a rabid chocoholic but I still get those cravings for a Hersheys once in a while. The whole song was arranged by Joe Hisaishi(久石譲), the fellow behind all that wonderful Studio Ghibli music.

The single "Bluebird" managed to get as high as No. 12 on the charts. And before I forget to mention it, the song was used as the theme for the TBS variety show "Hitachi Sekai-Fushigi Hakken!"(日立 世界・ふしぎ発見!...Discovery of the World's Mysteries), a long-running educational quiz program based on some of the weird and wonderful things from around the planet that has continued to be shown on TV since its beginnings in 1987.

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