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.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Noelle's Top 5 Kiyoshi Maekawa Songs

Well, I suppose this doesn't really need any introduction. From the number of articles I've written on him and the way I've talked about him, it's kind of a given that I'd do my list on Mae-Kiyo whom at this point in time still occupies the No.1 spot in terms of my favourite singers. It's the combination of soothing at times but otherwise booming vocals, overall agreeable-looking image, and the unexpected comic relief that allow Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) to maintain that spot ever since my transition to enka and Mood Kayo. That being said, I'm hoping to get an autographed copy of his 2017 calendar through his Twitter account's campaign for next year. To be frank I'd be happy with the regular calendar, but I can't seem to find it as of yet so I'm trying my luck to be that lucky few to receive it.

Anyway, unlike the Chage and Aska list that I did last year, I've decided just pick 5 tunes for this list. It was relatively simple to pick the top 5 since there are fewer songs to choose from, and I tend to gravitate to those few whenever I were to listen to my "Kiyoshi Maekawa" playlist. Bear in mind that only works from the silly kayo fellow's solo discography were being considered and anything that falls under his Cool Five stuff have been excluded - that would be a list for another day.

Without further ado, here's my picks. They aren't listed in any particular order.

1. Miyako Kaze (2016)
This tune is perhaps my latest muse in the playlist. "Miyako Kaze" is a somewhat balanced mix of pop and traditional enka, and what I love about it is that there's this airy and cooling feel from the combination of the koto and violin - nice to listen on hot days (which is commonplace in Singapore). Mae-Kiyo's voice isn't as strong anymore and it's quite evident in his recent appearances on TV, but I find that the less intense delivery fits this gentle tune just fine.

2. Oishii Mizu (2004)
"Oishii Mizu" is on this list for a similar rationale as "Miyako Kaze", just that this one is a lot more pop and no enka. The melody plus the image I get of waterfalls and snow-capped mountains in places like Oregon makes it a refreshing track after some heavy enka or Mood Kayo... Maekawa really should sing this more often.

3. Yuki Ressha (1982)
While the former gave me the feeling of cooling and refreshing, this one here feels like a warm blanket on a snowy day from the quieter melody that's got a slight oriental touch and Mae-Kiyo's deep and soft delivery - best on chilly, rainy days (sadly, we've got no snow days).

4. Kimi ga Koishi kute (2013)
This is perhaps as enka as Mae-Kiyo can or wants to go. But that blaring mix of muscular electric guitar and screaming saxophone can be expected when Grandpa enka, Sabu-Chan, is behind a song. While I found "Kimi ga Koishi kute" a tad overwhelming upon hearing it for the first time, this tune managed to grow on me - I'm a sucker for songs that features the powerful roar of the electric guitar. It's like "Nakanoshima Blues" but twice as loud and not so much Mood Kayo.

"Hayari Uta" is at the 15:40 mark.

5.  Hayari Uta (2000)
I've said that "Hayari Uta" is my favourite and it is. While I really like the other songs on this list, just hearing how Mae-Kiyo's vocals fluctuate from growling to thundering here is enough to take the cake. Accompanying this is a melody that isn't too "in your face" as in "Kimi ga Koishi kute" - the electric guitar is taking it easy and the strings are softer. All in all, it makes for a very pleasant listening experience. Perhaps I could attempt this song at the Sugamo karaoke bar if I were to return to that outfit - vocal gymnastics are gonna be tough though.

That's it for this addition of Author's Picks. On hindsight, my choices here aren't Mae-Kiyo's more popular or commonly sung tunes. Guess the older crowd still very much prefer the heavy and concentrated enka or Mood Kayo rather than those that have been diluted with pop. As for myself, I would continue to look forward to more of such "diluted kayo" from Maekawa - it fits him better and makes for something a little different from the norm.

Does "Ain't nothin' sexier than a man who
cleans" apply here...?


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    That's quite the nice lineup of Mae-Kiyo songs, and it does make me wonder whether the man had wondered about following a more pop path in his career since he's done that mix of pop/kayo since the 1980s if not earlier. I've heard that a number of singers were told to follow an enka career since their minders believed that their voices were just more suited for the genre.

    Along with the five that you've indicated, I also liked the song that preceded "Hayari Uta". It rather fulfills that European enka corner of Mood Kayo which I'm still a sucker for.

    1. Hi J-Canuck.

      Ah, "Otoko to Onna no Kakera" - that is a nice song and it does sound rather European. It seems like Mae-Kiyo's most well-known solo single.

      Speaking of European enka/Mood Kayo, Mae-Kiyo's works from the 90's tend to be something on that line, some with more pop than others. Examples would be "Yasashisa wa Uso no Nioi" and it's A-side "Bara no Orgel" from 1997. I like the former quite a lot and it almost made it to the top 5 but lost out to "Yuki Ressha". You can check it out in the link.

      Oh, any examples of singers that were told to follow the enka path? I'm curious - all I can think of is Ikuzo Yoshi and Sayuri Ishikawa, but their turn to enka seemed to be more like because their aidoru careers couldn't take off rather than being told to do so.

    2. "Yasashisa wa Uso no Nioi"...The Scent of a Lie is Kindness". OUCH! (heh, heh)

      The song, though, is quite a nice mix of Mood Kayo and late-century City Pop. Maybe a new subgenre was born during that time...Urban Kayo?

      I can believe Yoshi and Ishikawa heading into enka from the aidoru path. I'm also wondering if that had been the case with Yoko Nagayama.

    3. It took a while for me to figure out the title "Yasashisa wa Uso no Nioi", so thanks for the translation. That being said, I wonder if the song's character may be forever paranoid when faced with kindness.

      Right, Yoko Nagayama. Come to think of it, there are others like Sanae Jounouchi and someone from one of those AKB groups. They seemed successful enough in their aidoru days, so perhaps they were also being told to go enka...?


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