Credits

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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kiyoko Suizenji -- Shinjitsu Ichiro no March (真実一路のマーチ)


As I've mentioned before, anyone who knows veteran singer Kiyoko "Cheetah" Suizenji(水前寺清子)but isn't a huge fan of hers will know that one trademark song she first sang in the 1960s "Sanbyaku Rokujuu Go Ho no March"(三百六十五歩のマーチ). With that crowd pleasing kayo and her short haircut, the singer became kayo kyoku's proud majorette.


What I didn't know was that almost a year after that hit was first released, Cheetah came up with another happy march. This time, it was "Shinjitsu Ichiro no March" (The Straight Road of Truth March) which came out as her 29th single in October 1969. Written and composed by the same duo for "Sanbyaku Rokujuu Go Ho no March", Masao Yoneyama(米山正夫)and Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎), Suizenji was no longer just exhorting the working class; it was now everyone. As Hoshino's lyrics put it, it's not so much about the length of that road of life but how you walk upon it.


And according to Suizenji, that road should be trodden on proudly and assertively with no regrets. Plus, having a tambourine to tap wouldn't hurt. I thought she would have made a fine pastor by this point.

I couldn't find out how "Shinjitsu Ichiro no March" did on the charts but it did win Suizenji a Japan Record Award and her 5th appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen in 1969. Ironically, she wouldn't actually sing her more famous march on the annual NHK special event for the first time until 1980.

Teresa Teng -- Scandal (スキャンダル)


By now, I think a good chunk of folks around the globe have seen or heard or read about that last-minute blunder about the Best Movie Oscar for the 2017 Academy Awards a couple of nights ago. I almost felt like sending a tweet to late-night comedian and host for the Oscars Jimmy Kimmel: "Man, are YOU going to have one heck of a monologue tonight!"

The one columnist over here gave the broadcast a rare thumbs-up in spite of or because of the historic ending although I'm pretty sure critics were all over the spectrum in terms of how much they liked it. As for me, I finally gave up on the Oscars several years ago after watching the Seth MacFarlane debacle.


So, on that note, I thought it would be nice to finish off February with Teresa Teng's (テレサ・テン) "Scandal". Plus, it's been a long time since I put up one of her tunes on the blog. I actually listened to my lone BEST CD of hers recently and came across this number which seemed to be a bit atypical for a Teng tune since it had that strutting and bossy arrangement by Yasuo Sako(佐孝康夫)with the music by Takashi Miki(三木たかし)that I would usually attribute to a song by Hiroshi Tachi(舘ひろし).

The lyrics by Toyohisa Araki(荒木とよひさ)are from a woman's point of view. The woman might be working in a hostess club or she may be the proprietor of some bar in Shinjuku but in either case, she is holding a major torch for a gallivanting fellow who enjoys painting Tokyo red and presumably meeting a whole bunch of women along the way. You would probably think with lyrics like those, the music would be somewhat more melancholy much in the way of the ballads that I usually associate Teng with. However, the spritely melody indicates that the woman in question isn't all that torn up about her crush; that's just the way he is, she reckons. She might be the Moneypenny to the guy's James Bond.


I'm not sure where the scandal in "Scandal" is. Perhaps the heel is already married with kids but he enjoys his "hobby" much more. Then again, a womanizer like him will probably get his comeuppance someday. In any case, it's interesting looking at the above performance on "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ)and seeing Teng all dolled up with sunglasses, to boot.

Her 17th single was released in November 1986 and peaked at No. 69 on Oricon. "Scandal" is a song that I have heard before so I'm guessing it's been covered numerous times on the kayo shows over the years. Considering how happy-go-lucky it is, I think it would be a favourite for the singers to perform.


Monday, February 27, 2017

SUEMITSU & THE SUEMITH -- Allegro Cantabile e.p.

Amazon.jp

My anime buddy and I were having a talk the other day and of course we went over the good and bad regarding the recently finished "Hibike! Euphonium"(響け! ユーフォニアム)which had 2 full seasons and at least one movie about the trials and tribulations of the members in a band club in high school. Then, just a few days ago, I was reminded of another anime involving young folk and their instruments from a decade prior. That was "Nodame Cantabile" (のだめカンタービレ) and I started going over the various listings through "TV Tropes".

Now I think even "Hibike! Euphonium" has yet to realize the full multi-media spectrum that "Nodame Cantabile" did. There was the original manga, an anime and even a live-action version for both Japan and Taiwan. And I think there was even some sort of Nintendo DS game! However for me, it was always really just the manga. My former student-turned-friend was kind enough to lend me the English-language version of the manga to me over a period of several weeks which I started to enjoy as I read about the adventures of Shinichi and Megumi at Momogaoka College of Music.


For whatever reason, I never got into the Fuji-TV live-action drama starring Juri Ueno and Hiroshi Tamaki(上野樹里・玉木宏)although I remember catching one pivotal scene involving Tamaki's Shinichi in conducting mode. There was also the anime from which I caught a couple of the episodes. However since that was broadcast on Fuji-TV in the wee hours of the morning (I was a working man after all) and no longer had a VCR to tape the show, I also didn't cotton onto that either. So it was just the manga which I also enjoyed for its depiction of student life at a suburban university. There was just something very comfortable about flipping through the pages and seeing the kids live and study in that neighbourhood.


As I said, I was only able to catch a couple of the episodes from the anime adaptation. However, from reading on "TV Tropes" about the opening theme song, a memory engram suddenly flashed in my head and checked out the link leading me to the above video. Instantly, some very nice feels flowed back into my ears as the singer-songwriter with the unusual nom de plume SUEMITSU & THE SUEMITH started pounding on the piano to perform "Allegro Cantabile e.p.".


Originally named Atsushi Suemitsu(末光篤), the Hiroshima native liked to combine classical music with rock into something called Grind Piano Rock, and as for his intense playing style, he got that from Jerry Lee Lewis, according to his J-Wiki bio. Seeing him in the music video, I kinda think he would have been a perfect fit for the cast of "Nodame Cantabile". Speaking of the video, it's rather sad that a piano was indeed harmed during the filming, though.

Still, "Allegro Cantabile e.p." reflects all of the joy and intense hard work that the characters went through no matter the medium. I may have only appreciated the printed version of "Nodame Cantabile" but whenever I read through the pages, it's still SUEMITSU & THE SUEMITH that I hear as I do so.

The song which was written and composed by Suemitsu reached No. 20 on Oricon after its release in February 2007 as the singer's 4th single. It was also recorded onto his first original album as a major act, "The Piano It's Me" which peaked at No. 18.

Yoko Aso -- Touhikou (逃避行)


Happy Monday! After all of the kerfuffle involving that nutty ending to the 2017 Oscars, the usual Trump hijinks, possibly losing the heart of the Toronto Raptors to injury for the rest of the season and the lead-up to the NHL's trading deadline day on Wednesday, I can certainly use some calming kayo to start the week. Bet that this is the only place online that you'll ever read something like that previous statement.


Well, I found one in Yoko Aso's(麻生よう子)"Touhikou" (Elopement). Actually I bookmarked this song several months ago but never got around to talk about it until tonight. Since I had only heard this once before, I had forgotten how the song sounded like but getting to listen to it again a couple of times, I can understand why I did select it for retrieval.

Created by a couple of kayo veterans, Kazuya Senke(千家和也)on lyrics and Shunichi Tokura(都倉俊一)on music, "Touhikou" is a bittersweet ballad about a young lady making the ultimate choice to join the man she loves and leave all that she loved behind as they begin new lives in a new town somewhere. Released in February 1974 as Aso's debut single, what got me about "Touhikou" is that mix of 70s Showa Era pop with the haunting strings and boppy drums and an arrangement that reminded me somewhat of some of the Carpenters' best hits. Also, there were Aso's vocals. If I were to assign a flavour to them, I could say that they were butterscotch...there was that warm colour and velvety texture. In a way, they were reminiscent of the wonderful voice of Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ).

(cover version)

"Touhikou" had a long run on the Oricon charts, spending almost half a year in the Top 100 and peaking at No. 32. It ended up as the 88th-ranked single of 1974 and earned Aso a prize as The Best New Artist at the Japan Record Awards although the Kohaku Utagassen didn't come knocking. Selling close to 150,000 records, this was the singer's most successful release although she would come out with a total of 26 singles and 6 albums up to 1993. The song was also the title track on the Osaka native's debut album also from 1974.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Takeo Fujishima -- Kaeri no Minato (かえりの港)


Another browsing through the magic Canada Dry plastic bag of 45" singles revealed this green cover. I don't recollect ever seeing this man before on the old kayo shows although his voice has rung a bell on the old RCA stereo. His name is Takeo Fujishima(藤島桓夫)and Noelle actually wrote about him for his big hit "Otsuki-San Konbanwa" (お月さん今晩は) almost a couple of years ago. Seeing him on the cover here, I think he looked downright cherubic.


Although I couldn't find the songs from my Dad's record on YouTube, I did manage to find one of his other big hits. In addition to the fact that he was well known for sporting a sailor uniform or a casual kimono on stage, Fujishima (who passed away in 1994) did a number of songs which were collectively known as the "Minato" (port) series since that word was in each of those song titles.

One of those songs was "Kaeri no Minato" (The Home Port) from 1955. Fujishima had that unique and comforting nasal voice which he used to convey thoughts about heading back home to the islands wherever they may be. Kazuo Toyoda(豊田一雄)wrote and composed the song and the Osaka-born singer delivered it almost as if it were some sort of jaunty lullaby. The feelings of being away from home and homesickness have always been the sentimental thing for the Japanese so I'm not surprised that this song would bring a twinge to someone's emotions.


The video above has him coming out in that sailor get-up and his voice has certainly mellowed out in the years following its initial release back in the 1950s. "Kaeri no Minato" provided Fujishima's first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen, and he was a mainstay on the New Year's Eve special for 7 straight years from 1956 to 1962.

Hitomitoi -- So no Me wa, Hypnotic (その目は、Hypnotic)


The first time I encountered the singer Hitomitoi(一十三十一)was on Marcos V.'s "Retro Grooves and Underground Aidoru Gems Playlist" which was written up back in early 2014. Not only was I drawn in by that most symmetrical kanji name but that mix of light technopop and City Pop provided by Marcos' contribution of her "Dive" was quite irresistible. And frankly speaking as my friend put it so succinctly in his article, Hitomitoi is pretty easy on the eyes as well.


Well, Artzie Music put up another one of his creations yesterday titled "kissmenerdygirl - Hypnotic Eyes" and the remixed song was another potential earworm. This time, I got lucky in that one of the comments actually provided the source singer and song, and it was indeed Hitomitoi again.


The song is "So no Me wa, Hypnotic" (Those Eyes Are Hypnotic) from her 8th album from October 2015, "The Memory Hotel". The urban contemporary beat is there adorned with some of that blippity-bloppity technopop that itself reminds me of "Koi wa Ryuusei"(恋は流星), a Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)City Pop masterpiece from decades back. That repeated techno phrase is an earworm all by itself!

As for "The Memory Hotel", it got as high as No. 69 on Oricon. Singer-songwriter Hitomitoi was born Hitomi Shimomura(下村 一十三)in 1978 in Sapporo, Hokkaido but spent her childhood living in a number of countries. After graduating from college, she spent some time working in the music industry in New York City before debuting in 2002 with her first single "Kemuri Iro no Koibito-tachi"(煙色の恋人達...Smoke-Coloured Lovers). She has professed to have the greatest respect for and influence from City Pop maestro Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Seiichiro Kuribayashi -- Donna ni Tsuyoku Daite mo (どんなに強く抱いても)


I was having a talk with commenter Yuie-chan some days ago on an article for 80s band THE GOOD-BYE about a musician that she had known about named Seiichiro Kuribayashi(栗林誠一郎). Talented on a number of instruments as a composer, she informed me that she just loved his vocals and gave me a couple of recommendations. I liked both songs but it's the second one that has me writing about him for the first time.


However, the strange thing is that it isn't actually the first time that I've mentioned him on the blog, though. Kuribayashi debuted back in 1987 by providing the summer band TUBE with some of their songs. Plus, I've mentioned him as being a member of the Nagisa no All-Stars(渚のオールスターズ), the supergroup of sorts which included the aforementioned TUBE, and singer-songwriters Tomoko Aran(亜蘭知子)and Tetsuro Oda(織田哲郎). In the 1990s, he was also part of the rock band ZYYG for about a year.

The second recommendation that Yuie-chan made was "Donna ni Tsuyoku Daite mo" (No Matter How Hard You Hold Me), a track on Kuribayashi's 7th solo album from November 1995, "Rest of My Life". It's a sad but beautiful and contemplative ballad about how people change and love doesn't necessarily last forever. The musician was responsible for the great music with Kanako Oda(小田佳奈子)writing the lyrics. I guess it might be because of the material but there is a sunset feeling with "Donna ni Tsuyoku Daite mo" and the bluesy guitar solos reflect the setting sun and the 90s for that matter very well.

I was going to write about the first recommendation but since it is also a song that the late ZARD had taken care of, I will see about tackling that one together.

Arashi -- Happiness


I keep forgetting that these guys actually sing and dance. Arashi(嵐)has not only become the premier Johnny's Entertainment group but it's become quite the force on the variety scene as well and perhaps in the TV drama circuit. I keep seeing Ono-kun and the rest of the guys having fun times on their "VS. Arashi" game show every Friday so it was a bit jarring when I saw them last night cut away for a few minutes to see them perform their latest single at the time (I think the episode was from September 2016).


Not being a huge fan of Arashi's musical output, I have remembered various excerpts of their past hits including their 20th single from September 2007 "Happiness". Those words of "hashiri dase, hashiri dase" still pop up in my head now and then.

Starting off with a battery of guitars that sound like they belong in a Quentin Tarentino movie, "Happiness", true to its title, goes off in a happy-go-lucky direction that starts to remind me of Princess Princess' "Diamonds". So, perhaps it's not the most completely original of compositions but it's hard not to like especially when the group goes into the refrain as noted above. Wonderland was responsible for the lyrics with Mio Okada(岡田実音)taking care of the music.


It's a very uptempo song so I wasn't all that surprised when I found out that it was the theme song for a 2007 TBS drama "Yamada Taro Monogatari"(山田太郎ものがたり...The Tale of Taro Yamada)based on a manga and starring two of Arashi, Kazuya Ninomiya and Sho Sakurai(二宮和也・櫻井翔). Can hardly believe it's almost been 10 years since this came out but then considering how young all of the guys look, I can also hardly believe that they debuted in the 20th century.

"Happiness" hit No. 1 on the charts and ended up as the 15th-ranked single for 2007. It was also recorded on Arashi's 8th album "Dream 'A' live" from April 2008 which also hit No. 1 and became the 30th-ranked album for that year.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Marico -- Nijuu-ni Shoku no Heart (22色のハート)


When I was doing the write-up for Tohoku Shinkansen's(東北新幹線)"Up and Down" the other day, I also came across another song on YouTube by a singer named Marico(真璃子). Titled "Nijuu-ni Shoku no Heart" (22-Colour Heart), it was composed by one-half of Tohoku Shinkansen, composer Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子), and written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎).

What caught my ears about this particular tune is that although Marico started her career as a mid-1980s aidoru, this "Nijuu-ni Shoku no Heart" which is a track on her debut album "Marico" from September 1986 is a cut above the usual aidoru tune. I wanted to say sasuga to Yamakawa. I mean, there are the cute aidoru synths in there but the arrangement of the song, especially when it comes to the guitars, almost takes things into City Pop/J-AOR territory, something that Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)would concoct and croon. It's very laidback and comfortable. Perhaps a number of her other tracks and singles were conventionally aidoru but as a non-single track, "Nijuu-ni Shoku no Heart" definitely feels something more urban contemporary.

The Fukuoka-born singer, born Mariko Hiura(日浦真里子), released 21 singles up to 1995 and released 6 original albums up to 1993. According to her J-Wiki bio, Marico has also done some acting on TV and radio broadcasts but is currently a regional tarento as well as a helper at her husband's bar at night.


Midori Oka -- Sado no Yubue (佐渡の夕笛)


Premium Friday! Looks like the Japanese government has launched another new business concept alongside the old Cool Biz to alleviate the stresses of the corporate cog workers. I only heard about Premium Friday this morning on NHK's "Newswatch 9" when several companies were encouraged to let their employees finish work at the ungodly hour of 3 pm on the last Friday of every month so that they can either relax or, better yet, go shopping since consumption hasn't exactly been robust as of late.

The results for this very first Premium Friday? Decidedly meh...it was really only a handful of companies that decided to get with the program in this workaholic nation. Apparently, most of the unleashed employees decided to go home to sleep. During the NHK feature, one small nomiya in the business district in Osaka that decided to open early in the afternoon to receive any potential customers among the Premium Friday folks got just one customer up to 5 pm. Mind you, it might be kinda weird to many folks to suddenly chug-a-lug a chuu nama and down some yakitori at the same time that others are sipping tea. Hey, it's a work in progress and I think it's a pretty good idea in the long term, although I also think that Premium Friday should also take into consideration the fate of the part-time workers who just get paid by the hour.


Anyways I gave all that preamble at the top to let folks know that it is a Friday so as is the case here as well as in Japan, TGIF is very much in force. So I'm sure folks in Japan were hitting the bars and izakayas as usual. Of course, for older generations that could probably mean some good ol' drinking and perhaps even some shibui karaoke at the boxes.

A few nights ago on the weekly "Uta Kon" (うたコン), the theme was drinking songs (although there was a somewhat disappointingly brief tribute to the works of Toru Funamura at the beginning), and I heard this tune by enka singer Midori Oka(丘みどり)titled "Sado no Yubue" (The Night Whistle of Sado). It was quite pleasing to the ear since there was something in there that brought back the old days of enka. From what little I know of Sado Island off of Niigata Prefecture, it's the home of those internationally famous kodo drummers.


"Sado no Yubue" was written by Toshiya Niitani(仁井谷俊也)and composed by Tetsuya Gen(弦哲也)as Oka's 8th single released just a few weeks ago on February 8th. It is another case of bittersweet parted love as the singer relates the story of a woman pining for his love as he leaves the island while hoping beyond hope that she will hear the sound of that whistle signaling the return of that ship.

Oka has been a pretty regular guest on "Uta Kon" and its predecessor "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)and I see her as one of the next shining generation of enka singers. She's got quite the powerful voice, too. And perhaps all of her success can ultimately be due to her mother since according to J-Wiki, Oka had been a painfully shy girl when she was a child so to draw her out of her shell, her mother entered herself and her daughter into minyo lessons. Later on, at her very first minyo contest when she was in Grade 5 of elementary school, Oka won the championship! A star was indeed born.


A couple of mugs of beer will probably help anyone come out of their shell...or put them to sleep, as in my case.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Haruko Kuwana -- You're Young


The above was just taken a few days ago over the weekend but it's still quite reflective of some of the unseasonable but welcome weather we've had today. We actually hit around 17 or 18 degrees Celsius which has smashed a record for a high temperature that had been set all the way back in 1984 (14.9). So, of course, part of the news broadcast had cameras focused on the patio bars which were packed with beer lovers tonight...not a scene that is typical of February in Toronto.


At this point, if chanteuse Haruko Kuwana(桑名晴子)had yelled out the title of this tune to everyone here today, everyone would have enthusiastically nodded back. "You're Young" was one of the tracks on Kuwana's debut album "Million Stars". Up to now, all of my articles on this singer with the great soulful voice were based on material in the 1980s but even back in 1978 when this album was released, she was belting out some wonderful stuff.

Hearing those vocals and the saxophone in the instrumental, the song does have the power to bring back some of that ideal summery sunset weather. Kuwana would have had a pretty nice outdoor concert at the Bandshell near the CNE by Lake Ontario with this album, I think. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out who was responsible for creating the song although a part of me thinks that the singer herself may have had some hand in either the lyrics or music.

March 3rd 2017: It turns out that I actually had the original version on one of the American AOR compilations I bought years ago. "You're Young" was performed by the Mackey Feary Band on their self-titled first album from 1978.


Kyu Sakamoto -- Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana (あの娘の名前はなんてんかな)


I've spoken a number of times about some of the so-called long-lost songs in the mists of my memories...those old kayo that I used to hear but never knew their singers or titles. However, certain excerpts of it have stuck in my brain since forever. Well, last night, another mystery was solved after decades, and all I had to do was flip the side of a 45" which has one of the most internationally famous songs from Japan.


I found my father's old single record of the "Sukiyaki" song from 1961 by the late Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九)and played it on the TEAC. Of course, all the nostalgia and wistfulness flowed through me like The Force in Luke Skywalker. Then, I flipped it to the B-side and saw this really long title "Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" (What is the Name of That Woman?) before giving this one a chance.

Well, as soon as the needle hit the vinyl, and those first bars came through, my long-term memory engrams exploded in recognition. It was one of my lost boys coming back to roost in my brain. I remembered those frenetic violins and the rest of that old-style brassy orchestra flying away as this high-pitched voice collaborated to create what sounded like a really upbeat song that could have been a showstopping Broadway piece midway through the musical.

Instead "Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" was a short comical number partnered with one of the most famous if bittersweet kayo in Japanese music history. It was definitely a tough act to follow which might explain why it hasn't gotten much attention all these years. But it was still Sakamoto, it was still created by the same songwriters behind "Sukiyaki", Hachidai Nakamura and Rokusuke Ei(中村八大・永六輔), and it's still fun to listen to.

Basically, Kyu is singing about a fellow who falls for some lady while seeing the back of her from a distance, presumably in some department store for reasons that will become evident within a few sentences. As those hearts flutter around the suddenly heads-over-heels lad, he starts wondering what she would way at any courtship attempts and, more importantly, he also takes a shot at figuring out what her name is. Is it Hanako? Midori? Misasa? The sky's the limit. And by the end of the song, he finally gets the gumption to approach the lass...only to find out it's a mannequin! Hey, I'm not judging here.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any actual stage performances of "Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" on YouTube but I would think that it would have had to have been performed on TV since I could easily envision a comical rendition with matching choreography. When I still just had that excerpt of the song in memory all those years, I had assumed it was actually Kiyoko Suizenji(水前寺清子)because of the sharp high voice and just the really happy nature of the song.

Now I can happily cross another long-lost song off my list and proudly consider it found.😃

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kiyohiko Ozaki -- Ai suru Hito wa Hitori (愛する人はひとり)


Currently delving again into the "Seishun Uta Nenkan"(青春歌年鑑)series of CDs, I went through Disc 1 from 1972 earlier this afternoon and I was surprised to find out quite a few numbers that I had never brought onto the blog. Therefore, you may be seeing a few more entries for this year in the coming weeks.


One such song was by the late Kiyohiko Ozaki(尾崎紀世彦). He was a singer from way back when who had one of the big booming voices, and he's most famous for the happy "Mata Au Hi Made"(また逢う日まで), one of the classic kayo.

Well, on the 1972 disc, I found his 5th single which came out in November 1971 (perhaps it didn't make waves until 1972), "Ai suru Hito wa Hitori" (Only One I Love). What's notable about this one is how Swingin' 60s it sounds...especially from the intro which has some perkily wicked electric piano and horns that's reminiscent of Burt Bacharach. However, it's the remarkable Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)who's behind the go-go boot-kickin' music with Yu Aku(阿久悠)providing the lyrics. Both of them were also responsible for "Mata Au Hi Made".

Listening to the short-but-sweet song on the CD then hearing it again a couple of times on YouTube, my mind went into music sommelier mode and picked out not only general Bacharach but specific songs such as his "Bond Street" and even "MacArthur Park" created by Jimmy Webb and sung originally by Richard Harris (yep, I mean that Richard Harris from "Harry Potter"). In terms of Oricon success, "Ai suru Hito wa Hitori" reached as high as No. 2.


Now, there might be some folks who wouldn't know "Bond Street" by its title. However, once you listen to the song, you might recognize it as not only a tune that was used late in the original and weird "Casino Royale" from the 1960s but also for any "Family Guy" fans, the song that Stewie Griffin likes to play whenever he wants to have his sexy party.


Also to illustrate how old I am and how much of a Canadian I am, I also remember "Bond Street" being the theme song for the cheesy charades game show "Party Game" back in the 1970s. And yep, I was a devoted viewer.


Yaen -- Get down


Tunnels (とんねるず) was arguably the most hilarious and often outrageous comedic act that burst out in the 1980s. I can say that the taller half of the duo, Takaaki Ishibashi(石橋貴明), probably grabbed the baton from nutty comedian Ken Shimura(志村けん)in terms of pushing what was OK on TV at the time. And both him and his partner, Noritake Kinashi(木梨憲武), often put forth the personae of the amiable-but-deceptively-condescending superstars in their various skits.



However, I think the above segment which begins this video is Taka and Nori just being darn silly with a few geinojin.

Anyways, I think I may have been watching one of the episodes from their very long-running Thursday night show on Fuji-TV, "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage deshita"(とんねるずのみなさんのおかげでした)back in my Japan days when the guys came up with a brainwave of sorts. Supposedly, there was a skit on the show which parodied Taka-chan's other TV show, the music program "Utaban" (うたばん) on TBS, in which the Tunnels with a bunch of production staff as backup dancers did a song-and-dance a la Kinki Kids.

The skit was a smash with viewers and after that, one thing led to another, and the group Yaen(野猿)was born. Yaen had Tunnels and two other staffers from the costuming and set departments as the main vocalists while several other employees provided the dancing. According to J-Wiki, Ishibashi named this new group Yaen (which means wild monkeys, by the way) after coming across a love hotel named Hotel Yaen on the Yaen Highway in the Tama district of Tokyo one time (no word on whether he actually used it). The hotel has since changed its name to Festa Resort Yaen.


With some training and dressing, the group which numbered around 11 recorded their debut single for release in April 1998, "Get down". And strangely enough, it didn't quite sound like a parody of a high-energy pop song. It actually was a high-energy pop song. I was having a talk with Marcos V. on the recent globe piece about a Japan Times article which related about the good old days of Tetsuya Komuro's(小室哲哉)cool-if-somewhat-cheesy music, and I think "Get down" kinda straddles that line between pop and parody.

"Get down" set the template for Yaen's brief time in the spotlight as an expy of sorts of song-and-dance groups such as Exile. Seeing Tunnels and these production staffers sing and dance themselves on stage automatically had my don't-take-it-seriously alert light flashing off in my brain but at the same time, everyone was going at their jobs pretty earnestly. So the performance actually came off as looking surprisingly polished. It also didn't hurt that it was made by a couple of veterans in lyricist Yasushi Akimoto (秋元康...Onyanko Club, AKB48) and composer Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)who had helped make a number of hits for Shizuka Kudo(工藤静香)among other singers some years earlier. Plus Sam of TRF fame choreographed the dancing.

The song got up...all the way to No. 10 on the charts and later became the 20th-ranked single of 1998. There would be ten more singles before Yaen called it quits in 2001. Apparently, some of the guys were being transferred to other departments.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tohoku Shinkansen -- Up and Down

The song isn't in this collection.

Yesterday, I had a commenter remark about how much he loved the works of singer-songwriter Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子). I heartily agreed. And for this blog, she has mostly popped up as the songwriter but recently I only discovered of her participation decades ago in the duo Tohoku Shinkansen(東北新幹線)as not being just behind the pen but also behind the mike.


Not sure if Tohoku Shinkansen was ever meant as merely a whimsical dalliance/project as opposed to a full-fledged duo recording albums and making concert tours considering that Yamakawa and guitarist Hiroshi Narumi(鳴海寛)only created the one album "Thru Traffic" in 1982. Still, for City Pop/J-AOR lovers, this is one of the desired rarest of the rare. Personally, I would love to get my hands on a copy of the album but prices are now exorbitantly high. Realistically, I can only hope that one of the tracks has managed to get onto a compilation album such as the "Light Mellow" series or someday the recording companies decide to release a new batch of remastered CDs or digital downloads.

The one reason I've been quite keen on Tohoku Shinkansen is that the three tracks from "Thru Traffic" that are on YouTube are all very cool and classy numbers of the genre. I've already gotten "Tsuki ni Yorisotte"(月に寄りそって)and "Summer Touches You" up and running. The former is a duet between Narumi and Yamakawa while the latter is a solo by Narumi.

"Summer Touches You" was released as a single as well which leads to the topic of this article, "Up and Down". The song was the B-side to the single and also appears on the album. It is a solo concoction by Yamakawa in words and music, and is pleasingly breezy with a tight horn section and some light funkiness. Listening to the songwriter do her solo, I think it's a pity that she didn't show up more often in the recording booth rather than man the machines.

Note: The link to her website only gives out gibberish to me. You may have better luck.

Faint Star -- Mafuyu no Tropical Night (真冬のTropical Night)


This groove is very, very serious! I can’t listen to “Mafuyu no Tropical Night” without dancing in the chair and nodding the head back and forth. The synthesizer hook, alongside the choppy electronic bass, is amazing. However, even more delicious is the lively chorus that ends in a good note with the girls singing the song’s title.

Released in February 2017 by the Technopop aidoru duo called Faint Star (FaintStar), “Mafuyu no Tropical Night” is a song that could have been released in 2009 or 2010, when many Technopop units were being formed trying to compete with the then-ascending Perfume. The colorful, glossy and robotic aesthetic, both in the song and the video, suits the aforementioned era very well, so it’s nice to see something like that again.

Now, for a little bit of personal trivia, I’m not sure what I feel while listening to it… “Mafuyu no Tropical Night” sounds happy and the video’s lightning is trippy, but I also feel a hint of sadness, or nostalgy: the one that comes out at the end of the summer. This weekend, after coming back from the K-Pop party I attended on Saturday night, I went to my friend’s house to get some sleep. Hours after, when I woke up and finally decided it was time to go back to my home city (two hours and a half distant from Rio de Janeiro), I took a bus to the intercity bus terminal and started playing “Mafuyu no Tropical Night” with my eyes closed, while feeling that strong and hot breath of wind coming from the window (I’m pretty sure it was 40ºC on Sunday). It was a very good moment, even if I was still very tired of the night before, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how summer is already ending, and also that every interesting thing I did during the season is now part of my memories.

Curiously, “Mafuyu no Tropical Night’s” title makes reference to a tropical night in the middle of the winter, but I’m in Brazil, and we’re in the middle of the summer here, so I relate to it in a different way.

“Mafuyu no Tropical Night” was released as a double A-side single with “Wonder Trip”. Lyrics were written by Seira Kariya (仮谷せいら), while music was composed by DAIKI. As for the arrangement, it was done by Kenji Tamai (玉井健二) and Shunsuke Tsuri (釣俊輔).

KARA – Mamma Mia! (マンマミーア!)



KARA is one of the legendary Korean groups that made waves of success in Japan during 2010 and 2011, alongside Girls’ Generation and others. Also, I consider them simply one of the best girl groups to come out of Korea in the last ten years, with a discography full of remarkable hit singles.

One of the group’s best songs is called “Mamma Mia!”, and it was released almost simultaneously in Korea and Japan in August 2014 (the Korean version was released one week prior to the Japanese single).

“Mamma Mia!” is a slick dance song, but with strong 80s vibes, something that KARA managed to do very well in its entire catalogue. It’s an explosive and full of energy song, perfect for clubs. And, surprisingly, I was able to dance to it last Saturday in a K-Pop party I attended in Rio de Janeiro. So, even if the DJ was a little bit too focused in boring boy groups and Korean hip-hop songs, it was nice to see this veteran girl group getting some love. At least I wasn’t the only one happy, as the whole crowd went crazy and started doing the choreography (I don’t know any choreography, so just kept jumping and doing awkward dance moves with my friend).



“Mamma Mia!” reached #6 on the Oricon chart, selling 31,864 copies. Lyrics were written by doublekick and Yuu Shimoji (下地悠), while music was composed by doublekick, HOMEBOY and Tenzo & Tasco. As for the arrangement, doublekick was the responsible.

Source: generasia.com

Saburo Kitajima -- Fusetsu Nagare Tabi (風雪ながれ旅)


Ah, seeing the Oricon article on Toru Funamura's (船村徹) passing hit me harder than I had expected. I guess it's because he was behind the scores of a number of my favourite songs, most notably Hideo Murata's (村田英雄) "Osho" (王将), and he was one of the famed showa era songwriters I had the chance to see alive on TV - I was ecstatic when "Kayo Concert" did a special on him a couple of years ago. However, he did look rather frail, and at over eighty years of age, it was only a matter of time... That didn't lessen the shock and sadness of seeing him go though - those ninjas had chopped some onions.

J-Canuck had recently done an article aptly summarizing the life and works of this big figure in the world of enka, but I'd like to pay tribute to him as well by writing about one of his pieces. My choice was Saburo Kitajima's (北島三郎) "Fusetsu Nagare Tabi". I believe I had mentioned that Funamura's musical style had two extremes: Heavily melancholic with a mysterious atmosphere - like a thick layer rolling over a lake at night, or grandeur and powerful - like the theme song of a noble man. This iconic single falls under the latter category, and I do love hearing stuff from this category.

That is such a cool entrance...

"Fusetsu Nagare Tabi" was able to grab my attention with its dramatic score. Those blaring trumpets with that manly thumping of the drums and the hissing of the shakuhachi makes for a quite the grand entrance for an enka singer of Ol' Sab's status, especially in the past two decades. The only bit that is on the milder side is during the Tsugaru shamisen solo, which gives a little tranquility to the melody that sounds like a raging blizzard itself - that is, of course, if there is only one shamisen player at work and not a whole army of them. As forceful and impressive as Funamura's melody is, there is this wistful undertone to it to match the lyrics of another great showa era songwriter, Tetsuro Hoshino (星野哲郎). Over here, Sabu-Chan emotively warbles about the struggles of a weary Tsugaru shamisen player travelling around northern Japan (correct me if I'm wrong). Interestingly, the "Fusetsu" in the title can mean a snowstorm or refer to hardships, and in the case of "Fusetsu Nagare Tabi" I think both meanings were intentionally used.

Sabu-Chan's 37th single was released on 15th September 1980, and it allowed him to win the grand prize for the 1st Koga Masao Commemoration Music Awards (古賀政男記念音楽大賞). He had sung "Fusetsu Nagare Tabi" a total of 7 times out of his 50 appearances on the Kohaku with the first being in 1980 and the last being in 2012. As to why I say this is one of his iconic works, it's due to a confetti storm (or sometimes shower) that engulfs the singer whenever he were to tackle it - both an awesome and hilarious spectacle, the latter from seeing Sab's struggling to sing with confetti in his mouth.

While this is Kitajima's tune, it almost wasn't as the first person chosen to sing "Fusetsu Nagare Tabi" was in fact Murata. However, he declined the offer as, quoting and roughly translating from the J-Wiki, "Although I am born and raised by the shamisen and rokyoku, this is about Tsugaru shamisen". Not exactly the reason why I'd think someone would turn down a song, but I'm sure Muchi had his reasons for sticking to the non-Tsugaru shamisen... initially. In his later years he gave it a shot, which you can listen to in the link below. Personally, I think Muchi's image fit Funamura's melody better and he give a rougher edge to "Fusetsu Nagare Tabi", but then again, I feel that Sab's could bring out the character's angst better.


"Fusetsu Nagare Tabi" has been attempted by many enka singers, but the one I see the most has got to be Aya Shimazu's (島津亜矢). She does it justice with those muscular vocals of hers.



Rest in peace, good sir.
helpubuy.dimbuy.com/item/rakuten/book:15891068

Monday, February 20, 2017

Chorogons -- Ishukan Communication (イシュカン・コミュニケーション)


Well, what a difference a couple of days make. Approaching the end of last week, we were in quite the deep freeze after getting a pounding of snow last weekend. Then from the weekend, the temperatures rose up to very spring-like levels. A good amount of the snow has dissipated so we can enjoy some of this good weather before things inevitably get back to normal for the remaining weeks of winter.


And what a difference a month makes in the anime season. A little over a month ago, I had written up about the opening theme for "Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon"(小林さんちのメイドラゴン...Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid)which was fhana's super-happy earworm "Aozora no Rhapsody"(青空のラプソディ). Back in January, I hadn't even caught the first episode of the anime and was wondering whether the show would live up to the promise of that song.

Well, my anime buddy and I have now almost reached the halfway point of the season and it looks like "Kobayashi-san" has become a pleasant surprise to a lot of the viewers including us. The titular female character was this rather lonely and stoic office worker until a whole group of dragons-turned-humans entered her life and apartment. It's gotten rather crazy now but at the same time, Miss Kobayashi has come to the realization that she has also become happier with this sudden addition of a family. Considering that today is Family Day here in the province of Ontario, I couldn't have asked for a better article to write about.

Plugging onto the satisfaction level is the fact that the ending theme is also an earworm. Titled "Ishukan Communication" (Interspecies Communication), this is performed by four of the dragon characters voiced by  Yūki Kuwahara(桑原由気), Maria Naganawa(長縄まりあ), Minami Takahashi(高橋未奈美), and Yūki Takada(高田憂希). On the website "TV Tropes", the opening theme of "Aozora no Rhapsody" was described as being arranged in a "classic" style. Well, it looks like "Ishukan Communication" is following in a similar vein although I would call the snappy arrangement here as almost being old-style vaudevillian.


The full version of "Ishukan Communication" is back up on YouTube (for now). Yohei Matsui and Junichi Sato(松井洋平・佐藤純一), the latter being a member of fhana, created this earworm. The group name for the seiyuu performing this is Chorogons (ちょろゴンず), a term that was coined by Miss Kobayashi in one episode to describe her new buddies as "laidback dragons". Not sure how it has done on Oricon but for fans of the show, I'm fairly positive that the song has also managed to bury itself deep into their heads.



When I first read the title for "Ishukan Communication", I had thought
that first word was isshukan or "one week" which seemed rather
odd for this show. Ishukan makes much more sense.

globe -- Freedom


Yep, that's my copy of globe's very first and very successful album, "globe" which was first released in March 1996. I think this was smack dab in the middle of the Komuro Boom years. With Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)founding his own group with vocalist Keiko and rapper Marc Panther, I think the dance-pop Svengali finally had a base of sorts as his other charges such as TRF and Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美)continued to spread his brand of J-Pop gospel.


It didn't take too much of an arm lock for me to purchase "globe" since the first five singles by globe all came to roost in this album, and along with this 5th single, "Freedom" which came out at the same time as "globe", I've already written about three of the others: "Feel Like Dance", "DEPARTURES" and "Sweet Pain". You might say that I've already written about the album just over a period of years.

The Komuro-penned "Freedom" was a single that I had found out about via the TV commercial with a whole bunch of special effects pouring out from the screen. However, I actually waited to get the album to finally listen to it. With "Joy To The Love", I thought that it and "Freedom" were probably two of the lesser singles in my opinion with the others having more personality. Still, I found Panther's rapping and Komuro's backup droning somewhat less annoying here than in the other singles which actually does say something.


"Freedom" was the final single to come from the album and it hit No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies with the song eventually becoming the 57th-ranked single of the year. The "globe" album itself did succeed rather magnificently and you can read about that in the article for "Feel Like Dance".

Mariko Takahashi -- Tasogare no Machi kara (黄昏の街から)


The above photo is of Mariko Takahashi's(高橋真梨子)2nd album "Sunny Afternoon" from February 1980. Back in the day, I was trying to pick up the chanteuse's early albums since I figured (quite correctly) that they would become quite difficult to find. And sure enough in the last few years of my stay in Japan, I really couldn't find any of her albums before the 1990s in the major CD shops in Tokyo.


Unfortunately, I have yet to get her 4th album into my possession. This is "Tenderness" from March 1981, and there is something about the cover photos from those early albums with Takahashi photographed in that slightly fuzzy manner which makes those releases all the more nostalgically appealing.

What will make "Tenderness" even more appealing to obtain is the final track "Tasogare no Machi kara" (From The Sunset Streets). That voice and that arrangement make a lovely pairing for an ending ballad. I'm just imagining standing on one of the pedestrian overpasses in West Shinjuku looking at the sun go down on another Tokyo day as I listen to this. I had to look fairly hard to find out who the songwriters were. Well, I basically went "Naruhodo" when I found out it was Etsuko Kisugi and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお). The songwriting siblings were always very accomplished at creating these wonderfully soft ballads.

Koji Tsuruta -- Kizu Darake no Jinsei (傷だらけの人生)


The record cover among the pile of old 45"s that has remained in my memory the longest is in the picture above. At the time that I had first seen it, I had no idea what it was about and why the old guy in the photo needed to expose his right shoulder like that. I couldn't read the kanji at the time but seeing some of the old videos at the Wednesday night VCR showings at the former site of the Toronto Buddhist Church on Bathurst had me thinking that this guy was some samurai warrior without the chonmage.


Well, as I would later find out much later, that rather dramatic-looking fellow was singer-actor Koji Tsuruta(鶴田浩二). Noelle has already started the Tsuruta file with his 1953 song "Machi no Sandwich Man"(街のサンドイッチマン), the ballad about the working man in postwar Japan. As my fellow writer would put it, the song had that certain jauntiness that was reminiscent of a score on an old-fashioned Walt Disney picture.

Tsuruta's biggest hit would come some 17 or 18 years later with his 16th single "Kizu Darake no Jinsei" (A Life Filled With Scars) which was composed by Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正), the same man who had created the melody for "Machi no Sandwich Man", and written by Masato Fujita(藤田まさと). Supposedly when Fujita had first come up with some of the lyrics, he had Tsuruta in mind.

On that above point, I have to say that I barely know anything about the life and career of Tsuruta (1924-1987), but the lyricist must have seen in the late singer a time of struggle and hard work in his life. According to the Wikipedia bio for the Shizuoka-born/Osaka-raised singer, his parents had divorced and he ended up as an underachieving delinquent before getting drafted into the Imperial Army. When he entered show business, he gained a reputation as one of the hardest-working thespians around.


I'm not sure whether Tsuruta's life had been as tough but "Kizu Darake no Jinsei" certainly has its protagonist crying some major blues. Perhaps the hero was a world-weary warrior in the Edo Era or the Showa Era but Fujita's lyrics made it rather clear that he was pretty much at the end of his rope and wanted to relay his story to someone who would listen...maybe at some bar or at lonely stand serving oden. There were a couple of lines which particularly intrigued me:

It's said that the old guys in particular want to have the new things.
Well, where are these new things?

I wonder if Fujita had been bearing in mind a certain group of people at a major change in Japanese history. Would it have been the tumult that accompanied the opening of Japan when Commodore Perry and his ships sailed in or was it when the nation went through its high-growth period after the war. Perhaps there were people who had felt left behind with the change in society. And especially considering the title, did the protagonist wonder if all of his efforts were for naught?

Although I'm not sure whether Tsuruta had done this with every performance on stage and/or in front of the camera, but according to J-Wiki, it was his habit whenever he sang to have a handkerchief in his right hand when holding the mike while his left hand would go to his ear. Apparently, his right hand got very sweaty during performances and his left ear had been injured while serving in the army so he needed that left hand in helping to hear the music.

"Kizu Darake no Jinsei" was not a happy ballad at all but it struck a huge chord with fans since it was his first song to break into the Top 10 when it was released on Christmas Day (of all days) 1970. In fact, it hit No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and was the No. 4 song of 1971 as it stayed in the Top 10 for 3 months straight, selling close to a million records. Tsuruta also earned a Japan Record Award. And furthermore, two movies were made based on the song, both with the same title.

You would think that such a hit would have gotten Tsuruta a place on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen in 1971. However, all the national broadcaster got at the time was enmity from Tsuruta. For some reason, someone at NHK decided to make up a list of "Songs Not Preferred for Public Broadcast" and "Kizu Darake no Jinsei" was included. The singer was said to have become furious when he heard about this and boycotted any future appearances on the network for about 6 years. When Tsuruta and NHK finally buried the hatchet though, the former did perform the song on the various music programs.


Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)would perform a cover of the ballad on one of his albums in 1988.


And Keiko Fuji(藤圭子)also gave her version.


Even the crusty Dad from venerable anime "Tensai Bakabon" (天才バカボン...Genius Bakabon) addressed those two lines that I'd mentioned before launching into his cover of the song on a "Nodo Jiman"-like program. And he won a prize, too!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hi-Fi Set/Yoichi Takizawa -- Memorandum (メモランダム)


Nice and lovely Saturday out there! It might still be a little too cool for al fresco dining and drinking at a high of 11 degrees Celsius but after a bunch of days hovering around the zero mark or far below, I'm sure a lot of Torontonians are lapping up the warm weather like thirsty kittens.


Well, why don't I give you a taste of the Riviera then through some 1970s sophisticated pop? Of course, when I mention that decade and that genre, I can only think of the vocal group Hi-Fi Set (ハイ・ファイ・セット). It's been a while since I've brought another article by this Japanese version of The Manhattan Transfer. From covers of Yuming hits to jazzy numbers, Junko Yamamoto(山本潤子), Toshihiko Yamamoto(山本俊彦)and Shigeru Ohkawa(大川茂)could interpret the entire New Music songbook.

I just discovered "Memorandum", Hi-Fi Set's 9th single from April 1977. It's a champagne-and-caviar number with a light touch, and the vocal harmonies by the Set haven't been better. Dining on the good stuff by the Mediterranean probably found itself a theme song with this one. The music does take one to sunnier climes abroad although the lyrics by Rei Nakanishi (なかにし礼) are slightly more melancholy as a woman leafs through an old memo book left by a former paramour.

"Memorandum" was also a track on the group's 4th album from September 1977, "The Diary". That release also has another favourite Hi-Fi Set song of mine, "Koi no Nikki"(恋の日記).


The music was by singer-songwriter Yoichi Takizawa(滝沢洋一), a singer-songwriter who I haven't been able to find much in the way of information. He has apparently provided songs for many other singers but according to Tower Records, he himself had only released one album which was in 1978, "Leonidas no Kanata ni"(レオニズの彼方に...Beyond Leonidas). On that album is his own cover of "Memorandum".

His version is just as sunny and made even lighter thanks to his high-toned vocals. But instead of that luxury resort that Hi-Fi Set's original version envisages, Takizawa's take is a nice stroll along on the boardwalk while wondering how life is like in that resort. "Leonidas no Kanata ni" has been described as one of those "mystery albums" due to its rarity. I can take that as a challenge.

Especia -- Twilight Palm Beach (トワイライトパームビーチ)


The above was taken not too far away from home during a heavy snowstorm. It's about as February as February can get in my city. And then we hit the deep freeze in the beginning of the week.


But nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to weather in Toronto. As I've continued to say, it's predictably unpredictable. It's Saturday today and yep, we are hitting 11 degrees Celsius. Time to break out the flip-flops and sunblock lotion!


So, let me bring in some premature summery times via the good ladies at Especia. This is "Twilight Palm Beach" from their 2013 EP "Amarga - Tarde".

In Marcos V's recent articles in the last couple of months, it seems like the niche aidoru group that had been trying to corner the neo-City Pop/80s market was moving on and perhaps passing on the baton to groups such as Dance for philosophy. However, back then, Especia was bringing back the urban contemporary groove of yesteryear.

With a title like "Twilight Palm Beach", you couldn't get more City Pop/Resort Pop. There's also that nice slow beat just like lapping waves on the sunset shore. It's about as relaxed a ballad as I've heard from Especia. Heck, the cover for the EP also fairly screams the genre.


Along with the laidback music by Schtein and Longer, the lyrics by mirco and Paul Moriya(ポウル守屋)relate the bittersweet ending of a romance to go along with the cooling of the seasons. One would expect a cool basso profundo DJ to introduce and give a finishing narration to the song. "Amarga - Tarde" reached a peak ranking of No. 52 on Oricon.

Speaking of cooling of the seasons, our balmy weather will probably go into the week but rest assured, there will be at least a few more weeks of frosty times before spring finally comes into view.

Nissy (Takahiro Nishijima) -- Mada Kimi wa Shiranai MY PRETTIEST GIRL (まだ君は知らない MY PRETTIEST GIRL)


In terms of my foray into current day J-pop, AAA is generally my go to group for various reasons. One of it is actually the members. While I don't mind all of them, the few I tend to gravitate to are Naoya Urata (浦田直也) for his vocals and style, Shinjiro Atae (與真司郎) for the looks, and the fellow I'll be talking about here, Takahiro Nishijima (西島隆弘), better known as Nissy, for a combination of both. He's also got a cute charm that makes him difficult to ignore, so it wasn't too surprising that I'd have a look into his solo works apart from his contributions to AAA.

The first of Nissy's solo singles I encountered just a few weeks ago was "Mada Kimi wa Shiranai MY PRETTIEST GIRL". Watching the MV that co-stared actress Kasumi Arimura (有村架純), it brought to mind what J-Canuck listed at the start of his article for Gen Hoshino's (星野源) "Koi" ():

Catchy funk-pop?
Quirky choreography?
Dapper clothing on the singer?
Personal appeal by the singer in the middle of the music video?

The rhythmic beat in the sunny melody is indeed catchy, and the jolly manner in which Nissy lilts "Mada Kimi..." makes for a fun and cheerful song to listen to. Then we've got the adorable "Pinky Dance" that had everyone wagging their pinkies throughout most of the MV. Looks a lot less rigorous than the "Koi Dance", if you ask me, but both are as amusing to watch. As for the dapper clothes, what looks like the cool alter ego of the awkward young man (both played by Nissy himself) is decked in a dark blue casual suit and fedora - it's almost Bruno Mars-like, and his crew are pretty spiffy in black. As for personal appeal, while it's not in the MV itself he did make a separate video (below this paragraph) where he conveyed his thanks to fans and collaborators alike before performing the Christmas edition of the "Pinky Dance" with his own mascot - a thick pair of lips with eyes. I think have bingo!


"Mada Kimi..." was released on 24th August 2016 as Nissy's 6th single. While it's not shown how well it did on the Oricon site, I'd like to think it fared quite well. Writing it were Hiromi (宏実) for the lyrics, and HENRIK Nordenback, SIRIUS, and Sebastian Zelle for the music - no wonder it had a western pop vibe.

uta-net.com/song/211288/

This "alter ego" in a blue suit who sprinkles magic love dust seems like a recurring character in as I've seen "him" in a few other of Nissy's MVs.