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, April 30, 2018

Harumi Inoue's works

It’s been a while since I last discovered one of these gravure aidoru turned singers from the early 90s. It’s no mystery that this has always been one of my favorite Japanese music niches, mostly because of how bad and really “in your face” it actually is. In fact, most of these artists were not even mainstream at all, being relegated to some shady variety TV shows that only wanted to show the girls in bikinis, but whatever. Really, it reminds me of how TV was decadent in Brazil during the 90s, but no complaining here.

Apparently, Harumi Inoue (井上晴美) was one member of a Onyanko Club-styled (おニャン子クラブ) larger group called Sakurakko Club Sakuragumi (桜っ子クラブさくら組). I’ve read this name a few times, but never listened to the group’s music, which is fine for me, since I’m not in a hurry to meet all B-rated aidoru groups from Japan’s past decades. And as I’m talking about B-rated aidoru, just to contextualize, I discovered Inoue’s songs after searching for some Aya Sugimoto’s (杉本彩) live performances on YouTube. So, nobody's more suited than the raunchy Sugimoto to pave my way for the awkwardly sexy Inoue.

Harumi Inoue only released two singles, in May and October 1991, respectively. The first was “Furimukanaide” (ふりむかないで), one very well known The Peanuts’ (ザ・ピーナッツ) song from the 60s, with a cover of Hibari Misora’s (美空ひばり) “Makkana Taiyou” (真赤な太陽) serving as the coupling song. As for the second single, it’s “Eve no Yuuwaku” (イヴの誘惑), a dance version of Beethoven’s “Für Elise”, which counted with a cover of Akiko Nakamura’s (中村晃子) “Nijiiro no Mizuumi” (虹色の湖) as the coupling song. In fact, with the obvious exception of Beethoven’s “Für Elise”, all of Inoue’s songs were covers from 60s hit singles.

Honestly, I don’t really care for “Furimukanaide” at all, and Inoue’s version does nothing to make the song stand out from the other million versions out there. Yes, this song is always pleasant, but it was probably meant to be a cute and safe debut song before launching Inoue’s brief music career into something sexier and cring… sorry, more interesting.

And with the b-side “Makkana Taiyou” things start to pick up, since Misora’s 60s hit is turned into a sexy funky house song with some slicky synths. Also, the clip is a must, since the seductive Inoue does everything to turn our attention away from the very low budget video. It’s almost as if we were watching one of those infamous image video, but with actual music (and not just some easy listening melodies) serving just as background noise. Well, it’s clear how Inoue’s looks were the true intended product here, but I like the cheesy music as well. I can groove in my chair and tap my feet to it.

Things are not very different in “Eve no Yuuwaku”... but maybe a little worse and less polished (which counts as better and more interesting to me, of course). If it wasn’t obvious enough how bad of a singer Inoue was (and dancer too, it that counts), this bizarre dance version of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” is here to scrub this fact in our faces. It continues in the sexy route and Beethoven would probably be a little bit upset – to say the least – at how one of his famous works turned into a piece of regurgitated pop in our times… or maybe he would be positively hypnotised by Inoue’s captivating persona (really?) and the strangeness of the whole thing. Who knows, right? 

To finish Inoue’s adventure in the music industry as a solo act, we still have the delicious “Nijiiro no Mizuumi” with its urgent synth-y arrangement that maybe could pass as a Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉) production for Alisa Mizuki (観月ありさ) or Yuki Uchida (内田有紀), or even a Minako Tanaka (田中美奈子) song from her early studio albums. I also like how Inoue is dressed in this video, just like the almighty Reiko Kato (かとうれいこ) did for her video promotions one year earlier. The fashion style of those gravure aidoru turned singers was really something at the time. And the male dancers around Inoue??? Well, I really love how bad they are. Not that I'm a better dancer, but I don't show up on some random aidoru videos. Shame on them, but it's really funny to see.

I can’t tell if I will still be fascinated by Harumi Inoue’s music in the near future, but I'm still having fun with her cute crooked smile and cheap early 90s dance-pop tunes. Long live the obscure late 80s/early 90s aidoru!

"Furimukanaide" (left) and "Eve no Yuuwaku" (right)


  1. Marcos,

    The music and the dance are terrible indeed! lol...But I remember seeing a video of her as a guest at tv show in the early 90s (not a shady one!), and I could say (even though I don't speak Japanese) that she was the most entertaining person there. It's been more than 3 years since I saw that video, and I remembered her face instantly as I opened the article. There is something remarkable about her!

    Maybe the voluptuous body + bubbly personality were what lunched her as an idol.

    The 3 last music videos from the article reminded me of a less polished version of Nakamori Akina's Pioneer CMs in the late 80s.
    Maybe that was the vibe the director was going for.Too bad they missed it.

    P.s.: Também sou do Brasil, e lembro o quão decadente a TV era nos anos 90. Nesses clipes da Harumi Inoue, os close-ups e ângulos de onde as filmagens são feitas me lembraram muito esses programas.

    1. Hi, Luis Henrique.

      Yeah, it's that bad, but I do like the music, for real. I believe she was an interesting character in variety TV, since she was a tarento as well. And what you have mentioned about the body and bubbly personality was probably enough to be an aidoru or TV personality... especially during the early 90s, when the industry was debuting these sexy ladies all the time (with little to no success). Maybe Chisato Moritaka was the only sexy aidoru to be truly successful as a singer, but she was different (singer-songwriter) and definitely more polished/restrained than the likes of Harumi Inoue, for example. Well, she showed some beautiful, glittery legs on TV... and panties too, but that was it.

      Oh, yeah, I remember some outfits by Akina Nakamori that could possibly have inspired Inoue's team. Maybe the red one used in some "Tattoo" performances and the black, leather one from an appearance in "Yoru no Hit Studio".

      I don't know what kind of shows are aired in Japanese TV nowadays, but, from what I've seen, the 90s were kind of wild there as well.

      P.S. A TV aqui era bem "peculiar" mesmo, mas não me importo com isso. É claro que não sou um entusiasta de porcarias como a banheira do Gugu, mas é interessante pensar como naquela época isso era possível, e agora não mais. Acho que o fator nostalgia não me deixa odiar aqueles tempos.

    2. Hello, Marcos.

      I only knew about Inoue from her character as a high school student on some prime-time comedy-drama way back when, although I figured that she must have had some sort of music career knowing how these people are groomed in the entertainment industry.

      To be honest, her cover versions of the old kayo come off somewhat better than the original songs she performs. I could only last several seconds through "Eve no Yuuwaku". But yes, the setting for "Makkana no Taiyou" looks like the staff managed to lure the squatters away from their home with the promise of free booze.

      The music made by these sexy aidoru in the 90s will not be remembered too fondly perhaps (and probably by the singers themselves), but I can imagine Japanese pop cultural historians like ourselves waxing somewhat philosophically about the times. :)

    3. Hi, J-Canuck.

      "Eve no Yuuwaku" is really hard to swallow, and I'm still thinking of who thought this was a good song for Inoue. However, right now, I'm more interested in "Makkana Taiyou", basically because of the arrangement.

      And I agree that the sexy aidoru boom, if we can call it that, is not something to be remembered proudly nowadays. Commercial-wise, it was a failure, and its artistic value is dubious, to say the least. However, even though more interesting things were happening in the Japanese music landscape at the time, I think it's nice to explore what was happening to the standard aidoru industry as well, since it was one of the defining things in Japanese music during the 80s.
      I just bugs me how things went downhill, quality-wise, in the late 80s/early 90s. Not that I care about the quality at all, but it's something that makes me think about the whole aidoru "mutation" at the time.

    4. Hi again.

      Trying to get into the minds of the powers-that-be in the music industry at the time, perhaps they saw the end of the aidoru era after 20-30 years, and basically they got desperate. So they went to the other end of the spectrum from cute to downright sexy with actual singing talent being more of an option than a necessity.

      Mind you, it would be less than a decade before the next wave of aidoru popped out from Hello Project.

  2. Hi guys!

    Oh my, Inoue songs are certainly horrible ... She lacks in the vocal department, the videos are cheap as hell and the dancey/eurobeat arrangements are generic and ear-piercing. It screams BAD.

    I love second rate and obscure idols from the early 90's,but there were lot of sexy and untalented "singers" along with Inoue.

    On the other hand .. There were decent idols in that era, like Aya Fukuoka, a very obscure idol who released an album called W-Face. Her sound is pure eurobeat sound, and she sings really well!! There are some videos of her performing live in some sort of mall.
    Anyone knows about her?.

    Saludos! :)

  3. Hi!

    Well, I have found a rather interesting song by Inoue in Youtube... It is far from the awfulness of her previous songs
    It is your typical early 90's eurobeatish song, and is pretty catchy too.

    By the way, it seems that her vocals have improved by the time of the release of the song.

    Anybody knows about this tune?.

    Here you can see a video with Inoue performing the said song:

    Saludos desde España :).


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