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.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Maiko Okamoto -- Fascination (album)

Recently, I was able to listen to the 2nd of two original albums released by 1980s aidoru Maiko Okamoto(岡本舞子), "Fascination" (ファッシネイション)which came out in July 1986. In a past article about her, I remarked that despite her brevity in the spotlight (Okamoto was only active between 1984 and 1987), my belief was that she had quite a bit more talent in singing and in the songs that she received than she was given credit for.

Well, I think that was true for the material that she had recorded for "Fascination" which was well-titled. All of its eleven tracks (the 11th only being available on the CD) were arranged by guitarist Tsuyoshi Kon(今剛)or singer-songwriter Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子), so that fact automatically perked up my ears. The first track "L.A. Lover" is pretty fascinating in itself. It was written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎)as a paean to the sunny beach life in the titular city and it was composed by J-funkster Toshinobu Kubota(久保田利伸)and Ichiro Hada(羽田一郎).

Often enough with me, unless the song just has that prototypically 80s aidoru cotton-candy arrangement, I also attach some sort of other genre Label. With "L.A. Lover", I'm not sure if I would even say that it's an aidoru tune and even with that title, I'm not sure if I would even place it as a City Pop song, either. It's just a really interesting pop number with its own bubbly groove thing and some spacey twanging in the musical ether. At the same time, though, I really get that feeling of lying on the beach blanket getting bronzed while listening to this first track.

Track 2 is the title track, "Fascination" and this one has more of the City Pop vibe to it. Written by Matsui and composed by Yamakawa, it's got the lovely synth-bass and other keyboards which would probably nominate it for Vaporwave processing if it hasn't already undergone it. Matsui's lyrics talk of the good romantic life from the 22nd floor of an apartment in what sounds like a modern resort area. Man, the setting could illustrate a City Pop album cover!

Another fascinating track is "Okubyou na Venus"(臆病なビーナス...Timid Venus)which was Okamoto's 5th single released in February 1986. Right from Note One, there is that gentle surf of AOR before the keyboards head on downtown, and when the aidoru starts singing, I immediately got that breathy vocal style and the urgent and anthemic melody of Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)who also provided the lyrics.

The single was also the theme song for a March 1986 OVA with the same title, and the main character of fictional aidoru Yumiko Kirita(桐田裕美子)was played by Okamoto herself while Ozaki provided the score. "Okubyou na Venus" just managed to peak at No. 91 on Oricon.

One more track that I will throw out here is "Stranger no Yoru"(ストレンジャーの夜...Night of the Stranger), and this is another City Pop aidoru tune provided by the aforementioned Matsui and Yamakawa. It's shiny and slick as a car designed by Syd Mead (well, maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself there), and putting on my kayo sommelier's hat on, I get some hints of Hall & Oates (through the keyboard riffs) and Junko Yagami(八神純子). Okamoto is singing about being thrown into a whirlwind romance and herself throwing caution to the winds. I do hope Mead designed those futuristic seat belts into that car she's riding.

Yup, "Fascination" is indeed fascinating and so I'm somewhat disappointed that the album only got up to No. 83 when it was first released. Maybe it was just a little too ahead of its time or maybe it was even behind the times in terms of mixing aidoru and City Pop, but the album was given a re-release in 2003, so I'm hoping that even now, those who have recently gotten onto the City Pop/AOR bandwagon will also realize the merits of Okamoto's final studio album. In parting, one other track on "Fascination" is her 4th single "Juu-Ichi-Gatsu no Sophia"(11月のソフィア)which has already been covered on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" and is one of her more aidoru-esque works.

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