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, July 7, 2020

Leon Niihama -- Kimi wo Motomete(君を求めて)

I think the musical arrangement of enka and perhaps even Mood Kayo is changing in at least some of their songs. The genres might even be melding. Enka in decades past to me was always about the traditional instruments including the koto, the shamisen and the shakuhachi whereas Mood Kayo often involved Latin and/or jazz rhythms with a brassy orchestra behind the singer. But nowadays, when the new breed of enka singers lands on TV to perform their latest, there seems to be more of an injection of rock (and maybe even R&B) at times, and it sounds like the songwriters have been asked to throw in some more pizzazz at the expense of some majesty. Not that I begrudge this development. Everything evolves over time...languages have done so, and I see music as a language.

My little internal analysis comes on the heels of "Kimi wo Motomete" (Desiring You) which is the first of enka singer Leon Niihama's(新浜レオン)digital download singles that was released in May this year. He had actually debuted in 2019 with three CD singles under his belt. In fact, Niihama was heralded as having made his debut on the very first day of the Reiwa Era, according to the J-Wiki article about him. To add onto the interest, the lad is the very first enka singer under the Being label, the same entertainment conglomerate taking care of acts such as B'z and Mai Kuraki(倉木麻衣).

I first saw him on last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)performing "Kimi wo Motomete" which has that mix of the more contemporary enka laden with electric guitar and dynamic horns and some of that Latin spice from Mood Kayo albeit with more hip-swiveling. I'd say that there is enough action in Koji Makaino's(馬飼野康二)melody that "Kimi wo Motomete" could even do well as a theme song for a current tokusatsu show. Keiko Serizawa(セリザワケイコ)provided the lyrics of a man really crying out for his lady in love.

Watching his performance on "Uta Kon" and then seeing the official music video (in its full glory!), I rather wonder if Niihama is seen in the same light when Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし)made his grand entrance into the spotlight two decades earlier. Would he be the new Boy Prince of enka? I could imagine Hikawa looking at Niihama and sighing wistfully "Yes, I remember it well...".

For a bit more trivia on Niihama, he was born in 1996 as Yuuki Takajo(高城勇貴)in Shirai City, Chiba Prefecture. He's the son of another enka singer Yasuo Takajo(高城靖雄), and in February 2020, Niihama won Best New Artist honours in the enka/kayo kyoku field at the Japan Gold Disc Awards.

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