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.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Taeko Ohnuki -- Romantique

After the relative failure of "Mignonne" in 1978, a somewhat demoralized Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) took a break from the mike for almost 2 years during which she traveled around Japan, wrote up commercial jingles and tunes for other singers, and backed up her old bandmate, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), during a concert tour. Then, in early 1980, producer Ken'ichi Makimura(牧村憲一), who had helped Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)get her start at around the same time and was acquainted with Ohnuki from her Sugar Babe days, approached Ohnuki about trying something with a more European sound since he felt that it would suit her. She decided to go for it since she was a fan of Nouvelle Vague and she had nothing to lose.

"Romantique" was the result, and it was the inaugural album to show a major shift in her music. As music writer Yutaka Kimura(木村ユタカ) would write in "Japanese City Pop": "For people who were listening to nothing but American and British pop/rock, Taeko Ohnuki's approach of European music was strangely fresh."

However, the first single from the album and its first track was "CARNAVAL". It was a bold song to introduce her new direction: it was indeed written and composed by Ohnuki but it had a distinctly technopop feel to it. The musicians collaborating in the effort also happened to be the members of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. However, Ohnuki was initially reluctant to make anything that would end up being identified more with YMO, but she was persuaded to go ahead anyways since the band's music was very trendy at that turn of the decade. All she had to do was find a way to make it her own. "CARNAVAL" is the result of that effort. Lyrically, it's very much Ohnuki since she once again criticizes the empty craziness of city life; she likens the city to a carnival.

The second track is "Decade Night" which is probably one of the more unusual songs that Ohnuki has ever created in that it seems to amalgamate a lot of what she tried to bring into her 80s music: quirky pop, technopop and that new Euro-sound. Plus, I gather that she was still experimenting with her vocals by going a bit high....perhaps a bit too high near the end. I'm not all that surprised that it didn't get into any of her BEST albums and in the J-Wiki article for "Romantique", she basically referred to a wasted night, but whether that meant an evening of ending up doing nothing or perhaps doing too much of something I don't know. Still, I get to drawn to it more than I do with some of the other tracks on the album for some reason.

"Ame no Yoake"(雨の夜明け...Rain at Daybreak) is one example of her European sound. Another song is "Futari"ふたり。。。Two People) which has an intriguing mix of European and Latin. But you can now get the picture...she was no longer the Ohnuki of the 1970s.

I've got a follow-up on the album here.

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