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, March 10, 2013

Akina Nakamori -- Aibu (愛撫)

In general we talk about the timeless 80s material from Akina Nakamori (中森明菜), but some of her 90s songs are very good too. And “Aibu” (愛撫), in my opinion, is one of those great songs.

“Aibu” was first included on her 1993 album, “UNBALANCE+BALANCE”, the first album release of original work since “CRUISE”, released in 1989, and since she moved away from Warner-Pioneer to MCA Victor Japan around 1992.

I’ve read somewhere that since the song became a fan favorite at the time, there were a lot or requests for a single release with “Aibu” as the a-side. It didn’t quite happen this way, but, in 1994, it became the secondary a-side of her “Kata Omoi” single (片想い・愛撫). Although not released as the primary a-side, it was treated as one by Akina, because the song was performed many times on her late 90s and 00s concerts. The ballad “Kata Omoi”, primary a-side of this single, however, didn’t receive the same love from Akina.

I was surely going to write about “Aibu” someday, but the main inspiration for writing this article today was, however, the video posted above. It’s a live TV performance (it looks like "Yoru no Hit Studio", but I can't confirm) with Akina singing “Aibu” while Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉), the pop wizard of the 90s, accompanies her at the piano. Although the quality of the video is not amazing, it’s great to see Akina with her sexiness and strong presence performing the song with TK. I know that it was a common practice for him to play the piano while Namie Amuro (安室奈美恵) or Tomomi Kahala (華原朋美) were performing, but I didn’t know that he did it with Akina Nakamori too.

Although a well-known artist at the time (around 1993 and early 1994), TK wasn’t quite at the top of his fame as a producer. TRF was already out, but "survival dAnce ~no no cry more~", their first million seller hit single, and Shinohara’s Street Fighter hit “Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokorozuyosa to” (恋しさと せつなさと 心強さと) were yet to come. In this context, working with Akina Nakamori was really something, as she was one of the top female singers of her time.

As for “Aibu”, it’s a dance-pop song with some latin elements, two genres that Komuro liked to mix together (we can see this mix in other Komuro written/produced songs like “Lady Generation” by Ryoko Shinohara [篠原涼子] and the album version of “Body Feels EXIT” by Namie Amuro). Akina’s rendition is, as always, flawless. The upbeat arrangement combined with the dramatic vibrato of her voice during the chorus is just beautiful. We can tell that her voice was especially deep in the 90s, and that’s a plus in a song like “Aibu”. She also recorded “MOONLIGHT SHADOW ~Tsuki ni Hoeru~ (MOONLIGHT SHADOW-月に吠えろ)” with Komuro in 1996, but it’s not a song as good as “Aibu” is. But in my opinion, Akina and TK should have worked together more times.

As I’ve already pointed out, “Aibu” was an album track of Akina’s 1993 album “UNBALANCE+BALANCE”. The album reached #4 on the Oricon weekly charts, selling over 186,000 copies. While Tetsuya Komuro was the responsible for music and arrangement, the lyrics were written by Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆).


  1. Thanks for posting "Aibu" up. I have "UNBALANCE+BALANCE" in my collection, and this song plus "Not Crazy To Me" are the ones that stand out in my mind.

    I got the disc at one of the CD shops downtown sometime late in 1993, and played it for some of my friends at a weekly get-together of the Japanese club at university. As soon as they heard "Aibu", they pegged it immediately as a Komuro song.

    As for the video, it sure looks like "Yoru no Hit Studio" from the looks of the stage.

    1. "NOT CRAZY TO ME" is a great song too. I read at generasia that Akina didn't like it, and that's the reason why she never performed it in a concert. It's a pity, for sure.

      About "UNBALANCE+BALANCE", I don't have it yet, but it's certainly on my list.

      What else can I say about Komuro? His sound can't be mistaken.

      Yeah, the stage surely looks like "Yoru no Hit Studio". I think we can confirm that, because she did perform "Aibu" on it in 1994. It must be this performance.

  2. After the cooperation with Komuro ended, Akina spoke to her audience in concerts "What is Komuro family and who needs it anyway?". Apparently two very strong egos clashed. Not very surprising.

    1. Wow. I didn't knew about this. Very good information, Jari.

      I've read somewhere that Akina definetely have a strong ego, and that, sometimes, people ended up disliking her a bit. Do you know more informations about her personality, Jari?

      Thanks very much for your informations. They are always new for me and very interesting.

    2. It was from a fan account I did read somewhere years ago. I am useless in remembering sources, I just remember the details. Probably the page doesn't even exist anymore. There are so many sites that merged and disappeared at some point during last decade. There were great idol sites on biglobe and geocities, and now they are mostly lost.

      It's not so unsual that Akina has all the time wanted more and more artistic control over her releases. Distorted sounds and mixes in Fushigi were possibly a first hint about what she really wanted. Her latest sleeve covers were Andy Warhol pastiches and arrangements are not exactly for popular taste. Perhaps she is allowed to do that because she still has a large fanbase and for sure she has brought so much money to Universal that they can afford to it.

      Then a gossip corner. Already during idol phase she was known to hate some of the material she had to record, and naturally some of those songs happened to become bestsellers. They say she is a typical artist: a very opinionated person who hates compromises. Perhaps this explains why she has sometimes said in tv shows that she doesn't have real friends and feels often lonely. No idea how real Akina's reconciliation with Seiko is.

    3. I know how you feel. We read a lot of things in different places, so it ends being difficult to remember the source.

      Fushigi is a good album, but not an everyday cup of tea, for sure. I remember that she didn't want to perform Fushigi's songs on television, because she thought that television was not suited for properly reproducing the effects of the songs. She ended up performing "Back Door Night" and "Marionette" in Yoru no Hit Studio, and, in my opinion, they were great performances.

      That's a shame, because her idol songs are just masterpieces to my ears. With the exception of the ballads "Second Love" and, especially, "Twilight", the other songs are very good with beautiful arrangements. I always thought that she avoided those songs in concerts because of a maturing process and an attempt of dissociating her image with idols, but the fact that she disliked the songs never came across my mind. Do you have an idea of which songs she didn't like? I can suppose that "Kinku", "Kita Wing" and "Southern Wind" are on the bunch. I think she never really show a lot of love for those songs.

      As always, thanks for the information, Jari. I really aprreciate your knowledge.

    4. Second Love was in my mind. Not her own favourite, that's clear. I don't dare to name other tracks, I might remember wrong.

      Southern Wind: I have here a totally charming performance from Best Ten with a parrot. It's beautiful and brings smile to face every time. It's a gem. Best clip ever. :-)

    5. Yeah. "Second Love" and "Twilight" are almost never performed. And if i'm not mistaken, "Second Love" was her best selling single.

      I love that performance. The live arrangement is very beautiful too, with full orchestra. I have her DVD collection of "The Best Ten". It's a true gem.

  3. Unless one was a singer that has a talent for songwriting and/or had no need or care for television to advertise his/her songs (Tatsuro Yamashita, Yuming, Miyuki Nakajima, etc.), a lot of the younger wannabes basically were at the mercy of their production companies in terms of what not only is sung but sometimes which genre is to be sung. I have heard of some singers (didn't get any names) who were ordered to go into enka since their voices were perceived to best fit that genre, not taking into consideration what the singer wanted to do.

    So, I could imagine how Akina felt about singing some of her earlier stuff, but a lot of her fans including myself really enjoyed those songs.

    1. I've seen this enka thing too, J-Canuck. And it must be kind of annoying to the artist to sing a song that he/she doesn't like. I know that it's a common practice in Japan and in the West too, but it always sounds strange to me.

      About Akina, I'm with you in this one. I really enjoy most of her early hits, even better than the hits of the post-DESIRE ~Jounetsu~ era (you probably disagree with this one).

      And the songs I think she likes a lot are "Nanpasen", "SOLITUDE" and "Fin". Don't really know why, but I feel that someway. "Kazari Janai...", "Mi Amore" and "DESIRE" she probably have some kind of obligation to perform on concerts, so they dont count.

    2. I guess in Japanese music, this would be called "paying one's dues". I remember being shocked watching that Canadian music show's introduction of Japanese music when one of the hosts interviewed Carl Smokey Ishii, lead vocalist of Kome Kome Club about what singing is like in Japan, and he just said, "It's like working in a punch in and you punch out." And I believe he was referring to his representing studio; I could never imagine him ever saying that on a Japanese show without fear of retribution. And this was one of the most eclectic and imaginative entertainers I've ever known.

      On Akina, I liked both her early aidoru and her later chanteuse periods but if I had to make a choice, then, yes, I probably would side more along with her late 80s period.

      Someday, one of us may have a chance to interview her and then we can get that big scoop about which songs she really likes. :)

    3. Carl Smokey Ishii said everything. the representing studios/agencies are probably a pain in the neck of most artists. But they need those burocratic guys to sign them in TV shows and publicity advertisements.

      We all know that idols just don't say the truth in interviews, but after reading a lot of interviews with them we can kind of construct a coherent story. I'm saying that because Perfume's fan base, after dissecting their interviews, concluded that they sing and perform electronic music without loving it to death. The only one that really likes electronic music is Kashiyuka. A-chan likes j-pop ballads and is an Aiko fan, while Nocchi, on the other hand, is a rock fan. So sometimes, depending on the artist, is must be more like working in a company, like Carl Smokey Ishii said, than other thing.

      About Akina, I'll be honest with you. I'd love to interview her. She has a very long career and it would be great to understand her own insights about the songs and different periods of the career as a whole. I wouldn't even care about her "scandals" or the rivalry with Seiko.

  4. Good point on the seeming corporatization of the life of an entertainer. I've always had the feeling that it's even harder to be a Japanese celebrity than one from Hollywood. I think the concept of "giri" (duty) is very much a presence even in the geinokai.

    I would be most happy to talk with Akina as well although I'm a bit worried about what she might be like in person (a bit fragile?)


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.