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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

J-Canuck's Top 5 Favourite Hiromi Iwasaki Songs

It's about time to put up an Author's Picks list as far as chanteuse Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)is concerned. She was one of the pillars responsible for me finally falling for kayo kyoku, and if Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)and Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)lists are already up here, then Hiromi has to be up pronto. Back in 1981, when I first started discovering this group of young singers whose work strangely hit my heart despite me not really understanding the lingo at the time, I saw Seiko-chan and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)as the cute teenyboppers but at the same time, Hiromi struck me as being the classy and more mature older sister songstress with that musical-level voice, not knowing at the time about her own time as an aidoru of the 1970s. Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, my list reflects her 80s material for the most part.

5. Mahiru no Silver Moon (真昼のSILVER MOON) 1986

Admittedly, this is a bit of a left-field choice and it was never used in an official single, but I still love this track from her 1986 album "Wagamama"(わがまま). And as I mentioned in the article for this album, none of the tracks except for one have representation as a video online, and this song isn't it. Still, I felt like I needed to put this one up although there is only the Tower Records link (Track 1) to provide that 45-second excerpt, and even those three-quarters of a minute amply show how she can lovingly caress the lyrics for this jazz torch ballad. I can't really imagine Hiromi scatting like Ella Fitzgerald but she can do some lovely jazz love songs. The excerpt doesn't include the instrumental bridge but even her humming there can make my hair stand up (sorry, I'm being very biased here :)).

4. Cinderella Honeymoon (シンデレラハネムーン)1978

This is my lone 1970s entry for the list but "Cinderella Honeymoon" takes the cake for that nostalgic disco arrangement and revealing to me that Hiromi did actually boogie it up in front of the camera before she entered that phase as the romantic balladeer. Her 14th single has that mix of disco, drama and triumph, and it just seems to be that song fit for a singer who sings in a lower register. I wonder if Akina ever covered it, then.

3. Madonna Tachi no Lullaby (聖母たちのララバイ)1982

A nostalgic favourite especially since it was the first 45" single that I ever got of the singer. Actually, it was my brother who got it for me after his own Japanese language school graduation trip in 1982, a year after mine (he never caught the Japanophile bug that I did). Even back then, playing it on the original Victor stereo, I could appreciate the violins and that electric guitar accompanying that accomplished voice of hers.

2. Sumire Iro no Namida (すみれ色の涙)1981

I may have discovered recently that this Hiromi hit was actually a cover version but I still think she owns "Sumire Iro no Namida". This is the song that introduced me to her and got me lifted onto the Hiromi bandwagon. I've really yet to get off. That video above of her performing one of her most famous songs on that episode of "The Top 10" was an example of the many performances of her I saw on old VHS at my classmate's house soon after returning from Japan in 1981. I remarked at the top that I saw Hiromi as the grown-up older sister compared to the 80s aidorus; well, that image of her in the long ojo-san hair and long dress will always be the default image I will have of her.

1. Ieji (家路)1983

If it hadn't been for this classic, "Sumire Iro no Namida" would have been on the top easily. However, there is something about how "Ieji" launches with that electric guitar and then proceeds with that drama and elegance which makes it my No. 1. It was used as one of the several ending themes for the suspense anthology series "Kayo Suspense Gekijo"(歌謡サスペンス劇場), and it was perfect for that, but even listening to it on its own had me thinking of taking an especially intense walk through the park while deep in contemplation....and risking running into a light pole or something. This could have been the ideal commuting ballad for those middle-aged folks at the section chief level in a company. Time to hit the scotch on the rocks.

Come to think of it, I do have mostly ballads in here. Hiromi has performed some fine uptempo material in her career but I can't help but think of her as having been the master (or mistress) of that lovingly-crafted pop ballad. She just has the voice for it.


  1. Kyohei Tsutsomi talked about how Watashi Tachi made use of her belting voice, but out of all her singles, Ieji probably uses it the most, with powerful crescendoes, especially at the end of each chorus.

    The bubbly Watashi Tachi is one of my favourite Hiromi songs, and judging from live performances seems to be the fans' favourite as well, turning a seated audience into a mosh pit.

    Shishuuki was my entry into Hiromi fandom. Having been drawn in by this unknown lady's version of Cosmos (I was besotted with Momoe at the time), the tube suggested a 2009 performance of Shishuuki. Having been disinterested in music for quite some time before my discovery of Momoe, I was fixed by this song. Especially so when it turned out it was first done when she was younger. Which opened up a whole new panorama (see Watashi Tachi). One notable performance from 1996 has what sounds like an erhu drawing out the emotions near the end.

    Soba ni Oite is another song that makes good use of Hiromi's ability to do crescendoes. Sublime loveliness that I could listen to forever.

    But the song that best showcases that ability is probably I Dreamed a Dream, a musical standard that's famous for the demands that it makes on the performer. Lea Salonga, one of the most feted actresses in Broadway, said that she was emotionally drained after each night's performance as Fantine. The casting notes for the musical say that the actress playing Fantine must be able to convincingly hit many disparate emotional notes even in the course of a single song (IDAD). Hiromi, especially in her performance in the 1987 Kohaku, is right up there with the best, arguably surpassing them all.

    Honourable mention: Papa ni Somuite is another piece of loveliness in its studio form. But in that performance on the Big Show in 1978, when the strings kick in you just want to give her a hug and tell her not to cry.

  2. I forgot about another one, the nostalgia song, Azayaka na Bamen. The la la la just invites the audience to join in.

  3. More waffling on my favourite subject. Here are the end theme versions of Madonna Tachi no Lullaby and Ieji. If anything, I like the vocals even more than in the singles.

    1. Hi there. Good to hear from you again. I figured that you would be calling in shortly after I made the list. :)

      It was quite difficult making the list this time especially due to the quality discography of Ms. Iwasaki. In fact, I was THIS close to including "Azayaka na Bamen" but "Mahiru no Silver Moon" won out at the end.

      As for the ending themes of "Kayo Suspense Gekijo", I've always wondered whether the quieter versions of "Madonna Tachi no Lullaby" and "Ieji" that were used for the end of the program were the original versions before the official singles got the amped-up arrangements or vice versa.

      There was one more that I would include if there were some evidence of it online. That would be "The Man" from her 1978 album "Hatachi Mae..." It was something so cool and City Pop.


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