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.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Shizuru Ohtaka -- Kanashikute Yarikirenai(悲しくてやりきれない)

Hard to believe but we are in the last few hours of August 2020. Mind you, for a lot of us, though, there is still plenty of summer to be had for a while longer.

Within my collection of the "Good Times Diva" series, I noticed that there was one singer who stood out from the others with her way of singing. Shizuru "Sizzle" Ohtaka(おおたか静流)is a Tokyo-born musician and singer who graduated from the humanities at Musashino University and made her official debut under that name in the 1990s covering a wide swathe of genres including minyo, world music and jazz. She had also started out in a duo called dido with songwriter and arranger Michiaki Kato(加藤みちあき)in 1989 but then also began that solo aspect of her career.

In January 1992, Ohtaka released a cover of "Kanashikute Yarikirenai" which seems to be one of those kayo that is a particular favourite to be covered according to its J-Wiki article. Along with the original folk version by The Folk Crusaders in 1968, "Kayo Kyoku Plus" also has the whimsical cover by singer-songwriter Kotringo(コトリンゴ)as the theme song for the 2016 anime movie "Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni"(この世界の片隅に...In This Corner of the World).

Ohtaka's cover is one of the songs that was included in the "Good Times Diva" series, and it has an ethereal and haunting quality that I think approaches something Okinawan, but maybe the singer meant to be more pan-Asian or as one of her desired genres would indicate, global in feeling. As well, her vocal delivery also hints at minyo while some of that keyboard work at the very end sounds a little bluesy. It's as if the core melody by Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)has been given some extra layers here and there from all over the Pacific Rim.

The song was used as the theme for the January 1992 film "Shiko Funjatta"(シコふんじゃった。...Sumo Do, Sumo Don't) which won the Best Movie award at the Japan Academy Awards for that year. Starring Masahiro Motoki(本木雅弘), it's all about a university student who has to join the sumo club to graduate, and it's been touted for the fact that it is one of the few movies anywhere set in the world of one of the country's ancient sports or martial arts.

I mentioned near the top of the article that Ohtaka "...made her official debut under that name in the 1990s...", and that of course still stands. However, although no large explanation is expanded upon aside from a point made in parentheses in the second sentence of the J-Wiki article for the singer, Ohtaka apparently had began singing professionally as far back as the late 1970s under the name Shizuko Ohtaka(大高静子). I point this out because she has one song from that period in "Loft Sessions, Vol. 1", an album of City Pop and New Music tunes that I will cover sometime soon.

Ryuichiro Akamatsu -- Hello/Stay At Home

After listening to Tomoyo Harada's(原田知世)2019 contribution to NHK's "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた), the fun-loving "Kotoba Dori"(コトバドリ), I became interested in the works of the singer-songwriter Ryuichiro Akamatsu(赤松隆一郎)so I checked out YouTube along with his own official website "Faint Light". He's got a pretty snazzy setup there.

I came across two of his songs that I wanted to spotlight briefly. One is his 2016 "Hello" which seems to be aimed at those folks who are going through some tough times and may have even ended up as shut-ins from the world. It's a little over 7 minutes long and it's an encouraging song about coming to terms over who one is and accepting any faults and darkness within oneself. The video reflects this as a young girl goes on the run of her life and it certainly looks like the lass who's been identified (and praised) as Yu Aikawa(相川結)in Akamatsu's own description did the whole thing without any editing cuts whatsoever.

The other Akamatsu song here is the succinct "Stay At Home", and it was uploaded onto YouTube in April of this year. Certainly from the title, it's about what we've all been enduring for the past several months due to COVID-19. Akamatsu basically gives his own PSA on asking folks to stay home and keep everyone safe but at the same time, he's also encouraging them to keep tabs on each other and addressing everyone's concerns and fears of the present and future.

Akamatsu only has a brief profile of himself at "Faint Light" in which he says that he started his music career while in university when he helped put together a band, LAB, in 1998. The group managed to release one album and three maxi-singles until their breakup in 2004. Later in 2013, he joined up with another group, Antimon(アンチモン...Antimony), and he's still involved with them while also keeping up his solo career.

Speaking of the COVID-19 situation, my province of Ontario is undergoing its usual basketball slow dribble in terms of the daily infection rates. We've been going up and down in the low 100s for the past several days, but after a month in Stage III, it looks like that we haven't suffered any major surge (knocking hard on wood right now) thankfully and hopefully it'll stay that way although we're not sure what the autumn will bring. In any case, with the slow re-opening of things economically and in other ways, I'm happy to say that I personally took a further step forward and had my first haircut at my local barber shop for the first time since January. Maybe sometime this weekend, I might even get out of my neighbourhood for the first time in nearly 6 months and meet a couple of friends for coffee.☕

Triple Booking -- Yamato Nadeshiko Education(大和撫子エデュケイション)

Back to Monday! I've realized that now that my anime routine with my anime buddy has been stopped for several months, I really haven't done a lot with my anison here. I'm only watching one show this season and the theme songs there haven't exactly lit a fire under me, so I was left wondering what to do for a typical anime theme tune. Then I re-realized that I had yet to do any of the themes from the devilishly dirty show "Seitokai Yakuindomo"(生徒会役員共...Student Council Staff Members) that had its premier season in 2010. Good entire decade ago!

Mind you, I've written about some of the soundtrack which sounds like composer, Yuuya Mori(森悠也), really was punching above the show's weight. His theme for the quietly pervy Uomi, "Party Shimashou"(パーティーしましょ) is a slice of bossa nova heaven, for instance.

I should warn you first that the above opening credits are from the Blu-Ray version which means that a certain hobby of one of the minor characters has been uncensored. Now the opening theme for that first season was "Yamato Nadeshiko Education" (Education for the Traditional Japanese Woman) by Triple Booking(トリプルブッキング), a fictional aidoru trio that actually originated from the 2001 manga "Aidoru no Akahon"(アイドルのあかほん...Idol Pulp Fiction) created by Tozen Ujiie(氏家ト全), the same fellow behind the original manga for "Seitokai Yakuindomo". Triple Booking consists of Shiho Iida(飯田シホ), Yuuri Arina(有銘ユーリ)and Karuna Kisaragi(如月カルナ)and the seiyuu behind those three: Yoko Hikasa(日笠陽子), Sayuri Yahagi(矢作紗友里)and Satomi Sato(佐藤聡美)respectively who also happen to be the same voice actresses behind the three main female characters in "Seitokai Yakuindomo".

Written by Saori Kodama(こだまさおり)and composed by Akihiko Yamaguchi(山口朗彦), in contrast with Yuuya Mori's soundtrack, "Yamato Nadeshiko Education" is one very seemingly child-friendly Xmas candy-like piece of bouncy happiness. This would be a breezy cheer song that could fit any magical girl anime but of course, those opening credits quickly dispel any notion of innocence and also remind me of some Benny Hill sequences, although I don't think even Benny included any sexual aids in his skits. In any case, the song peaked at No. 28 on Oricon when it was released in July 2010.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Kiyotaka Sugiyama -- Kaze no LONELY WAY(風のLONELY WAY)

It's a Tuesday night and you've just seen intrigue, murder, that final scene of resolution at the edge of a cliff (I gather that the front of a McDonalds wasn't going to cut it), and the killer go off that cliff or go sullenly into the back of a police car escorted by a beret-wearing seen-it-all done-it-all detective. Stress levels are probably too way up for the beginning of a work week, so what does a Japanese TV network such as NTV do? Simple...ensure that the theme song is dramatic but also as gentle and reassuring as a Febreeze spray.

So, between 1981 and 2005, NTV's "Kayo Suspense Gekijo"(火曜サスペンス劇場...The Tuesday Suspense Drama) supplied just that for its array of theme songs. Of course, we've had a few Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)ballads helping out such as one of my favourites, "Ieji"(家路)in 1983, and then there was Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"Kokuhaku"(告白)from 1990.

In between those two, there was J-AOR crooner Kiyotaka Sugiyama(杉山清貴)who contributed to "Kayo Suspense Gekijo" with his 5th single (and the 6th ending theme for the suspense program) as a solo artist away from Omega Tribe(オメガトライブ). "Kaze no LONELY WAY" (Lonely Way of the Wind) was released in January 1988, and it's everything that a Sugiyama fan loves in one of his songs: mellow keyboards, a summery arrangement (despite the season of release) by Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)that would have David Foster green with envy, and those caressing vocals by the singer who came up with the music. Shun Taguchi(田口俊)was the lyricist here.

Wow! Now, that's a properly dramatic entrance. Anyways "Kaze no LONELY WAY" was another No. 1 hit for Sugiyama, and in fact, it was his third consecutive No. 1. Moreover, it has turned out to be his final No. 1 on Oricon as of 2020. The song was placed onto one of his BEST compilations, "The BALLADS with Love" which was released in September 1990 with a No. 9 ranking on the weekly charts.

Kome Kome Club -- TIME STOP

It's been a while since I've written about good ol' Kome Kome Club(米米CLUB)and their brand of dynamic music and performance. To be honest, I thought that this particular song by them was a much later creation but actually, "TIME STOP" is one of their earlier singles, their 8th to be exact, from October 1988.

Written and composed by K2C, I've got this on their BEST compilation, and "TIME STOP" comes across as the ideal number to be played near the end of one of their concerts...just before the inevitable encores are called for, and it's pretty much inevitable that K2C has plenty of encores. But without getting too far off point, "TIME STOP" has that feeling of a satisfying end to a busy day or busy date (or something) with Carl Smoky Ishii(カールスモーキー石井)giving out his heartfelt message of love (some wonderfully soaring and soulful vocals) to the lucky woman.

Y'know, I haven't seen an episode of "Saturday Night Live" in ages but from what I remember from the old days of comedians such as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, each episode ended with the house band playing something similarly mellow to "TIME STOP" to let the audience know that things were coming to a close. The song has some fine sunset horns to finish things during a final slow dance. In any case, "TIME STOP" did moderately well by peaking at No. 25. It was also a track on K2C's 4th album "Go Funk" released in September 1988; that album hit No. 1 and ended up ranked No. 25 for the year.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Aprils -- ASTRO

Well, when I first saw the unveiling of the Tamotsu Shimada(シマダタモツ)-designed official logo for Expo 2025 in Osaka the other day, I just had to unleash a few snarks. My first thoughts were that: 1) it was a failed cruller, 2) someone had a bright idea of remaking "The Human Centipede" into a moe anime, and 3) it was another failed medical experiment from "Made in Abyss".

From Wikipedia

However, I didn't spit out a "BLEAUGH!" here. Instead, I remarked "Ah, naruhodo!" because I remember that the 1970 Expo in the same Japanese metropolis had quite a few bizarre but interesting art works such as The Tower of the Sun by the late avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto(岡本太郎).

From French Wikipedia

Also, the logo from Expo '70 was the above picture so I can speculate that Shimada must have wanted to combine the bizarre and the similar to create this new logo called Inochi no Kagayaki-kun(いのちの輝きくん...The Bright Light of Life) for the 2025 version. Pop culture has apparently gone nuts with it and you can even take a look at some of the nuttiness at "Know Your Meme".

Now, Expo '70 is just one of the examples in my head when I think of what I probably had thought as a kid growing up in the 1970s when it came to the future. If I apply this to television shows and movies, I will come up with "Rollerball", "Logan's Run" and "Space: 1999". So, there is all that sleek white plastic everywhere and silent running automobiles (read what I just did there?) and boxy computer terminals.

That is what Japanese indies Futurepop group The Aprils(エイプリルズ)were going for when they were created early in the 2000s. According to their J-Wiki article, the band led by vocalist/guitarist Kentaro Imai(イマイ ケンタロウ)rushed for that aesthetic surrounding 1970s global expositions and retro-future sensations. I first mentioned The Aprils when I wrote up the article for fellow Futurepop group SUPERCAR's "Yumegiwa Last Boy" a week ago.

The genesis for The Aprils occurred as a music club, E.L.L.,  at Tsukuba University (whose city was also a site for an Expo in 1985) in the late 1990s. Going into the 2000s, Imai was the only vocalist but then in 2002, he participated in a compilation album "Usagi Chance Superstar!vol.0001"(ウサギチャンスーパースター!vol.0001...Rabbit Chance Superstar!)in which he did a cover version of Taeko Ohnuki's (大貫妙子)"Metropolitan Museum"(メトロポリタン美術館)which brought in co-vocalist Miho Iguchi(イグチ ミホ)who also mans the bass and synthesizer. There have been some lineup changes over the years but currently, Imai and Iguchi are joined by drummer Yuuki Shotokuji(ショトクジ ユウキ)and video guy Norihisa Nakama(ナカマ ノリヒサ)along with a few support members.

"ASTRO" is the title track from The Aprils' debut album from June 2003. Written and composed by Imai, the all-English song about sweet and silent seas, snow, sky and stars melodically conjures up memories of American band DEVO. Overall, "ASTRO" feels like the future is beckoning us to come on over and join it in a world-encompassing atmosphere of hope and glory (HAL9000 would be proud). The official music video also tries to bring in that 1970s retro-future feeling with the white grid room, the PET computer and what looks like the "Space Invaders" monsters.

Up to now according to their discography, The Aprils have released four singles and seven original albums including their 2017 "ASTRO + Early Works" which has the tracks from the original album plus some extras.

P.S. Ahhh...speaking of Expo '70, you can take a gander at the kayo that has represented that world's fair, "Sekai no Kuni Kara Konnichiwa" (世界の国からこんにちは)by the late great Haruo Minami(三波春夫).

Los Primos -- Asahikawa Blues(旭川ブルース)

The question at the beginning of the above video by Bear's Magazine is "Do you know Asahikawa?". Unfortunately, I have to say that I don't know all that much about the Hokkaido city aside from the facts that it's located further up Japan's northernmost prefecture and that it's also the hometown of Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二)of famous band Anzen Chitai(安全地帯). In fact, I only found out today from the Wikipedia entry for Asahikawa that it's the 2nd-largest city in Hokkaido following Sapporo which I have visited and that it's the capital city of the sub-prefectural region of Kamikawa(上川). I also heard that it's got some fine ramen.

The more that I write about Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos(黒沢明とロス・プリモス)and their quintessential Mood Kayo sound, the more that I realize that the group has really enjoyed performing the geographically based music of yesteryear. Los Primos have given their tribute to Ginza in Tokyo and have gone across the main island to sing about Niigata, and that was back in the 1960s which is the decade that I've usually associated them with.

Now I find out that they were still at it in the 1990s, and this time, they went far up north to Asahikawa to provide their love song of the city via "Asahikawa Blues", the B-side to their January 1992 single "Sayonara Lullaby"(さよならララバイ...Goodbye Lullaby). All of the genre tropes are in there: the silky strings, the bluesy sax, Seiji Mori's(森聖二)heartfelt vocals of bittersweet love, and the shoutouts to various parts of the northern city. It can be a most tempting invitation card to visit the city for a kayo fan like me. Lyricist Toshio Arakawa(荒川利夫)and composer Motoyoshi Kawaguchi(川口元義)were behind the creation of "Asahikawa Blues".

The only thing is that by 1992, guitarist Kurosawa's name had long been absent from Los Primos because, according to the J-Wiki article, he had retired from the group in 1980 due to illness so that it was known as just Los Primos for many years. For most of the 2010s, though, the group was known as Koji Nagayama & Los Primos(永山こうじとロス・プリモス)with the addition of vocalist Nagayama until his departure in 2019. Now, it's just back to Los Primos once more.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Buzz -- Tokyo Samba(Tokyoサンバ)

This is only my second article on the folk duo Buzz(バズ). Over three years ago, I wrote about Masakazu Togo(東郷昌和)and his partner Hiroshi Koide(小出博志)with their most famous hit, "Ken to Mary ~ Ai to Kaze no yo ni" (ケンとメリー〜愛と風のように〜) from 1972, a most comfortable tune that became famous as the commercial theme for a brand of Nissan automobile.

Well, I found this other song by Buzz (kindly uploaded by Keir Hardie) from their May 1974 2nd studio album "Requiem The City"(レクヰエム・ザ・シティ)and it has a totally different sensation. "Tokyo Samba" isn't a folk number at all but something to be heard on the car stereo while its owner is having a pleasant morning drive on the Shuto Expressway (perhaps way early in the morning to avoid the rush hour).

In other words, it is a totally wonderful orange juice song to get up at at 'em, and I gather that it was whipped up to match the theme of that album title. Despite one-half of the song title though, it's not so much of a Latin creation (although I can hear some of that Latin guitar and percussion) and maybe more melodically fitting with life described in the other half of the title. Along with the music, the lyrics come off as happy-go-lucky and willing to break the fourth wall in a way as Togo and Koide sing about how much in love they are with "Tokyo Samba". But before you make fun of them, let it be known that they weren't the ones who wrote and composed "Tokyo Samba". Those credits belong to singer-drummer Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏), later of Yellow Magic Orchestra. Interestingly enough, "Ken to Mary" was created by Takahashi's brother, Nobuyuki(高橋信之).

Anyways, I wonder whether "Tokyo Samba" ever got onto the radio since it wasn't a single but a track from an album. I think it would have been great accompaniment for brunch although as always, Japanese radio stations never made it a duty to play the entire length of a song.

Kenjiro Sakiya -- Shizumi Yuku Diamond(沈みゆくダイアモンド)

Was happy to see another fresh J Utah driving video and the theme was a night drive through Miami inundated with all of those skyscrapers. No wonder Crockett and Tubbs loved taking out the Ferrari Daytona for a spin in the evenings.

Looks like I found the ideal song to go with the video although it's just five minutes and change compared to the J Utah video's one hour and change. This would be "Shizumi Yuku Diamond" (The Sinking Diamond Ring), a track from singer-songwriter Kenjiro Sakiya's(崎谷健次郎)September 1993 album "Holidays".

When I first heard "Shizumi Yuku Diamond", the arrangement seemed to scream late 1980s or early 1990s City Pop, but at the same time, it and Sakiya's choice of instruments also made the song sound like a jazzy theme for some intriguing romance-suspense flick of the 1960s. It has that feeling of what I would have expected Henry Mancini to come up if he had been asked to score another movie along the lines of "Charade" or "The Thomas Crown Affair". Sure enough, the lyrics lay out the ground work for some one-night-only passion between perhaps a couple of friends or even a client and contractor with one of the couple tired of the spouse. For that one night at the seaside hotel, the lady is going to conceal that diamond ring. Basically, I gotta be thinking another match up of George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn or Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.

Junko Yagami -- Ichi-nen Mae no Koibito(一年前の恋人)

Nope, this song didn't come from Junko Yagami's(八神純子)"Mr. Metropolis"(Mr.メトロポリス). In fact, I have yet to get her February 1982 "Yume Miru Koro wo Sugite mo"(夢みる頃を過ぎても...Even If The Time to Dream Passes), but perhaps her 4th original album will be on my Xmas wish list.

The opportunity sounds awfully tempting especially after listening to "Ichi-nen Mae no Koibito" (Year-Ago Lover), a mid-tempo mellow song written, composed and performed by Yagami with her usual aplomb with arrangement by Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆). There's something even slightly Bacharach (the strings and the horns) about the whole thing which concerns some romantic redemption after a potentially relationship-killing lovers' fight some twelve months ago.

Considering so many kayo kyoku about post-relationship periods just have the protagonist wistfully remembering what was and what will never be again, it's wonderful to hear that "Ichi-nen Mae no Koibito" has the couple willing to pick up the pieces and make another go of it. Perhaps Yagami is the guardian angel in all this. As for "Yume Miru Koro wo Sugite mo", it peaked at No. 2 on Oricon and ended up as the 34th-ranked album for 1982.

Miharu Koshi -- Up Down

Several weeks ago, I put up an article regarding one of the tracks from Miharu Koshi's(越美晴)1980 2nd album "On The Street: Miharu 2", "Tsuioku"(追憶)with its elegant and dreamy arrangement.

Well, I've got another one from "On The Street" called "Up Down", and it's some mid-tempo funkiness from the city although the intro sounds slightly like something that had been concocted by the good folks at Yellow Magic Orchestra. However, although I couldn't concretely track down the songwriters, I'm assuming both words and music were provided by Koshi herself.

But listening to the synthpop-esque intro and the main body of City Pop (which suddenly gets hit with a wave of horns near the end), I'm left wondering whether "Up Down" was a little hint of the transition that Koshi would make a couple of albums later when she went all high-pitch New Wave and technopop with songs like "Keep On Dancin'".

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Harumi Tsuyuzaki -- Feel so real

It's always a pleasure to listen to J-R&B chanteuse Harumi Tsuyuzaki(露崎春女). Perhaps she didn't become quite as famous as Misia on the charts and in media but there's no denying that Tsuyuzaki has always possessed the soulful chops.

I do have this track on her 4th album "Believe Yourself" from August 1998 and "Feel so real" was also released as Tsuyuzaki's 7th single in July of that year. Written and composed by Anders Bagge with co-writing credits to Shoko Fujibayashi(藤林聖子), the song is another slice of happy-go-lucky sunny soul with some dexterous piano playing near the end. Tsuyuzaki's vocals aren't quite as unleashed here as they are in some of her other material but they do purr and soar throughout the song.

From the thumbnail for the video, "Feel so real" was used as the intro song for the weather report on TV Asahi's "News Station". I think that would be wholly appropriate.

Denki Groove -- Denki Biri Biri(電気ビリビリ)

Not sure how Takkyu Ishino(石野卓球), Pierre Taki(ピエール瀧)and the rest of the guys from oft-comical techno unit Denki Groove(電気グルーヴ)felt right at the beginning of their career in the late 1980s. They must have felt full of beans and other energies at the possibilities with all of their wacky ideas and musical equipment of synthesizers and samplers.

My impression from this opening track from "662 BPM BY DG" (June 1990), their very first album under an indies label, SSE, is that Ishino and the rest of Denki Groove were more than happy to hit the tarmac running. "Denki Biri Biri" (Electric Shock), written and composed by Ishino, feels to me like it sucked in its fair share of samples, a slice of New Order, a dollop of Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)and even a good handful of Beastie Boys. Part of the fun is trying to identify the sources of those samples; I could pick out Eddie Murphy, Depeche Mode and Robocop so far within "Denki Biri Biri", and according to the article for the album, Denki Groove brought in tons of those samples. There is even a list of those samples in the article.

Looks like Ishino and Taki took some playful pokes at a couple of those synth lords in the lyrics, the aforementioned Komuro and Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), and were more than proud to show off their cool shiny equipment. Nothing like some healthy rivalry from the young guns at Denki Groove, and they really liked getting the listeners off their duffs and dancing on the floor...provided that there was some room to do so.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Industry -- State of the Nation

Time for another ROY article and this week, it's Industry's "State of the Nation". I distinctly remember watching this on one of the afternoon music video shows here in Toronto and though I don't know about other 80s New Wave enthusiasts, this is the only Industry song that I've known. However, the New York band really put out such a super-catchy tune (thanks to those synths handling the rhythm...and those wonderful syn-drums!) and an eye-catching video on a retired U.S. aircraft carrier to match it that they basically seared themselves into my long-term memory. If there were a dictionary entry for "80s New Wave", then Industry's picture would be right beside it. According to the Wikipedia article for "State of the Nation", it didn't do much in the States but it was a hit in parts of Europe.

The single version apparently came out in 1984 but the album with "State of the Nation", "Stranger to Stranger", was released in August 1983 in America, so why not check to see what the Top 3 hits in Japan were that month on Oricon?

1. Seiko Matsuda -- Glass no Ringo (ガラスの林檎)/Sweet Memories

2. Masahiko Kondo -- Tameiki Rockabilly(ためいきロ・カ・ビ・リー)

3. Irene Cara -- Flashdance

Kazumi Watanabe -- Don't Be Silly

Recently, I've been catching some of the scenes from an old ABC sitcom of my memories. "Barney Miller" was a show about the usual funny hijinks inside a New York City police precinct, and I remember some of the big highlights during its original run between 1975 and 1982 such as the episode in which everyone except Barney himself got high on hashish-laced brownies and the time when Detective Harris ended up producing a porn movie for some investigation.

"Barney Miller" was also graced with one of the cooler instrumental theme songs during its run. Perhaps the song by Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson wasn't as action-packed as the "Mission: Impossible" theme but I realize that it was a nice fusion number rather reflective of the funky streets of the Big Apple back then, although perhaps it may have been more conventional at the time to place an upbeat and comical march to match the fact that it was based on the cops and comedy. Strangely enough, I read last night on the "TV Tropes" entry for the show under "Instrumental Theme Tune" on the main page that the actor who played Miller, Hal Linden (who's still looking plenty healthy at his advanced age as an octogenarian according to YouTube videos of his recent interviews!), wasn't a huge fan of the bass-heavy theme (maybe he's mellowed over the years), even though it was ranked at No. 27 in "TV Guide" as one of the best TV themes in America according to Wikipedia.

What wonderful timing then to have a listen to "Don't Be Silly", one of the tracks from guitarist Kazumi Watanabe's(渡辺香津美)May 1980 album, "To Chi Ka". I already wrote about one other track from the album "Black Canal", and with "Don't Be Silly", I think it could even be a spiritual cousin across the Pacific of the "Barney Miller" theme with its own silky-smooth guitar/bass/keyboard work. Plus, I'd say that the title would be just the thing that the often-frustrated Captain Miller would usually have to beg his motley crew to do each and every episode.

Wouldn't that be just the thing? Maybe an American TV show on one of the ancient networks or on one of the streaming channels such as Netflix will have a City Pop instrumental as a theme. As a local lottery commercial's catchphrase puts it: We all can dream! But as someone might retort: Don't be silly!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Kaori Momoi -- Julia ni Heartbreak(ジュリアに傷心)

Well, I knew that Checkers'(チェッカーズ)songs were huge favourites at my old karaoke bar of Kuri in Yorkville back in my university days, but little did I know that one of them "Julia ni Heartbreak"  has been officially covered at least four times since the 1990s.

According to J-Wiki, the earliest cover was by actress/singer Kaori Momoi(桃井かおり)through her 1993 album "More Standard". Momoi has made herself immortal through her force of personality via movies, TV and commercials for the past few decades, and she just has this way about her in terms of her voice, facial expressions and stance. Therefore, it's not surprising that Momoi decided to go with a sultry Latin style demanding classy tango attention in her take on the original 50's rock-and-roll version of "Julia ni Heartbreak", created by Masao Urino and Hiroaki Serizawa(売野雅勇・芹沢廣明)for Checkers back in 1984.

However, my image of Momoi just stretching out on the chaise lounge and holding court won't do for this song. The revised picture is of her in a red silk dress on a small stage in a smoky old-fashioned nightclub while lovingly caressing an ancient microphone and singing this one complete with tender vocal breaks representing the heart rending after a failed romance. Of course, the bartenders are quietly shaking up their cocktails as a beautiful couple are tripping the light fantastic on the floor.

Kumiko Kondo (Kumiko Aimoto) -- Chiisana Teikou(小さな抵抗)

The first couple of articles that I've written on aidoru Kumiko Aimoto(相本久美子)regarded tracks from her 1981 second album "Yume Nanoni I Love You"(夢☆なのにI LOVE YOU): the synthpop "Mayonaka no Heroine"(真夜中のヒロイン)and the City Pop "Itsutsu no Douka"(5つの銅貨). And in "Mayonaka no Heroine", I mentioned that Aimoto started her aidoru life in 1974 under the name Kumiko Kondo(近藤久美子).

Well, here is that debut single by Kondo, "Chiisana Teikou" (A Little Resistance) released in September 1974. Written by Kazuya Senke(千家和也)and composed by Koichi Morita(森田公一), I'd say that it is the conventionally cute aidoru tune of the 1970s with the sunny strings and a bass harmonica that mysteriously reminds me of some of the soundtrack from that old American sitcom "Green Acres". Despite the adorable delivery of the lass, the lyrics make the heroine of the number into a slightly impish and naughty girl who has quite the reputation in the school.

Unfortunately, from what I've read in the J-Wiki article for the aidoru, Kondo/Aimoto never landed that Top 10 single. In fact, the highest that she scored on the Oricon charts was a No. 59 for her 4th release, "Shoka Keshiki"(初夏景色...Early Summer Scene). Still, her acting career has been plenty long with roles being performed right into the 2010s. In addition, Aimoto got her time in the sun during her long co-hosting stint on the NTV Sunday afternoon variety show "TV Jockey"(TVジョッキー).

Monday, August 24, 2020

Southern All Stars -- Kibun Shidai de Semenaide(気分次第で責めないで)

It's awfully easy for me to imagine that legendary band Southern All Stars(サザンオールスターズ)has been able to stay so successful for so long since their 1978 debut simply because Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)and the guys have only whipped up those enormous hits that we've heard so often on television and at karaoke. I'm talking about their very early hits such as Single No. 1 "Katte ni Sinbad"(勝手にシンドバッド)and their relatively more recent fare like "TSUNAMI" in 2000.

But naturally, that would be wrong. Up to their current 42nd year of existence, Southern All Stars have come up with many more songs besides the hits through their B-sides and albums, so I was rather curious about any of their music that wouldn't be immediately known to more casual listeners. I went back through their discography and saw their 2nd single, sandwiched between "Katte ni Sinbad" and their classic 1979 ballad "Itoshi no Ellie"(いとしのエリー).

I had never heard of this 2nd single, "Kibun Shidai de Semanaide" (Don't Blame Me Depending on Your Mood) which was released in November 1978 on the heels of their breakthrough hit of "Katte ni Sinbad" earlier in June. Interestingly enough, according to the J-Wiki article about this very song, Southern All Stars at one point had also wished that no one had ever heard of this 2nd single. That title may have been rather prescient.

There is that expression, I believe, about getting too successful too soon, and perhaps that was what Kuwata had been wondering about early on in their career. Once "Katte ni Sinbad" became that bona fide No. 3 hit on Oricon, the record label was getting on the band's case about getting a sophomore hit along the same melodic lines of that auspicious debut. The pressure and experience were unpleasant according to Kuwata in a 1987 "Rockin' On!" article so that the songwriting was getting stymied, but he and the band with some additional help from Ichiro Nitta(新田一郎), got "Kibun Shidai de Semenaide" done.

And yep, although it's a different song, I could also hear the similarities with its more famous predecessor. The label wanted another "Katte ni Sinbad"; well, they kinda sorta got it with "Kibun Shidai de Semenaide". I could easily imagine all of those dancing girls in their skimpy outfits cutting a rug on the stage with Kuwata to this number as well.

The sales were good for Single No. 2, too, as it hit No. 10 and ended up as the 49th-ranked single of 1979, but Southern All Stars may have been wondering if they were just going to end up as a one-pattern band (luckily not). In fact, they lambasted this sophomore hit as "WORST. SONG. EVER." and refused to play it in concert for about 15 years until they decided it was time to get the elephant off their backs and played it in 1993. It must have been a wonderfully liberating experience since in a 2015 interview with "Switch" magazine, the band said that it was now fun to perform it.

"Kibun Shidai de Semenaide" was given a different arrangement as an album version on SAS' April 1979 2nd album "10 Numbers Carat"(10ナンバーズ・からっと)which peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 3rd-ranked album of 1979. The single version has a gradual fadeout at the end compared to the album version which stops cold according to the J-Wiki article so the one on YouTube above is most likely the original single.

Interesting thing about finding all that initial un-love for the song since I recall that Southern All Stars was also somewhat rueful about another single in the early 1980s, "Chako no Kaigan Monogatari"(チャコの海岸物語).

B'z -- Ai no Mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai(愛のままにわがままに 僕は君だけを傷つけない)

Welcome to the last full week in August 2020. A few days ago, I put up "Oricon Top 5 Most Commercially Successful Composers" which included one-half of B'z, Takahiro "Tak" Matsumoto(松本孝弘). It seem as if virtually all of Matsumoto's compositions have been centered on his duo's songs, and that also includes his (and B'z's) most successful tune, "Ai no Mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai" (Even Though Love is Selfish, I Will Never Hurt You), which may end up being the longest title so far to grace the top of a "Kayo Kyoku Plus" article.

Listening to their 12th single released in March 1993, "Ai no Mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai" starts off in a rather mellow way and similarly to their later hit "Love Phantom". It's a gentle introduction to what becomes another B'z spectacular with those horns and electric guitar and Koshi Inaba's(稲葉浩志)super voice. I really feel like hitting outside and running about 10 kilometres from playing this, and this is from a guy who eschews exercise whenever he can.

The song is very familiar to me but I had no idea that it also served as the theme song for the 1993 live-action adaptation of "Saiyuki"(西遊記). I knew about the earlier version from the late 1970s for which its theme song was Godiego's(ゴダイゴ)"Monkey Magic". For both of them, I could say that they are famous products of their time.

Unsurprisingly, "Ai no Mama" hit No. 1 and stayed at the top for 4 weeks, eventually selling more than 2 million copies and going Gold. It would end the year as the No. 2 single and currently holds the No. 21 spot in Oricon's All-Time Singles list. The song's first appearance on an album was on "B'z The Best 'Pleasure'" which came out in May 1998.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Tetsuji Hayashi -- Goodbye Tokyo(グッドバイTOKYO)

Heading back home from the Tokyo area back to Toronto for good almost a decade ago on December 15th 2011 wasn't particularly emotional although it did feel rather strange since I'd been living in my modest little 2K apartment for virtually all of my 17 years in my satellite city of Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture. I took one last look at my suddenly barren abode, locked her up, rode the Tozai Line over to the next station, Gyotoku, with my very full suitcase in tow and handed the key over to the real estate agency that had been supervising the apartment building all this time. Finally, I headed off to Narita Airport.✈ Didn't hear any of those swelling John Williams strings or anything like that.

Certainly, I didn't hear this song either although it could have made for a fine coda as Air Canada lifted me home. This would be "Goodbye Tokyo" by Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)from his 1980 3rd album "Summer Wine"(サマー・ワイン). Composed by veteran Hayashi and written by Machiko Ryu(竜真知子), it begins with a keyboard passage that reminds me of the intro for Ray Kennedy's "My Everlasting Love" and continues onto a bittersweet/melancholy requiem before the epic refrain punctuated by some West Coast AOR electric guitar.

I don't recall what the weather was like when my plane departed Narita, but the way that "Goodbye Tokyo" flows, perhaps Hayashi envisioned a bright orange sunset seeing off the plane as it went off to its next destination. Not sure what I was even thinking when I was heading home forever...maybe start a new blog? Nah!🗼

To finish off, here is Kennedy's "My Everlasting Love". He is also included in an article that I wrote about a Junko Yagami(八神純子)song.

JiLL-Decoy association -- Hoshi wo Tayori ni(星を頼りに)

This was another band that I discovered through the annals of the "Light Mellow" City Pop/AOR series of CDs, and I think they specialize in some of that lovely jazzy pop that I've been hearing from various groups such as Blu-Swing and orange pekoe.

JiLL-Decoy association is a three-piece jazz group that's been around since 2002 that is made up of chihiRo (vocals), kubota (guitar) and towada (drums). According to their J-Wiki profile, the three of them have been producing original songs based on jazz, funk, pop and rock and have gained their popularity through their live performances. Guitarist kubota, after having returned to Japan from studying jazz and absorbing influences from other genres such as hip-hop and R&B in New York City, hit it off with towada who had been learning jazz in Chicago. Then, on meeting with chihiRo at a jazz session, JiLL-Decoy association was born.

This particular piece, "Hoshi wo Tayori ni" (Relying on the Stars) belongs to "Lovely", one of a trilogy of albums (which includes "Lining" and "DECADE") that was released throughout 2012 to celebrate the band's 10th anniversary. It's an attractive jazz-groovy pop fusion with lyrics by chihiRo and music by chihiRo & kubota that sounds as if it had been recorded right then and there during one of their concerts in a very oshare cafe somewhere in Omotesando or Aoyama. Everybody contributes some wonderful ingredients into this cake: chihiRo's soulful voice, kubota's bluesy guitar and towada's grounding drums, but I also can't neglect whoever is taking care of the piano as well.

Over the nearly 2 decades that they've been performing, JiLL-Decoy association has released various singles and albums through CD and digital download formats with their latest coming out in March 2019 as their 9th full album, "Generate the Times". kubota finished his time with the band at the end of that year.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

SUPERCAR -- Yumegiwa Last Boy

The above video is how I first found out about the eclectic band SUPERCAR, and I did mention this fact in the first article about them, "BGM". This time, though, it's going to be about "Yumegiwa Last Boy" whose title has been represented all in romaji with yumegiwa(夢際)translating as "verge of a dream" so the title can be seen as "Last Boy on the Verge of a Dream". Sounds all very "Inception".

However, "Yumegiwa Last Boy" came out several years before that Christopher Nolan classic was released as SUPERCAR's 11th single in November 2001. Created by SUPERCAR guitarist Junji Ishiwatari(石渡淳治)and vocalist Koji Nakamura(中村弘二), I'm not quite sure what the relatively minimalist lyrics are all about, but the music especially with the drone-like views of various landscapes in the video makes this a very soothing experience. I am curious about one part of the video though in which cash is falling over a snowscape; perhaps it represents an Imperial equivalent of a bank truck exploding over Hoth.

Peaking at No. 43 on Oricon, "Yumegiwa Last Boy" is also included on the band's 4th album "HIGHVISION" which was released in April 2002 and went as high as No. 11 on the album charts. It was also used as the theme song for the live-action movie adaptation of the manga "Ping Pong"(ピンポン)which also came out in the same year.

I've also read that "Yumegiwa Last Boy" and a number of other later creations by SUPERCAR represent the Japanese wing of the genre Futurepop that I don't know too much about. Apparently in Japan, the genre is additionally represented by bands such as The Aprils(エイプリルズ), Genki Rockets(元気ロケッツ)and Perfume. Marcos V. and I have already written about the last two bands but I've yet to explore the discography of The Aprils and will do so.

Oricon Top 5 Most Commercially Successful Composers (as of January 2018)

I was always rather curious after putting up "The Top 10 Singles in Oricon History" about how the company that has been compiling all of those statistics and rankings in music treated songwriters. Well, I was able to track down the Top 5 Japanese composers of all time so far and will eventually come up with the lists for lyricists and arrangers. The J-Wiki article for Kyohei Tsutsumi provided the information which had originally been published at "Buzzfeed News" in January 2018.

As for the numbers, the Wikipedia article for Tsutsumi stated in its first paragraph that he was responsible for "...selling over 76 million units on the country's single chart from 1968 onwards.". I'm not certain whether those singles include the B-sides that he (and the rest of those composers) may have also composed. Plus from that quote, it's possible that non-single tracks from albums may have been excluded, so the list may really not be a wholly complete one. It's also been more than 2 1/2 years since it has been compiled so there's a chance that there may have been some shifting.

1.  Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)   75.6 million units
2.  Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)    71.8 million
3.  Tetsuro Oda(織田哲郎)           41.8 million
4.  Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)    38.9 million
5.  Tak Matsumoto (松本孝弘)    38.1 million     

Furthermore, the J-Wiki list was generous enough to also include each composer's most successful single. Unfortunately, I have yet to write up an article for Matsumoto's (B'z) song but I will try to rectify that in the coming days (and I did).

Kyohei Tsutsumi -- (1979) Miserarete (魅せられて)

Tetsuya Komuro -- (1997) Can You Celebrate?

Tetsuro Oda -- (1992) Sekaijuu no Dare yori Kitto (世界中の誰よりきっと)

Keisuke Kuwata -- (2000) TSUNAMI

Takahiro Matsumoto -- (1993) Ai no Mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai(愛のままにわがままに 僕は君だけを傷つけない)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Shoko Minami -- Hikareteku...(惹かれてく・・・)

Up to now, it's just been the one song represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for Shoko Minami(南翔子), "Nakimane"(泣きまね)from 1986, and of course, being the only song that I've associated with her, it can be easy for me to assume that this was her influential debut single.

However, that wasn't the case at all. Minami debuted in late 1984 with a single and an album, with the latter being titled "Shoko Fantasy"(翔子ファンタジー)released in October. It looks like for now, I'm going to be associating the singer with love ballads since the final track of the album that I'm going to feature here is another romantic slow number titled "Hikareteku..." (Charmed...).

I'd say that the cover of "Shoko Fantasy" would be the ideal setting for "Hikareteku...", and Minami does a wonderful performance of the song with her pure high tones. Written by Tsuzuru Nakasato(中里繼), composed by Tsunehiro Izumi(和泉常寛)and arranged by Kimio Mizutani(水谷公生), it seems to be the ideal ballad to walk along a beach by...and then for one-half of the couple to suddenly get on one knee to present the ring. I also think the nice thing about "Hikareteku..." is that it doesn't have all of those bells and whistles...or epic strings and electric hammer it home that there are two people majorly in love. Not that those epic ballads are bad, but it's nice to hear from time to time, a love song that is kept simple in arrangement and focuses on a good voice.

Chrysty -- Mysterious Night

Mysterious night, mysterious band. Welcome to another obscure music group in City Pop land (oh my golly...that actually rhymes). There's very little information available for Chrysty except for what I could find on Marty McFlies' YouTube channel where he has put up the entire album (which he wasn't too impressed with), and a brief paragraph in the guide "Japanese City Pop".

According to "Japanese City Pop", Chrysty (cute thing with the two Ys, by the way) was a 5-person band led by the two lead vocals of Masao Kageie(景家正雄)and Katsumi Takeichi(竹市克己). From what I've heard from their one and only October 1984 self-titled album so far, I don't think it's quite as disappointing although I wouldn't classify it as any classic release of the genre either. I'd say that it's solidly within the AOR sphere for the most part with some similarities to the band H2O.

"Mysterious Night" which is Track 3 on "Chrysty" is my favourite song on the album so far since it not only straddles the line between City Pop and AOR, it not only starts off with some pounding West Coast synths but then follows that with some bluesy jazz guitar before the genre stuff pours in. I also like those keyboards as they get nice and mellow in the middle. According to the JASRAC database, co-vocalist Takeichi wrote and composed the song.

Sorry but coming across this band, I can't help but remember the Canadian brand of cookies and biscuits known as Mr. Christie, famous for their slogan, "Mr. Christie, you make good cookies."

Miyuki Hara -- Yude Tamago to Boku(ゆでたまごと僕)

My family doctor probably won't be too thrilled at this photo and he will be even less impressed by the fact that I eat eggs three times a week. The above actually represents a breakfast platter at the diner franchise Sunset Grill here in Toronto and I always did like those potatoes, scrambled eggs and corned beef hash.😋

Two of those times that I do eat eggs in the morning...they come in the form of hard-boiled eggs. I've actually come to enjoy soft-boiled ones as well, but my start came with those 12-minute versions. And by the way, I put shoyu on mine...always. I was absolutely shocked while I was living in Japan that some of my friends there were shocked that I put soy sauce on my hard-boiled eggs because they were either salt or Worcestershire sauce folks. I had assumed that it was just the natural thing for Japanese people to pour some of that Kikkoman onto eggs. The more you know, eh?

Well, my preamble was there to introduce Miyuki Hara's(原みゆき)"Yude Tamago to Boku" (The Hard-Boiled Egg and I) from her 1989 album "Rin"(凛...Dignified). There's very little available in terms of information about Hara except for what I could discover on this Ameba blog. Apparently, she studied piano at the Tokyo College of Music during which she debuted as a model before starting out as a singer in 1988.

As for "Yude Tamago to Boku", I'm not totally sold on her singing skills but I do like the boppy rhythm that she creates as the composer (she also provided the lyrics) with that bit of East Asian flavour. The melody does stand out as fairly quirky pop with the synths and strings. There is something almost Akiko Yano-esque(矢野顕子)about the arrangement. Not sure what the lyrics are on about, but I'm fairly certain that she's not singing warnings about the cholesterol count.

From what I could find out online, Hara has released one single and four albums including "Rin".

Eri Hayakawa (Atsuko Nina) -- City

I've been wanting to write about this rarity for a while now. In fact, I've already dabbled into Atsuko Nina's(二名敦子)"City" album from 1981, although this hadn't been released under that second stage name. It was actually put out under Nina's first stage name of Eri Hayakawa(早川英梨). A year ago, I wrote about the first track, the mellow City Pop "Metamol City"(メタモル・シティ).

Thankfully, I was able to encounter a number of the tracks via YouTube so the first one up is "Last Typhoon"(ラスト タイフーン)created by lyricist Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)and composer Ken Sato(佐藤健). This is a fun and bouncy number that enjoys its West Coast AOR roots, and I'd think that American TV theme master Mike Post may want to nod in approval.

"You Move Me!" has a striking intro and overall arrangement which brings some memories of disco and Bee Gees and perhaps even Rod Stewart when he was into the genre. I could easily envisage ladies in their day-glo outfits and roller skates snapping their fingers and swiveling their hips to this number although perhaps the tempo is a little slower. The same duo of Miura and Sato were responsible for "You Move Me" as well.

"Plastic Lady"(プラスティック・レディ)takes things into different territory that's more mindful of late 1970s Junko Yagami(八神純子)and Keiko Maruyama(丸山圭子). It's got some of that Latin jazz to be heard in a swanky nightclub and I think Hayakawa even channels some of those two chanteuses' vocals. Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔)was responsible for the melody while Yukari Ito(砂東由加利)provided the lyrics, although from the kanji, I don't think this is the famous kayo singer here.

"Dramatic Good Night"(ドラマティック・グッドナイト)sounds like a date ending on a very happy note with some lingering thoughts of happiness before bedtime. It speeds by at a nice clip and picks up some country and even a Boz Scaggs riff along the way. It's quite the City Pop couple behind this one: Tomoko Aran(亜蘭知子)on lyrics and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)on music, but ultimately it's perhaps not the strongest track on "City".

The final one I will tackle here is "Sorry" which first impresses me with that down-home City Pop beat popularized by Akira Terao(寺尾聡)in his "Reflections" album from the same year. Written once again by Ito and composed by Casey Rankin, that combination of electric guitar and keyboards at points reminds me of Airplay and again I get some of that Yagami delivery in Hayakawa's vocals, especially in the refrain.

The original release of "City" was entirely arranged by Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利). Meanwhile, the remastered version also contains a couple of bonus tracks in the form of the A and B sides of Hayakawa's 1979 debut single "Sasowarete Natsu"(誘われて夏)with the B-side being "Yurenagara Futari"(ゆれながら二人...A Swaying Couple). It looks like Tower Records was responsible for that re-release but alas, currently "City" is not taking any online orders. However, you can listen to the full album right here.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Fantastic Plastic Machine -- The King of Pleasure

It's been a while since I've put up an article regarding Fantastic Plastic Machine, and considering that we're getting close to another summer weekend, it's time for something fairly dance-worthy.

This is "The King of Pleasure" which belongs to FPM's February 2003 album "too". The album also contains "Why Not?", and for that article, I mentioned that it seems as if DJ Tomoyuki Tanaka(田中知之)had moved away from Shibuya-kei to head into a more club-friendly genre.

"The King of Pleasure" does invite all of those endorphins to come out and play with the percolating percussion and the thumping bassline, but it also brings in some other influences to the dance party. For one thing, I think there is some of that Steely Dan groove and a bit of disco at points. Another thing is that I do enjoy what sounds like a spacey steel pedal guitar to add some more flavour. It might get a bit repetitive at over seven minutes but folks may also be a little too busy enjoying their shimmying to notice.

I know that FPM has put out videos for his creations but "The King of Pleasure" doesn't have one. However, if one had been made for this song, I would have expected some of that Shibuya dance club scene spliced in with some 1950s song-and-dance troupe cutting up quite a rug in the studio. As for "too", that hit No. 35 on Oricon.

Okayu -- Aishite yo(愛してよ)

I saw this lady perform a few weeks ago on "Uta Kon"(うたコン)and the three things that struck me about the enka singer-songwriter Okayu(おかゆ)were: 1) How did she get that name?, 2) She has a pretty deep voice and 3) Her singing is a pleasant throwback to some of the enka/Mood Kayo from the 1980s.

2) and 3) I will address right away. Okayu's voice is the deepest female voice in enka and Mood Kayo that I've heard so far, and in terms of general J-Pop, I could compare her vocals to those of Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)and Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや). For 3), the song that she performed on "Uta Kon" was "Aishite yo" (Love Me) that is her second major single released in May 2020. Okayu indeed created this song, and although I think that electric guitar is perhaps a more recent phenomenon in enka music, the rest of the arrangement has that sort of decades-ago feeling. Basically, I'm reminded a tad of the late Teresa Teng(テレサテン). Plus, I can't be totally sure if this would be purely an enka ballad or a Mood Kayo tune which makes me wonder if the line between the two traditional genres in Japanese popular music has blurred or even faded in the last twenty years.

Okayu was born Yuka Mutsuki(六月ゆか)in 1991. She hails from Sapporo in Hokkaido, and when she was a kid, she was given her current stage name as a nickname back in junior high school according to a 2017 article in the "Nikkan Gendai"(日刊ゲンダイ)newspaper. Her mother, who also had dreams of becoming a singer, often took young Yuka to the various drinking establishments in Sapporo's entertainment district of Susukino and those were the places where she learned about the old kayo kyoku through the singing of her mother and other patrons. Her mother was also a huge fan of Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)and her daughter would also grow to admire her as well, which might explain Okayu's singing style and vocal depth (since I'm also a big fan of Takahashi, too).

As a 17-year-old, Okayu wanted to become part of the gyaru culture so she went all the way down south to Tokyo to Shibuya which is still the Teen Mecca of the country to have her fun. Tragically in the same year, her mother died in an accident and in tribute to her, the daughter decided to follow the music path. She paid her dues along the way as she worked part-time in a trading company, became a magazine model, and tried and failed at a number of auditions. She even became part of a group of singers known as Ugal Ongakubu(ウギャル音楽部...The Fishing Girls Music Department) which was an official project by the national government's Fisheries Agency to support the fishing industry where she further honed her abilities as an enka singer.

In 2014, Okayu became a nagashi balladeer with her guitar to make the rounds around the various bars to sing kayo kyoku but on her very first night, thirty-two of those establishments in a row declined her request to pop on in for a song, according to a "Sankei Shimbun"(産経新聞)article via J-Wiki. Undaunted, she started with Ichiro Toba's(鳥羽一郎)"Kyodai Bune"(兄弟船)and made her rounds as a nagashi not just within Tokyo but also in some of the other regional areas. The following year, she got some media attention through the magazine "BRUTUS" which helped spread the word about her. Finally in 2017 (by that point, her repertoire had grown to more than 200 songs) , Mantell Nonoda(野々田万照), a saxophonist who has worked with Mariko Takahashi's band (much to her and her mother's joy, I'm sure) produced her first indies album, "Onna Nagashi no Blues"(おんな流しのブルース...Blues by a Female Nagashi) with her major debut happening a couple of years later. Along with her own songs, Okayu has also provided a few songs for some other enka singers under her real name.

(short version)