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, February 10, 2021

Atsuko Nina -- Hi-way 1


One of the questions regarding City Pop that has sometimes sloshed around in my cranium is how some Japanese music fans began cottoning onto this musical umbrella which has included elements of AOR, R&B, jazz, Latin, etc. Well, I figure that back in the 1970s and 1980s, with Japan achieving the status as the 2nd-largest economic power in the world, there was that feeling of wanderlust once more among the working masses. People wanted to head over to places such as New York City, Los Angeles and Honolulu to walk the streets of Manhattan, drive on the supremely wide freeways of LA (not during rush hour) and bask on Waikiki Beach respectively.

Perhaps the music that was popular in America in those specific places rubbed off on Japanese listeners and musicians alike. When I think of the West Coast, notably the Golden State of California, I think of soft rock bands such as Ambrosia and the Doobie Brothers. I guess that I ought to change my venue for California that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Presumably, a Japanese tourist may choose driving in that convertible on the Ventura Freeway rather than an LA highway.

So I've got another highway song from a Japanese singer here. Atsuko Nina(二名敦子)provides "Hi-way 1" from her November 1985 album "Naturally". Compared to her 1981 City Pop album "City" under her past stage name of Eri Hayakawa(早川英梨)which contains all of the sounds of Japanese urban contemporary music of that time, "Hi-way 1" possesses the arrangement of what I would call the caviar-and-champagne days of City Pop of the late 1980s. Perhaps then, Nina and this particular song may have been the harbingers of this new sound with the light and bright keyboards and plushy bass.

Although most of "Naturally" was arranged by Fujimal Yoshino(芳野藤丸), "Hi-way 1" was composed and arranged by Yuji Toriyama(鳥山雄司)with Nina taking care of the lyrics. From what I can understand of the lyrics, it seems as if the singer was more than happy to trace out the dream of driving through southern California. Overall to me, it's an interesting combination of the feeling of that automobile journey, which would usually be adorned by a late 70s/early 80s City Pop melody, and that caviar-and-champagne sound of the late 80s.

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