A Blast From the Past: The Year of Anime Music [Part 1]

Whether you’re a huge anime fan or not,  1995 was one of the best years for anime songs (or anison, as they are referred in the anime community). During this year, many wonderful anime series came out and captivated audiences everywhere, even memorable in today’s world. I want to share and revisit some goodies from that year. Now, I won’t do a top 5 list because it would be unfair to the other songs if I place “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” as number one. Personally, it isn’t my favorite anime song from 1995, but everyone’s favorite and it is still on everyone’s mind when they attend a karaoke booth here.

I originally wanted to write this as one blog post. But, I realized that I wanted to discuss
about waaay too many anime songs, so the draft for the original post got bigger and bigger. So, I decided to do a monthly series so each anime song from 1995 could get a fair chance of being featured here.

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Cui-ling – “Koi wo Suru Tabi ni Tsuzutukiyasuku” (from the series “Nurse Angel SOS”)

“Koi nurseangelsoswo Surutabini Tsuzutukiyasuku” was the dance craze in the anime word back in the day. Composed by Tetsuya Komuro with lyrics penned by Yasushi Akimoto (hey, we mention this guys a lot this month!(, “Koi wo Surutabini Tsuzutukiyasuku” was performed by a relatively unknown Chinese singer named Cui-ling (This is how it was written on the singles, I am sorry if I misspelled it).

The song opens up with a cool synthesized riff that leads to the main chorus. I think the guitar riff during the middle interlude is pretty awesome too as Komoro combines the guitar’s sound with some special effects. Besides that, I personally think that this song is a plain dance song. I don’t know why it was so special in the day, maybe the harmonies? I really like to sing harmony on this song whenever I sing at karaoke.


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Erina Nakajima – “Wedding Wars ~Ai no Honoo~” (from the series “Ai Tenshi Wedding Peach”)

I don’t know much of Erina Nakajima except she sang this song as the second opening for the above mentioned anime. I remember first watching the opening animation back in the days when internet was still on dial-up. weddingpeachI got introduced to this magical girl anime by a t-shirt that my dad bought when he was stationed in Korea. I can’t fit in that t-shirt anymore but I still have it in storage, looking at it from time to time because Wedding Peach is a really great anime series (and an even better manga series).

“Wedding Wars ~Ai no Honoo~” is a marvelous song due to many factors. The most important factor is the song is brimmed with emotions from wishful thinking to sadness and beyond. You can experience these emotions the best during the chorus when the singer uses shorter rhythmic patterns, a dual between the chorus, the lyrics, and the phrasing. Speaking of the lyrics, they are amazingly expressive as they actually portray Wedding Peach’s plot. You should check the song lyrics out if you never seen Wedding Peach,

The song climaxes beautifully before at the end with the “Negai wo Komete” part, just beautiful. The momentary pause of instrumentation is crucial to this part as we can listen carefully to the singer but also anticipated for what is to come. The wedding bells at the ending are a lovely touch to the song.

I think this ending part and the song in general makes it a better opening then FURIL’s “Yumemiru Tenshi Angel”. I love “Yumemiru Tenshi Angel”, I really do, but it’s too cute, too girlish, and lacks the emotions, that portray the series so well. If memory serves me correct, the manga of Wedding Peach is much more darker than the anime version which was trying to bank off the success of Sailor Moon and the saturated commercial market for girl toys. If Wedding Peach was remade as a modern anime, I feel like “Wedding Wars ~Ai no Honoo~” could represent it well due to the lyrics, musical structure, and emotions. I suggest to listen to the song if you haven’t.

It’s Alright by Deni Hines

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So, I been a pretty bad blogger so far in April, right? For an “international” music blog, every entry this month AND even last month was mostly related to something Japanese. I admit, one of my favorite genres is Japanese music because it’s so diverse (and so easy to get). But, let me make up to my non-Japanese music loving readers with this treat from the Down Under.

If you ever mention Deni Hines to any Aussie, they will most likely laugh. Most of my friends and coworkers did. They didn’t believe that Deni had a “one hit wonder” singing career outside her normal acting one. But, if you have no clue in what I am saying, just read on and hopefully things will make some sense by the end of this post.

Daughter of “American-turned-Australian” disco singer and stage actress Marcia Hines, Deni always dreamed that she could have a career like her mother’s successful musical career. After encouragement to pursue a career in music from her friend, Hines became a backup singer for popular Aussie artists’ tours like Kylie Minogue, Peter Blakeley, and others. A little while later, she was approached by the dance meets R&B band Rockmelons to be their leading vocalist for a couple of singles. She agreed and they released their first single together, a cover of Bill Wither’s song “Ain’t No Sunshine”, in 1991. She later parted ways with the band as went on to work with INXS on the song “Not Enough Time” .

But, what Deni was itching for was a solo career. She got her wish granted in late 1994 when she signed a deal with Mushroom Record. She released the R&B groove “It’s Alright” the summer after. According to Wikipedia, the sound from Deni’s solo career sharply differentiated from that from her collaborated singles with Rockmelons.[1] Nevertheless, the song was a slight dance hit, reaching #4 on the Australian ARIA Single Charts. However, the success was short-lived.

Deni released her debut album, “Imagination”, in mid-1995 with disappointing sales. Furthermore, the album was a bigger disappointment when it was released overseas, only selling less than 300 copies. Nevertheless, Deni and her record label didn’t give up, they just went with a different solution; have Deni move the UK and release the album under a different name. It work somewhat as the re-branded album, now called “Pay Attention”, reached #35 on the UK Album Charts and produced some top twenty singles on the UK and US dance charts. Inspired by the semi-success, Deni released a remix album, featuring new versions of songs from her debut album, in 1998. However, like “Imagination”, like it didn’t fare well.

To this day, Deni Hines is still pretty active in the musical world. She has travelled around the world, worked with various artists like will.i.am, and starred in various musicals, movies, and even in the show “Celebrity Apprentice Australia”.

Although many laugh at Deni’s ill-willed solo career, I thoroughly enjoy it, especially “Imagination”. To be honest, I never knew of Deni Hines until I found “Imagination” in the “junk bin”, or what others call the albums that are heavily discounted because no one cares about, at the local second-hand electronics shop. I popped the CD into my computer, burned the songs on iTunes, and started to listen to the album. It was a while after I started listening that I thought, “Hey, this isn’t a bad album anyway!” and “It’s so 90’s R&B but the great part of it”.

I think the best song of “Imagination” is Deni’s first single, “It’s Alright”. It’s so 90’s R&B with the sound, the vocals, and even the video itself! It’s not too bad although as I can listen to this song over and over. The song starts out with a mellow intro with Deni singing a couple of “la la la”s. Then, it goes full in as the song transitions into the chorus and then the first verse. It’s during the first verse that Deni’s beautiful vocals are showcased. I love how Deni’s uses her vibrato, usually using it on the low notes, that enunciates the passion that characterizes the song. Also love her sliding “Ohs” in the middle of choruses; so unique yet pretty. It also has a lot of power; going from a calm setting in the chorus to the release of tension and emotions at the chorus.

I only wished the song had a better promotional video in Australia. I don’t really like to watch Deni just move her body all over a corner in a random room. And sometimes, she is trapped by this freaky men who is doing those weird spider moves on her. Maybe it’s just me, but those men are freaky. I really do like the outdoor shots as they shows off Deni’s smiling, sweet personality and dance moves really well. Actually, these type of shots describe my attitude for this song; I just want to dance freely and blast this song whenever I am driving, especially during the lovely spring weather we had this weekend.

Besides that, The Aussie crew should have took notes from “It’s Alight”‘s UK promo video when they were promoting her works as it isn’t weird as the other one, At least she is doing something normal with other people in a normal place. And her guy doesn’t look like some freaky arachnid!

Despite what people or facts might say about her short-lived music career, “Imagination” has some great songs that are really worthy to listen to. I might be a huge sucker for 90’s R&B, the album has a great sound that features the Deni’s strong vocals throughout. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and try out “Imagination” one of these days!

AUS Promo Video:

UK Promo Video:


References:

[1] Deni Hines. (2004, September 7). Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deni_Hines

Don’t Wanna to Get Happiness with TRUE KISS DESTINATION?

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It’s been another day where I am sitting at Starbucks and writing as I wait for my internet to be installed at my new apartment. My new apartment? What? The reason why I haven;t been writing a lot on this blog recently is because I recently moved from countryside Yamanashi to big city Nagoya. Because of this, I lack internet at my place and it’s takes time to get be hooked here in Japan. Don’t worry, I be up and running, writing more, once I get my place online.

But, since I am on a writing spree, I would like to share a song I been listening all day today. The song is performed by the Japanese duo named TRUE KISS DESTINATION. This band was another in a series of groups, artists, and projects that was founded and produced by the music mastermind of the 90s dance scene, Tetsuya Komuro, TRUE KISS DESTINATION was formed in late 1998 when it was announced that Komuro was going to work with former dos member Asami on a dance music project. The duo released their first indies self-titled album on February 1999. Released on the group’s very own label, “TRUE KiSS DESTiNATiON” was hailed as a sensation at various dance clubs as it added an American hip-hop/R&B flavor by being recorded in the heart of New York City with various American artists like De La Soul and Lisa Wilson featuring on certain tracks.

TRUE KISS DESTINATION moved on with a major debut in the spring of 1999 by releasing the single “AFRiCA”, a cover of the classic TOTO song. The group had about average success as their singles and albums charted in the top 50 on the Oricon charts. When they planned to release their fifth single in late 1999, TRUE KISS DESTINATION decided to shorten their name to “Kiss Destination”.

Asami and Tetsuya Komuro kept on releasing music well into the new millennium, often on indies labels, while the pair became closer romantically. The two decided to get married in 2001 and had a kid together. However, the wedding bliss ended a year later when the couple decided to divorce. Thus, ending TRUE KISS DESTINATION.

“VICTIM” is a song that was featured on the duo’s debut indies album. The song features minimal background instruments like the typical drum kit found in any dance songs, the synthesized sounds, and boom bass. I think what makes up for the lack of instrumentation is the vocals, especially in the chorus. Asami doesn’t really have bad vocals as her singing and stamina is really strong during the verses. But, it is during the chorus where the song and even her vocals really shine when her vocals are combined with the hushed R&B background vocals.

What also stands out is the erratic rhythms throughout the song. The use of staccatos in the chorus intensifies it as makes the melodic arches more dramatic. The staccatos are also found throughout the song: the background vocals introducing the song, the musical interludes, and other places.

Despite it’s simplicity, “VICTIM” is a hidden treasure with the great use of the vocals, the R&B sound, and the fact that it’s produced by Tetsuya Komuro and Marc Panther, a match made in heaven.

The Club That Started It All

(Originally Written on April 5, 2015)

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April is the month of new starts, warmer weather (although it raining here), and loads of beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere. it also marks a lot of anniversaries. One of these anniversaries is the 30th birthday of the idol group that started it all. No, not the Mickey Mouse Club, although this club might have got inspired by the MMC by having a large group, its own variety shows, subgroups, and lots of music produced. The club that I am speaking of is Onyanko Club!

Onyanko Club started on April 1, 1985 with eleven teenage girls who successfully passed audition based on singing, looks, and personality on a TV special sponsored by All Night Fuji (You can see one of these “audition” procedures on Youtube ). The girls appeared weekly on their variety show, named “Yuuyake Nyan Nyan”, on Fuji TV. However, two weeks after the debut episode premiered, a scandal broke out that resulted in the dismissal of half the group’s members. First appearing in the tabloid magazine “Shunkan Bunshun”, the scandal became huge news as six members committing a horrible crime in the idol law books; drinking and smoking underage. The girls were immediately fired and the producers of the show hired four more girls to cover the vacancies (Although, one of the suspects, Aki Kihara, was able to come back a few days later).

Trying to bounce back from the scandals, the group released their first single, “Sailor Fuku wo Nugasanaide”, on July 1985. The song became a memorable hit for the group, with many fans forgetting the scandal and remembering more of the words to the song.

For those who don’t speak Japanese, you probably wondering what does “Sailor Fuku wo Nugasanaide” mean. Simply, it means “Don’t Take Off My School Uniform”, sounds a bit perverted right? These perverted song titles and lyrics were written by Yasushi Akimoto. You probably have heard of him or his currently international sensation, AKB48 and the 48 family. Yep, he famous for his weird, sexual lyrics, as Western fans like to put it, even in AKB48 with songs like “Dear my teacher” and “Skirt, Hirari”. Although now, AKB48 doesn’t sing a lot sexual-based lyrics anymore as their latest hit, “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”, offers a kids-friendly, positive vibe about believing in yourself. Like AKB48, Akimoto had the same plans for Onyanko Club as the earlier singles (“Otto Chikan” and “Oyoshi ni Natte TEACHER”) had some of those bizarre scenarios while the later ones were pretty subtle.

Why does Akimoto write these awkward, perverted lyrics in his songs? That was the question that CNN International also had for when they interviewed him a couple of years ago, which you can watch it here (with English subtitles too!). His answer was that is expressing what all school girls fantasize and feel; foolish romance, thinking about their teachers, sex, boys, sex, their futures, their friendships, and, oh, did I mention about sex? Is that what Japanese schoolgirls think about all the time because I don’t remember thinking about some of those things mentioned a lot. Of course, I was thinking a lot of friendships, boys (Backstreet Boys <3), school, and my future. But, not about romancing with my teacher (ew) or sex… I wonder sometimes how exactly does Akimoto get his inspiration.

But back to the subject, Onyanko Club grew more and more as their popularity sky-rocketed. Before long, the group had around 40 members before the its disbanded in 1987. Also, members began to debut as solo artists and in various subgroups to promote the more popular members. The first member to make her solo debut was Sonoko Kawai with the single “Namida no Jasmine LOVE” in September 1985. The single broke the record for the youngest artist ever to have their single reached #1 on the weekly Oricon chart (it would be later been broken by another girl idol group member, Maki Goto, 16 years later).

What makes Onyanko Club so special? Well, it was one of the first major girl idol groups that had more than ten members. Most of the girl groups before Onyanko Club had less than five members with the most popular ones being duos (see Pink Lady and The Peanuts). With an array of different personalities, fans could relate to and/or pick their favorite(s) from the forty or so members. Want to be sexy? Then Shizuka Kudo is your girl. Love cute things? Yukiko Iwai is cute too!

The great thing about the massive membership is that the group didn’t really focus on one or more girls for a long time. Sure, there was leads on the singles but they changed frequently as the lineups changed with members graduating and new people added in. And, at least girl got some sort of exposure, whether it was in singing, variety, acting, public relations, or just standing out on some street corner in Tokyo. People got to know each girl personally in a different way.

Onyanko Club would also served as a model for future girl groups in the future. Hate to say, Tsunku “stole” some pages from Akimoto’s idol group cookbook to make Morning Musume. If you search “Onyanko Club vs. Morning Musume” on Google, there is a lot of fanpages that compare the two with eerily similarities; lineup changes, member graduating, auditions (well, Morning Musume does not do a bikini audition like Onyanko Club did, bummer..), subgroup, and even a roll call song. But, Akimoto would use the blueprints of Onyanko Club to form the 90’s failures, I mean Chiecco, and the super successful group of the new millennium, AKB48. Other producers or companies would be influenced by Akimoto and model their idol groups like Onyanko.

Are these even remotely the same?

Whether or not you think Akimoto is a genius, one thing is true is how much of a mark he left with the idol music industry when he created Onyanko Club. Even though it’s been twenty-eight years since Onyanko Club disbanded, the group is still alive today with former members still prominent in the entertainment industry, the memorable songs that are sung from time to time all over Japan, and how Akimoto created blueprints on how to run a successful but huge idol group. What are your memories or impressions of Onyanko Club?

Bonus Round: What is your favorite ……?

… Onyanko Club song?

This is hard because there are so many good Onyanko Club songs! i think my number favorite is “Alelele”, the b-side to the single “Jaa Ne”. It’s a fast pace and sort-of funky song that features of different vocalizations and a weird key and/or notes. I think the best part is how the guitar used as it races up the scale quickly like a race car. The girls also sound really good in the song with each girl fitting perfectly in their group sections.

Some other great songs are “Watte Shimashita Tamago”. “Natsu no Christmas”, “NO MORE Renai Gokko”, “Koi wa Question”, “Otomegokoro Juugata”, “Taiikukan wa Danceteria”, “Akarui Houkago no Sugoshikata” (with a kickbuut Sanae Jounouchi solo), “STAND UP”, “Ame no Merry Go Round”, “LINDA”, and “Seaside Session”.

… favorite Onyanko Club member?

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My favorite Onyanko member will always be Akiko Ikiuna. Besides being really cute, she had some great songs like “Japanese Girl”, “Mugiwara de Dance”, “Chase Chase Chase”, and “O.ME.DA.TO.U”. And, she didn’t have a bad voice either. Wished that her solo career was longer because she had some great albums and singles during her solo career.

… favorite subgroup?

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That would be Ushirogami Hikaretai! It had Shizuka Kudo, my favorite member Akiko Ikuina, and caterpillar eyebrows girl Makiko (I like her though). I feel like they were the “it” girls of the late 80s as they were cool, good-looking, talented, and powerful. They also had a lot of great songs from their singles and albums. Below is their most famous single, “Anata wo Shiritai”, but you check out their whole entire discography because it was A.MA.Z.ING!!! Like “Toki no Kawa wo Koete” amazing!

How about you? What is your favorite Onyanko Club song, member, and/or subgroup?

(P.S: I am really disappointed that I couldn’t see Sanae Jounouchi this weekend in Kofu, Yamamanashi Prefecture. 😦 I have yet to meet a former Onyanko Club member and that was my chance. Someday, I will!)