Revisiting an Oldie From a New Generation

Many have categorized oldies as songs that have a certain flair to them and have something memorable. Spice Girl’s “Wannabe”, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”, and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” are a few songs that qualify as oldies.

Japan has a plenitude of oldies too. Each decade presents a distinct set of tunes and genres that capture the attention of many. But sometimes, an oldie might be considered “too old” by the newer generations as the musical arrangement or even the vocals are outdated. That leaves one question: How can people today enjoy a very popular oldie from an older decade like the 1970s? The answer is simple, just reinvent it with today’s sounds and fresh faces.

That isImage and video hosting by TinyPic what exactly Pink Babies is all about. Called the sister group of the legendary idol duo Pink Lady from the 1970s, Pink Babies cover a lot of lovable tunes from the duo and the 70s. Pink Babies formed in 2013 with several girls. The lineup has changed over the years, as one of the members pointed out to me on Sunday during the handshake event, as the current roster has ten girls. These girls cover popular tunes as well as unknown stuff from albums and b-sides.

Pink Babies released their first cover single, “Nagisa no Sinbad”, in the summer of 2015, first at Jan Expo and then at Tokyo Idol Festival. I actually picked up a copy that was signed by Aina at TIF. The group continues to release singles at least once a year while performing at small festivals and venues within Tokyo.

The group went around to various cities in Japan to perform and hold events at various malls to celebrate the release of their second single. One of the spots they visited was the Parco Shopping Mall in the heart of Nagoya’s shopping district. The event had three parts: a mini-live, handshakes, and then photo ops. In order to participate in the later two events, you had to buy their new single beforehand or on the day.

As it was mall event, the stage area was pretty small. The crowd was pretty small too as around 30 people showed up for the mini-live. A small percentage of the crowd were people who were passing by. These lives are a bit up-close and personal as the distance between the stage and the crowd are a few meters. Heck, I had a great view from my spot despite the speakers being in the way as I was a couple of meters away.

The mini-live started on time with the girls performing these songs:Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  1. SOS
  2. MC
  3. Dou ni mo Tomaranai (Rio O., Chinatsu, Aina, Sara)
  4. Kuruwasetai no (Mayu, Rio S., Kotono, Saho, Yui)
  5. Hoshi Kara Kita Futari (Mayu, Aina, Yui, Sara, Chinatsu)
  6. Catch Lip (Kotono, Saho, Rio O., Rio S., Yukari)
  7. MC
  8. Southpaw
  9. MC
  10. UFO

Pink Babies are pretty good in terms of being an idol group. They have mediocre vocals but have an array of girls that have their own appeal. However, my only concern about the group is “how” they perform each song. Even though Pink Lady had unforgettable performances, the group did have outfits and dance movements that were considered maybe too risque. They frequently showcased their legs (and body) as they wore tight spandex outfits with very short skirts or no bottoms. Pink Lady also had dance movements that center around their legs.

I don’t know iImage and video hosting by TinyPicf it was a positive or a negative for the duo as they were 18 years old when Mie and Kei started to perform. However, I wasn’t really satisfied when I first saw Pink Babies performing such songs at the Tokyo Idol Festival two years ago. I felt like the stuff they were performing was a bit too much or risqué for these girls. The group was then composed of girls between 12-16 years old, singing and dancing almost like their big sisters some forty years ago. I just felt weirded out seeing such young girls publically performing dances that were more suitable for late high school to college girls. But, that is the nature of the Japanese idol industry and the argument about “what dances, outfits, and songs are too much for idols” could be saved for another day. I am just relieved after seeing the mini-live on Sunday that the group has mellowed out and matured a bit where singing and performing Pink Lady songs wouldn’t be bothersome.

The handshake was after the mini-live. You could shake hands and have a 30-second conversation with each member if you bought a CD. I felt like I had more time with each girl compared to past events with other idol groups as I could talk about many things with the members. When the handshake event finished, then it was time for a photo-op. Depending on how many CDs you bought, you could get a picture with a member. Or, you would play a game where someone would pull out a slip of paper that contained one of various photo-op Image and video hosting by TinyPicoptions. The options were: a two-short or three-shot miniature Polaroid, a 30-second minute video with your favorite member, a group shot with all the members, and etc. I took my chances and picked from the box. I got a chance to take a miniature Polaroid with two of the members. So, I picked Nagoya native Rio O (or Ohrio) and Chinatsu (because she told me her favorite princess is Belle, just like mine).

Like I said before, Pink Babies isn’t a bad group.  They are worth checking out if you like to listen to covers of oldies, if you a fan of Pink Lady or old Jpop tunes, and/or like idol groups. I love them and have learned much more about Pink Lady’s songs, especially my new favorite song “Catch Lip”, from this cute group.

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Free Up Your Night with Towa Tei

Towa_Tei_SRATM_2002

Towa Tei is no stranger to the world’s music industry. He first experimented with dance music when he was a teenager by creating mix tapes and sending them to various radio shows in Japan. After high school, he moved to the United States with the intent to study graphic design. It is unknown if he finished his studies as he joined the dance band Deee-Lite around 1988. Towa Tei became an overnight sensation in the summer of 1990 when Deee-Lite released their smash hit single “Groove Is in the Heart”. However, he left the group in 1994, citing “health reasons”, as he returned to Japan to focus on his solo career and work with various Japanese artists, including his idol Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Towa Tei is still pretty active as he celebrated his solo career’s 20th anniversary last year. He releases albums and singles pretty much every year with 2013’s “:LUCKY” album being one of my most recent favorites of his.

Even though Towa Tei is internationally well-known, his version of “FREE” isn’t. The song was featured on the 2002 re-issue of Towa’s third album “Sweet Robots Against the Machine”. It is a cover same-titled song by American R&B singer Deniece Williams who released it back in the 1970s. While Deniece Williams’s version is at a slow, soulful pace, Towai Tei’s take is a bit different. Towa transforms the R&B hit into a bouncy, uptempo song that is perfect for any dance clubs. Another change is the type of instruments that are used, creating the tempo but also a happy, feel good mood. Finally, the vocals in “FREE” are the typical club/dance-type song vocals; very smooth, using a lot of vibrato, and a good use of a large vocal range as the singer loves to slide a lot throughout the song. A surprise punch of flavor comes in the middle and at the end of the song with a rap. It’s a bit unexpected, as the original didn’t feature one, but at the same time, it’s refreshing and well-suited as it blends into the song perfectly.

Towa Tei’s “FREE” is a tasteful update with bouncy beats, a colorful and upbeat choice of instruments, and sweet, sassy vocals. “FREE”  will make you want to get up and dance your worries away with the “happy-go-lucky” girls featured in the video. I did when I first saw this on avex’s music video streaming site back in 2002. I fell in love with it back then and I still love it now. ❤