#Throwback Thursday: Misato Watanabe Grasps on the Last Memories of a Past Love With “Moonlight Dance”

I wanted to write a weekly Throwback Thursday last week. But, April has been such a busy month for me as it is the start of the new school year. I will try to write two Throwbacks this week to compensate.

Misato Watanabe is a female vocalist hailing from Kyoto Prefecture. She made her debut in 1984 after winning the Best Vocalist Award at the 3rd Annual Miss Seventeen Contest. Watanabe didn’t make her appearance in the music industry at first. Instead, she began as a model for the magazine Seventeen. The Kyoto native went on to become a singer by releasing her debut single, entitled “I’m free”, a year later. It was with her fourth single, “My Revolution”, when she capitulated into stardom. Tetsuya Komuro composed the song, who has been a pivotal hitmaker for big-name artists like Namie Amuro, globe, TM Network, and others. Watanabe went on to enjoy releasing numerous hit singles and albums after her ground-breaking single.

Released in the late spring period of 1989, “Moonlight Dance” is the 13th single by Watanabe. It was also featured on the album Flower bed. This was the album that first introduced me to “Moonlight Dance”. But, it’s not the first time I have listened to her music. You see, I have been listening to Watanabe’s songs for about eleven years. The first album that I heard was ribbon. I downloaded it at first as I was curious about Misato Watanabe. I would, later on, buy a physical copy of the album along with other works as I wanted to listen to more by this vigorous vocalist.

However, the way how I collect and listen music has changed recently. A year ago, I subscribed to a plan of unlimited streaming on Spotify. There is a significant collection of music from all different genres, artists, label status (Indies or Major), and countries within Spotify’s library. I also enjoy the “My Daily Mix” playlists that mix songs I like with similar-sounding ones that I haven’t heard before. And, from one of those playlists is how I met “Moonlight Dance”.

The song is a dark, minor tune that details one woman sadly reminiscing the memories of a past love. She wonders where those good old days that were filled with the warm summer light, the fun activities, and the times where the two lovers spent together. This pain of reminiscence is carried evenly with each instrument part, with the guitar part being the most prominent representation. A prime example is where the guitarist, Nobuyuki Shimizu, plays a high-pitched distorted sub-melody during the pre-chorus (1:21). This screeching distortion would be critical in later Tetsuya Komuro tunes, especially nine years later with globe’s “wanna be a dreammaker”. The reason why this sound is prominent in these two songs is the fact that it may be the “being heartbroken” sound as the distorted guitar’s tone carries similar feelings; regret, sadness, anger, and brokenness.

Besides the guitar part, everything else is subdued, excluding Misato’s rich vocals. Even Tetsuya Komuro’s important synthesized notes aren’t heard much throughout the song, just little flutters of notes here and there. The primary focus is on the vocals and guitar. Though, the mood of “Moonlight Dance” reminds me of T.M Network’s “SEVEN DAYS WARS”, “Self Control”, and “Fighting (Kimi wa Fighting)”, except that “Moonlight Dance” is placed in a moodier minor key.

“Moonlight Dance” wasn’t a number one hit for Misato Watanabe. Nevertheless, it’s a decent song with Misato’s powerful vocals. It has grown into being one my favorites by the Kyoto native as I love minor pieces like this one as they convey raw, sorrowful, and powerful emotions. Also, the “old fashion love song for you” part is my favorite part of the song. I love it as it appears out of the blue.

Check out a live performance taped in 1989 below and tell me what you think.

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[Reporting Live] Sato Mieko at Nagoya Parco (January 7, 2017)

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Happy Sunday everyone! I just want to let you guys know that I saw Sato Meiko at a mini-live last week. I wrote a semi-detailed report on it on the Japanese pop site Arama! Japan.

Here is an except:

These are the wishes made by Sato Mieko, a singer-songwriter who recently promoted her newly released Triple A-side “Mou Chotto / Kimi wa Mahoutsukai / Kaze ni Natta Anata e” at a free mini-live in front of Nagoya’s Parco on January 7th.

Sato is no stranger to the Nagoya music scene. She originally started her music career as a singer-songwriter under the pen name “Fuuka Koyoi”, releasing only one single in 2007. She then went on to join the mega-idol group SKE48 in 2008 as a member of Team S. There, she regularly performed with her fellow members on the local SKE48 stage or on stages in front of thousands around the country.

She left SKE48 in 2015 to continue her dream of being a singer-songwriter. The musician went on to release a single in 2015 named “YOUR COLOR” and an album named “Yakusoku” in 2016 under an indies label. She recently released another single, her first triple-A single, on December 21, 2016. However, because of the holiday season, she couldn’t promote until January 7 when she appeared at Parco in Nagoya’s Sakae shopping district.

You can read more at: http://aramajapan.com/news/saito-mieko-promotes-her-triple-a-side-single-with-abundant-zeal/69145/

😀

 

 

A Critical Point in Miho Nakayama’s Music Career

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I am slowly processing all the CDs I got from an auction lot about two months ago. There are a lot of good and surprising finds, including an album from one of my favorite Japanese female singers Miho Nakayama!! 😀

For those who aren’t familiar with  Ms. Nakayama, let me fill you in. Nakayama didn’t initially start her entertainment career in music. In fact, she was a model for magazines and print ads during her junior high school years. It wasn’t until she switched agencies in 1984 or 1985 that she became an idol singer.

She released her first single, entitled “C”, during the summer of 1985. The single did really well, reaching #12 on the weekly Oricon charts and sold over 170,000 copies. Nakayama nabbed the Rookie of the Year Award at the Japan Record Awards due to the successful start. However, her first #1 didn’t come until two years later with the release of the upbeat dance tune “CATCH ME” (which I looooooooooooove because Toshiki Kadomatsu, whom I adore a lot, wrote it).

Nakayama continued her music career throughout the late 80s and 90s. She worked with significant musicians in the industry like Mariya Takeuchi, Tetsuya Komuro, Toshiki Kadomatsu, and ANRI. She also went overseas to record material in places like Los Angeles and France.

Nakayama took a break from singing at the turn of the new century. She then went on to marry Tsuji Hitonari in 2002 (whom she would later divorce twelve years later) and put her entertainment career on hold to move to Paris with her husband. As of August 2016, she is still living in Paris and helping her ex-husband to raise her only son.

Miho Nakayama has always found new ways to reinvent her music career. Starting off with the innocent idol kayokyoku of the 80s, Nakayama bounced in and out of various musical genres like dance, latin, electronica, blues, and AOR. She constantly modified her sound every two years as the market and her fan’s tastes were continually shifting. Wondering what her fans wanted next, she decided in 1992 to go to Los Angeles and recorded the album Wagamama na Actress.

“Gakeppuchi” (崖っぷち; critical point) is a bold number that opens the album. The song attracts listeners with its boisterous and upbeat feeling. It opens with a bluesy organ solo followed by a dynamic horns section. The piece includes a wicked 90s’ style guitar solo during the break. This style reminds me of Amy Grant’s 1991 album Heart in Motion, something like “Every Heartbeat” and “Hats”. It also sounds like Peter Cetera’s 1988 album One More Story. Maybe I am just crazy. Do you hear the similarities too?

The only issue I have with this tune is that the instrumentation is a bit overpowering. Miho Nakayama has always been a good singer. However, she always had a soft voice that fits perfectly with her songs “Mermaid”, “Rose Color”, “Tada Nakitaku Naru no”, and “You’re My Only Shinin’ Star”. Those songs are pretty quiet with the instruments kept to a minimal.

I also noticed that Miho Nakayama struggles vocally with bluesy music quite often. SThe singer struggles a bit on “Gakeppuchi”. She also has problems on the poorly arranged “Sea Paradise -OL no Hanran-“. Albeit, it isn’t my favorite Miho Nakayama tune as the arrangement is so messy. It does point out that Nakayama has a weakness at very fast and loud songs. Maybe the producers should have scaled back a bit on both songs.

Overall, “Gakeppuchi” isn’t a terrible song if you ignore its flaws. I love it because the song has an upbeat tempo with an awesome 90s vibe to it.  I also loooooooove early 90’s AOR songs like this one.

If you are a fan of early 90’s Chicago, Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion era, or and Peter Cetera’s One More Story era, then this song is for you!

You can listen to the song here on Ket nool.

 

 

 

It’s My Birthday!!

o/~ It’s My Birthday and I’ll cry if I want to,

I’ll cry if I want to,

You would cry too if it happened to you. o/~

Well, that’s not exactly how Lesley Gore’s heartbreak hit “It’s My Party” goes.  Maybe it’s not appropriate to relate my happy and incident-free birthday with this song as they are polar opposites. However, I keep on listening to “It’s My Party” every Birthday since after college. Maybe it’s my anthem of my self-pity party of growing old. Or, that I enjoy the major tonality and the nature of the chorus. I would cry at any party, even if it’s happy or not, right?

Maybe I need to change my birthday theme to this:

o/~ Say hello to all the laughter

Say hello to here and after

‘Cause it’s a new day o/~

Boogie Woogie Into Saturday Night with Morning Musume

Woo Hoo!

If you didn’t see, I completely changed the layout of my blog! It was becoming ancient as the background, icons, and the design haven’t been updated for more than eight years.

Check out the new layout and tell me what you think. Is the background too much? Can you read the side menu’s text just fine?

One of my all-time favorite Japanese pop girl group just released their 61st single! Yes, you read it right, 61st! Although, I did talk about their 60th about six months ago. Nevertheless. Morning Musume always impresses their fans with the ability to successfully reinvent themselves for the past 18 years.

Now, the 61st is a Triple A single, with the songs being ‘Tokyo to Iu Katsumi”, “The Vision”, and “Utakata Saturday Night”. I won’t be talking about all three songs as that could be a huge essay that could bore you and that I wasn’t really digging two of the songs from the single.

The only song from this single that really caught my attention was “Utakata Saturday Night”. Maybe it makes me want to break out singing”Macho Macho Man” or some other well-known 70s’ disco hit.  However, these disco pop tunes are one of the charm points of  Morning Musume. These songs compliment the girl group really well, like “LOVE Machine” (1999) and “The Matenrou Show” (2012). Perhaps, it was due to the fact that the mad (and disco-loving) musicians like Tsunku, DANCEMAN, Maisa Tsuno, and others involved with Morning Musume’s disco tunes knew fully well how to successfully reinvent disco for younger audiences. Or they were mad-crazy by messing around with instruments, riffs, and samples to produced well-loved hits?

Who knows?

But, I feel like “Utakata Saturday Night” is a purer disco tunes then “LOVE Machine” or “The Matenrou Show”. Something more akin to The Commodores’ “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” (1981), Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” (1977), and Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (1979). These songs most definitely had a bass, a guitar, and some sort of a synthesizer. But, they also featured a lot of traditional instruments like trumpets, violins, horns, and others. These songs from the 70s became well-liked due party to the use of these instruments.

“Utakata Saturday Night” had that “wow” factor like those 70s’ hits as it features a prominent funky bass line and a stringed orchestra. That’s right! I was shocked when I read the linear notes to see that there were real strings used in the song, not some synthesizer. The song also features groovy backgrounds vocals akin to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland”. And you cannot forget the “Utakata” grunts, which were original and far out in their own way, throughout the song.

Some fans were pretty sad that Kanon Suzuki didn’t receive a solo song like previous members did (except Riho Sayashi) on their graduation single. But, “Utakata Saturday Night” fully reflects Kanon’s personality perfectly as it’s fun, funky, upbeat, and eccentric. I don’t know any song that really encapsulates Kanon then this song.

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Reporting Live: Sakura Cinderella near Nagoya Station (August 8,2015)

 

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Aaaaaaaaaaaah, I am so behind on the Reporting Live segment! I keep on going to countless events but become lazy and not report on them! I am so sorry, I will try really hard to catch up before the end of March.

Sakura Cinderella is another “local idol” group here in Nagoya. Unlike Idol Kyoshitsu who performs in another company’s sushi restaurant,  these girls perform in their own cafe near Nagoya Station. Formed in 2014, this AKB48 copycat group performs in their cafe everyday and does street lives all over the city. Named after one of the main streets “Sakura Street”, Sakura Cinderella’s catchphrase is “Tidy and pretty true idols.”[1]

The group released their self-titled debut single a year later in May 2015. They will release their second one coming up this April.

I actually stumbled upon this event when I was out shopping with a friend around the central part of the city. We noticed that there was stage being set up and a handful of people were starting to gather around the area. I turned to my friend with eagerness in my eyes. I wanted to see this live because a) I didn’t know these girls and b) it was free! My friend rolled her eyes slightly and sighed as she didn’t want to join in. She went off and did more shopping as I stayed around for the live to start.

As it approached one o’clock, there were more and more people gathering around the stage. The main members of Sakura Cinderella (there were no “trainees” attending this event) came out and tested all the equipment and practiced a little. As they were practicing, I found a spot in the center-back. I had an ok view but there were a lot of tall people surrounding the stage.

The live promptly started at one. It was pretty long compared to other free mini-lives I been to. During the live, they sang about four to five songs, had a couple of MCs, and even did a photo session time (the only time where you can take a photo without the staff kicking you out from the event). I don’t remember what was the setlist or which members were on stage. And there isn’t information on the web about this event. However, it was pretty good live and the girls were really cute. They aren’t the best of singers but it was a lot better than Idol Kyoushitsu. No one was off tune, they blended together nicely, and they had a cute, good tone.

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After the live, they announced that they were holding a free handshake event. A no-strings attached event. You didn’t have to buy a CD or a DVD. You didn’t have to give money to anyone. Just stand in line and wait you turn.  :O

While waiting in line, I met a really kind elderly fan who chatted with me. Before we parted ways, he gave me his cheer light. At first, I tried to refuse it because it was a good-quality one with the group’s name written across on the upper section. But, he shrugged off my attempt to return it to him with a smile as he told me it was gift for coming and seeing the idol group. 🙂 ;_;

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It didn’t take a long time to wait. As I approached each girl, I just said the normal “Hey, I enjoyed your live” and “It was my first live”. And in turn, they asked where I am from, how did I enjoy the concert, and such. I talked with each member for fifty to sixty seconds, I can’t remember. But, it was longer than most other idol group’s handshake events.

Sakura Cinderella is a cute group that have a really good tone and ear-pleasing voices. Sure, they and their music are AKB48 knockoffs. However, this is a pleasant group that I recommend seeing if you ever come to Nagoya.

Check out a live that did in September 2015:

(Also, you can check out their channel for more videos)

The Music That Made 2015

When thinking of what to write about 2015, I kept on hitting a roadblock.

What was so special about 2015 in terms of music? 

At least in Japan, many of 2015 hits were recycled tunes that were heard before. EXILE and Sandaime Brothers, AKB48’s “Halloween Night”, King of Cream Soda creating different versions of that hit Yokai Watch song, and countless idol groups debuting as they copied already popular artists’ sounds for a chance of fame. It seemed like these artists want to hold on to that fame by regurgitating that popular tune than exploring new avenues.

Even in Korea, the same type of music is continued to be released. Although, it was a bit invigorating to hear that some artists released material with a different flavor of pop. For example, WONDER GIRLS with their throwback to 80s’ synthpop and BoA experimenting with current electropop.

“REBOOT” is my favorite Kpop album of 2015 while Girls’ Generation’s “Party” is my favorite song. You are probably thinking why do I like this generic summer pop song? It may be generic but it’s so fun, screams “girl power”, and makes me want to party straight away. The video is super cute and fun, making me wish I was escaping to a tropical beach.

America is a bit different though. Taylor Swift, Adele, and Sam Smith all dominant the music charts and award programs on their own accords. Although I don’t like “1989” that much (because I think she is selling herself to commercialism and straying from her “true” self), Taylor Swift turned heads when she released an album that was groundbreaking and refreshing.

But, the biggest accomplishment of 2015, in terms of Western music, is Adele’s “Hello”. Now, I don’t really know what is the big deal about this song as it is not really popular in Japan. However, after listening to the song for the first time tonight, I can see how it has touched many. Adele crafted the song very well to attune to everyone’s feelings with it’s melody, lyrics, and pace.

Even though 20 wasn’t popular in Japan, the concept of “self-producing artists” was. One of these artists was Gen Hoshino, who has been slowly but surely noticed by mainstream listeners. His music reminds me a lot of John Legend and Macy Gray. With his whispy, soulful voice, upbeat pop instrumentation, and charisma charm, who can’t resist him and his songs like “SUN”?

Hopefully he can dip a little more into neo-soul and funk in 2016?

Another trend that crept up in popularity here in Japan is the “band boom”? Bands like Gesu no Kiyomi Otome, KANA-BOON, Sekai no Owari, ONE OK ROCK, and others have abandoned the traditional Japanese rock sound in favored of a diverse one that is constructed by range of instrumentations, technology, techniques, and genres. Gesu no Kiwami Otome.’s latest song “Otonatic” is an example of this.

…and Sekai no Owari’s “Anti Hero”.

It kind of reminds me of the New Wave boom in the 80s but tamer. In the 80s, new wave music was a buzz as that genre too used less guitars and more electronic devices. A great example of this was The Police, who started off in the late 70s with punk rock and ended on a jazzed up, spiritual “new wave” sound.

The same goes with the current “band boom” in Japan. Although, what makes the “band boom” different is how they present themselves and their music; clean, well-kept, crisp, and simple. Ryotaro Aoki pointed out in a recent article on The Japan Times is that the bands today are getting rid of those blazing guitars that made songs in 90s and 2000s chaotic and using more instruments to present a clean yet simple song. These songs also have lyrics that contain more personal messages in order to garner attention from the younger generations.[1]

As we head into 2016, it is unsure if the band boom in Japan will continue to rise or even fall in popularity.  And, if it will influence other acts including idols (please, let Sayaka Yamamoto write at least one NMB48 song) and EDM acts.

Time will only tell.


 

References

[1] Aoki, Ryotaro. “Gesu Tapped into the 2015 ‘band Boom’ | The Japan Times.” Japan Times RSS. 6 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016 (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/12/06/music/gesu-tapped-2015-band-boom/#.VpOO2xV97cf)

[2] “Gesu No Kiwami Otome. and the Band Boom of 2015 | Japanese Entertainment News.” ARAMA JAPAN Gesu No Kiwami Otome and the Band Boom of 2015 Comments. 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9V5aByfeCM)