We were feeling adventurous, so, we figured, why not get a foreign act for The Five Songs I Can’t Live Without? We thoroughly enjoyed Swiss-Japanese duo Tim & Puma Mimi’s new album, Der Die Das, which dropped last Friday (and which we wrote about exactly a week ago), so when the opportunity came to get them involved in this thing, we said yes. On this installment they talk about the five Japanese songs (see, there’s a theme, even) they can’t live without – and which has clearly informed their music.
Last week we got started on our exploration of Japanese pop music with the usual introductions – those supposedly boring bits called “background” and “context”. But then, J-pop is a pretty big beast to take on: the genres are clearer, but the history goes deep, and the barriers (as we explained last week) seem higher than in other cases, for some reason. This week, we get deep in the nitty gritty: we’ll be highlighting artists from here on out. We’ll be focusing on different genres for the five installments after this one, but now, we begin with the essentials.
“The Audrey Hepburn Complex” by Pizzicato Five | The wonders of link-jumping: after yesterday’s blog entry I ended up watching Pizzicato Five videos, and stumbled on to this one. This is really old Pizzicato Five – so old, this was back when they called themselves “Pizzicato V”. This was early in the band’s run. 1985, in fact, back when the band still had five members (although by the time this song came out, Shigeo Miyata had left – he left so early but the rest continued referring to themselves as a “five”). This is the band’s first ever single, a little quirky ditty about the weird feelings a girl gets before her marriage. And yes, the film accompanying it is weird, like their later stuff. (And very, very, very retro.) A year later, the band signed up with a major record label, but the resulting album, Couples, would be such a flop that they were pressured to find a new vocalist. Mamiko Sasaki would quit; the band continued releasing flops under second vocalist Takao Tajima; and only when Maki Nomiya became group’s third vocalist – coupled with the advent of sampling – did Pizzicato Five become a big thing, and become one of the pioneers of the Shibuya-kei scene., contributing this song to Philippine pop history. But this song already has those hallmarks, if you think of it. [NB]
“Sweet Soul Revue” by Pizzicato Five | You know Hari’s “Gwiyomi Song”, right? You know, that song everybody’s sort of dancing to and making YouTube videos of, that song I kinda like but never thought much of, that song that’s annoying our resident K-pop expert Rainy since it’s her mom’s ringtone, like, well, everybody? Anyway, its relative ubiquity made me think of the Filipino’s thing for cute not-quite-novelty songs on the radio. And by cute, I mean adorably boppy, and some times, a cause for earworms. Back in the 1990s this song – “Sweet Soul Revue” from the Shibuya-kei group Pizzicato Five – was huge. Heard this on the radio when I was seven, I think, and never gave a damn if it was in Japanese; I’d rediscover this six years ago when I finally asked my friend what it’s called and who it’s from. There’s something adorable about the innocent 60s sound that borders on rinky-dinky (and I don’t mean that as an insult). And then there was more. “Dayang Dayang” – the origins of which confuse me; is it from Mindanao or from our neighbors in Indonesia – got a bit of airplay in the 1990s too. Now that is an earworm, in a time when mobile phones only had monophonic ringtones. And then there’s this song I heard on RX decades ago featuring two babies singing. If I remember correctly, it’s the children of composer Jimmy Antiporda, which he recorded and released and got a minor hit out of. But I don’t trust my memory that well, so I could be wrong. All I’m saying is, “Gwiyomi Song” and its plonky cute sound? Not a surprise we like it.