Nippon Girls: Japanese Synth-pop, Bubble-gum, and Ballads Mix (1971-1985)

Disco, new wave, punk, power ballads. Japan continued to mimic the musical moods of the West into the ’70s and ’80s, albeit with a larger helping of sugar. Japanese chart pop came heavily candy-coated, melodies almost extreme in their sweetness, back by ultra-corny synth sounds and super-slick productions that require treble adjustment. It’s a genre that has yet to garner interest outside of Japan, and has little of the cool lavished upon J-pop from the ’60s. I can’t think of many Western records that sound as un-hip as say “Sentimental Journey,” and I sometimes find myself dashing for the volume control, worried about my neighbors over-hearing such peculiar selections. But if you’re a sucker for magic melodies and quality pop songwriting, no matter if delivered via a wall of sound or Casio keyboard, I think you’ll be surprised by just how damn catchy synth-driven J-pop can be.

Tsutsumi Kyohei, master songwriter and producer, is behind a good majority of the best pop written in Japan from the ’60s through the early ’90s. I’ve starred all the songs with Tsutsumi Kyohei’s involvement. And have also noted songwriter Eiichi Ohtaki, another songwriting prodigy who had an obsession with Phil Spector and is responsible for Hiroko Yakushimaru’s under-stated beauty, “Tantei Monogatari” (the final note of the chorus floors me every time). Anyone interested in the Spector sound will find a ton of fabulous reproductions from the late ’70s / early ’80s, when Spector’s influence was at its peak. The Japanese market was flooded with the ubiquitous “chk-chk–chk-boom” and lush orchestral arrangements, which you’ll hear on Celia Paul’s “Yume De Aetara” and Seiko Matsuda’s “Issen Ichi Byou Monogatari” (although with a much tinnier sound). My favorite of the bunch is the rhythmically odd, slightly un-conventional yet very pop Tsutsumi Kyohei-penned “Kohaku Telephone” by Kyoko Endou. It’s not immediate, but when it hits you’ll be convinced of Tsutsumi Kyohei’s extraordinary talent. 

TRACKLIST

1. Sheena & the Rokkets: You May Dream (1979)
2. Hiroko Yakushimaru: Tantei Monogatari (1983) / written by Eiichi Ohtaki
3. Yuya: Muna Sawagi* (1974)
4. Iyo Matsumoto: Sentimental Journey* (1981)

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5. Celia Paul: Yume De Aetara (1977)
6. Akina Nakamori: Shojou A (1982)
7. Seiko Matsuda: Issen Ichi Byou Monogatari (1981) / written by Eiichi Ohtaki
8. Candies: Haru Ichiban (1976)

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9. Rebecca: Friends (1985)
10. Momoe Yamaguchi: Hito Natsu No Keiken (1974)
11. Pink Lady: UFO (1977)
12. Kyoko Endou: Kohaku Telephone* (1981)

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13. Ann Lewis: Roppongi Shinchuu (1984)
14. Rin Rin Ran Ran: Koi No Indian Ningyou* (1974)
15. Mari Iijima: Yume Iro No Spoon* (1983)
16. Miki Hirayama: Manatsu No Dekigoto* (1971)

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17. Megumi Osaoka: Watashi No Kare Wa Hidari Kiki* (1973)
18. Hiroko Yakushimaru: Anata Wo Motto Shiritakute* (1985)
19. Hiromi Iwasaki: Romance* (1975)
20. Momoe Yamaguchi: Playback Part 2 (1978)

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21. Ann Lewis: Shounan No Otoko Tachi (1978)
22. Seiko Matsuda: Aoi Sangoshou (1980)
23. Hiromi Iwasaki: Fantasy* (1976) 
24. Yuki Saitou: Sotsugyou* (1985)

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