Nakamori Akina

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Nakamori Akina (2010)

Nakamori Akina (中森明菜) is an award-winning Japanese pop singer and actress who debuted in 1982. She is a face of the idol era of the 80s alongside Matsuda Seiko with such classic hits such as "Second Love (Nakamori Akina)", "Kazari Janai no yo Namida wa" and "Desire -Jounetsu-" As a singer Nakamori came to be known for her mature yet rebellious style and powerhouse vocals, but also for her ever changing image both visually and musically as opposed to the conservative J-Pop scene. Nakamori is also known as "the queen of tragedy" because most of her songs have a serious or sad tone unlike the normal happy and carefree sound heard in pop music. She was highly success from her debut to 1989, when she attempted suicide after a failed romance with Kondo Masahiko and due to stress induced by the invasive tabloid media. Even though she has never regained the same success, she has still managed to carry on a steady career.

Today Nakamori has built her image more as a cover artist with her Utahime cover albums and also more recently with the award winning Enka. As of 2013 she is the 20th best selling artist in Japan with over 25.37 million records sold. With a career almost as long as 30 years she has explored many different music genres including pop, rock, R&B, jazz, folk, blues, enka and Latin music.

Contents

Profile

Biography

Beginnings

Nakamori Akina entered the music industry through a singing talent contest "Star Tanjo". She first appeared on the contest in 1979 at the age of 13 singing Iwasaki Hiromi's "Natsu ni Dakarete", but she failed to impress the judges because the song was supposedly too mature for a girl of her age. She tried again in 1980 by singing Matsuda Seiko's "Hadashi no Kisetsu", but she still didn't impress the judges. It wasn't until her third try with the contest in 1981 that she finally won by singing Yamaguchi Momoe's "Yumesaki Annainin" with a record score of 392 points, beating her opponents easily.

Nakamori Akina's debut single "Slow Motion"

Signed to Warner-Pioneer Nakamori debuted with the ballad single "Slow Motion" on May 1 of 1982 which originally struggled to make its way to the Oricon charts. Her second single "Shoujo A" was almost banned because of the lyrics describing a bad flirting girl motorcyclist (something that might have been inspired by Yamaguchi Momoe's early suggestive songs such as "Aoi Kajitsu"), but it showed better success than her debut single by reaching #5 and selling over 396,000 copies. "Shojo A" was originally planned to be Nakamori's debuting single but due to its rebellious nature "Slow Motion" was chosen instead for a softer impression of Nakamori. "Shojo A"'s popularity actually caused her debut single to return to the charts making it reach all the way to #30. In total "Slow Motion" stayed on the charts for 39 weeks and sold over 420,000 copies. Thanks to the success of "Shojo A" she also made her first appearance on the popular TV show at the time, THE BEST 10, which gave her even more exposure. It wasn't until her 3rd single "Second Love" (which is also her highest selling single ever with over 990,000 copies sold) that she began dominating the #1 spot in the single rankings. Both "Slow Motion" and "Second Love" were composed by Kisugi Takao and still to this date, they're one of Nakamori's most requested songs.

Rise to Success

The hit single "Meu Amor é"

In 1985 she made her acting debut in the movie "Ai Tabidachi" playing a woman dying from heart ailment. The movie co-starred the idol Kondo Masahiko and a romance developed between Nakamori and him. The movie also did well at the box office and was the 8th most popular movie of 1985 in Japan. Another success that year came with the single "Meu Amor e" winning Nakamori the Record Taisho Grand Prize. It was considered that she might be too young to win such a prize though. "Meu Amor e" sold over 631,000 copies and reached #1. The single was re-released as "Akai Tori Nigeta" which featured different lyrics which actually were the original ones, but due to composer Matsuoka Naoya's discontent with them not embracing the Latino sound new lyrics were written thus creating "Meu Amor e". Even as a re-release the single still reached #1 and sold over 354,000 copies.

The hit single "DESIRE ~Jounetsu~"

At the beginning of 1986 appeared the single what would later probably be called Nakamori's signature song, DESIRE ~Jounetsu~. Much of the public attention came from Nakamori's visual presentation of the song. Wearing a bob wig, a customised kimono outfit and performing a subtle yet effective dance choreography Nakamori made a strong impact through which she is still easily recognised. The single earned her her second Record Taisho Grand Prize.

In 1986 Nakamori released her first self-produced and most experimental album "Fushigi", which is considered to be one of her most artistic work ever. Inspired by the movie Exorcist, this conceptual album differed from her previous works with a more mysterious and eerie sound both music and vocal-wise. On the album Nakamori sang in a more dramatic manner and her vocals were also mixed into the background. The unusual vocal mixing caused some confusion among consumers and some actually contacted the retailers thinking the record was defective (some of the songs were later revisited in a more traditionally "cleanse" manner on the mini-album "WONDER"). Despite the riskiness of trying something avant-garde the album still reached #1 and sold over 464,000 copies.

The same year saw Nakamori pursuing a more mature and womanly image as opposed to the typical cute and carefree Japanese idol image. That summer a ruby ring appeared on Nakamori's finger, given by Kondo Masahiko, which stirred rumours of a possible soon to become marriage. Late in December a widely acclaimed album "Crimson (Nakamori Akina)" was released which surprisingly contained songs composed only by women. In addition to being a commercial success and widely appreciated by fans, in late 1987 the album also won The 29th Nihon Record Taisho's Best Album award. In 1987 she tried her luck with the American music industry by releasing her first and only English release "Cross My Palm". For the album Nakamori collaborated with western composers and arrangers and it was her first release to make use of music videos as promotion. The melody of her currently latest single Blonde was also used on the album with English lyrics and new arrangement titled "The Look That Kills". Unfortunately, the album did poorly in America due to poor promotion and Nakamori's lacking pronunciation making it a mild success only in Japan with sales over 343,000 copies. Her 1988 album "Femme Fatale (Nakamori Akina)" also featured collaborations with western artists, but the album was mostly in Japanese and released only in Japan.

The single "Nanpasen"

The relationship between Nakamori Akina and Kondo Masahiko had become strained by 1987 which could be heard on the heartbroken single "Nanpasen", released the same year. The song was offered by the famous folk singer Kato Tokiko who seldom offered her songs to idols. Nakamori, however, showed enough artistic talent to perform the song and thus proved to the public that she was more than a typical pop idol. The single sold over 431,000 copies and reached #1. 1988 saw Nakamori's music turn more and more towards of the more brooding nature and her diminishing weight became a topic in the media. By the early 1989 Nakamori had finally removed the ring that Kondo Masahiko had given her in 1986 and another ballad involving heartbreak was released called "LIAR" which sold over 275,000 copies and reached #1. The single was also included on her next original album "CRUISE" which was a ballad album. The same year rumors about Kondo Masahiko and the famous Japanese idol Matsuda Seiko having an affair started to circulating. Because of the failed relationship and stress due to invasive tabloid media Nakamori finally attempted suicide on July 11, 1989 at Kondo's apartment. She was hospitalized and she recovered, but the attempt did have a negative impact on her public image. The same year in December a press conference was held where Nakamori publicly apologized for her selfish act and announced to continue her career next year.

After the incident Nakamori took a break in Hawaii, but made a comeback in 1990 with the optimistic single "Dear Friend" which sold well with over 548,000 copies sold. However, her contract with Warner-Pioneer was coming to an end and after Dear Friend she released only two new singles till 1991 which followed her previously wistful style rather than the cheerful image portayed with Dear Friend. Warner-Pioneer was eager to continue the contract but Nakamori refused seeking better control over her career. Due to copyright problems she would take another break until her next new release with a new label, MCA Victor Japan. From April of 1992 to December of 1993 she had her own radio show "Fifty Off" on Tokyo FM.

The return of the utahime

A promotional photo for "Utahime"

Akina's first release with MCA Victor Japan came in 1993 with the ballad single "Everlasting Love" which, however, showed a drastic decline in her sales with only 129,000 copies sold and it reached only #10. Although written by the internationally acclaimed composer Sakamoto Ryuichi, Akina wasn't quite pleased with the song hoping for something more upbeat and as a result never performed it (nor the second A-side "NOT CRAZY TO ME") after the few promotional TV performances. Later that year she finally released a new original album titled "UNBALANCE+BALANCE" which introduced her new hit song "Aibu", provided by the new rising songwriter, Komuro Tetsuya. The album sold over 186,000 copies and reached #4, but it didn't do as well as her Warner-era releases. The next year she released her first cover album "Utahime", which focused on songs from the 70's chosen by her. One of the songs "Aizen Bashi" was originally performed by her idol Yamaguchi Momoe in 1979. All the tracks featured string arrangements by the famous composer and arranger Senju Akira (who would also be in charge of the later "Utahime" releases).

In 1995 Nakamori's mother died at the age of 58. Nakamori later revealed that her becoming a singer was originally her mother's dream and not hers. The same year she released her next original album "La Alteracion" which sold moderately well with over 149,000 copies sold and reaching #7. At the end of the year she released her first self-cover album "true album ~akina 95 best~" which also included her latest singles with MCA Victor. The three disc collection was divided into three themes: wild, world music and whispered ballads. The collection reached #16 and sold over 86,000 copies.

The mini-album "VAMP"

In 1996 she returned to more mysterious yet dance-driven sound with the single "MOONLIGHT SHADOW ~Tsuki ni Hoero~" which reached #14 and sold 112,000 copies. Before the end of the year she released the experimental mini-album release "VAMP". It followed a theme of a sensual "femme fatale"-type seductress image common for Nakamori. The release, however, showed little success by reaching only #30 and selling over 32,000 copies. The urban soundscape was continued on her next original album "SHAKER", but as according to the title it was also a mix of different of styles such as techno and folk-like songs. The album reached #14 and sold over 44,000 copies. After the album release Nakamori did her first national tour in nine years and a live video "Felicidad" was released.

The year 1997 marked the end of her contract with MCA Victor Japan and in 1998 she released the single "Kisei ~Never Forget~" under a new label, GAUSS Entertainment. The single reached #19 and sold over 95,000 copies. Unfortunately, her later releases had little success until "ZERO album - Utahime 2". Her next album "SPOON" featured songs composed by ORIGA among others giving the album an ethereal feel to it, but the album showed even more declining sales with only over 23,000 copies sold.

In 1999 she starred the drama series "Border" as a detective, but the series had to be stopped after Nakamori fell and suffered fractured ribs which later also got infected leading her to be hospitalized. Rumours, however, speculated this to be only a publicity gimmick as Nakamori had supposedly lost motivation to work with the series and her record company had become displeased with it. Things also didn't fare so well with her next album "Will", released the same year, which marks as her weakest selling original album ever with only over 5,000 copies sold. The same year she performed her first ever soundtrack theme song "Tsuki no Hohoemi" for the Playstation game "Wizardry ~DIMGUIL~" which was also included on "Will" as an acoustic version. Soon after "Will" her contract with GAUSS Entertainment was terminated by the label..

Journey to the 21st century

Jessica Rabbit inspired "Akina Nakamori ~Utahime Double Decade~" promotional picture

In 2002 she signed to Universal Music Japan and the same year her comeback album "ZERO album - Utahime 2" was released selling over 229,000 copies. She once again covered a song by her idol Yamaguchi Momoe called "Cosmos". However, the comeback didn't endure for long as with her next original album "Resonancia", released the same year, she returned to the rather small sales with only over 30,000 copies sold. With "Resonancia" she explored a new style both music and singing-wise. The album was a mix of R&B and latino music and it featured Nakamori singing in a softer manner as opposed to her more powerful and deeper style that she is known for. Her record label described the album as re-branding Nakamori as the Japanese Jennifer Lopez. The same year her albums with MCA Victor Japan were re-released with singles and their b-sides added to them. At the end of the year she also released another album "Utahime Double Decade" which, although bears the title "Utahime", isn't actually part of the "Utahime" series because it's another self-cover album like "true album AKINA 95 BEST". The album showcased Nakamori covering her Warner-era hits in big band, bossa nova, salsa, ska and tango style and also fully orchestrated. It sold over 83,046 copies and reached #8. A mild threat was made by Nakamori, that if the album would not succeed, she would call it quits for her career. She ended the year by making a long-waited return to the new year's eve singing competition Kouhaku Utakassen singing her newly arranged hit song Kazari Janai no yo Namida wa, which acquired her the 4th highest viewer ratings of the show.

Next year Nakamori released the ballad single "Days" whose lyrics she herself wrote. The single's name foretold the theme of her next album "I Hope So" which was time. This was her second ballad album since "CRUISE" and it reached #15 selling over 18,000 copies. The title song "I hope so" was Nakamori's first commercial song whose lyrics she herself wrote. The song was featured in Japan Railways' commercial. Later that year the third and final album to the "Utahime" series "Utahime 3 ~Shuumaku" was released. The theme of the final cover album was dandyism which showcases in the fact that all the songs were originally performed by men.

The logo of Utahime Records

In 2004 she released "Akai Hana", her first ever single under her very own Utahime Records label distributed by Universal Music. The song was a cover of the South Korean drama's "All In" theme song "WHO", but it featured new lyrics. Her next single "Hajimete Deatta Hi no You ni" was a variation of the same song with yet again different lyrics and a slightly altered arrangement. "Akai Hana" featured lyrics involving heartbreak while "Hajimete Deatta Hi no You ni" was a more optimistic version. The Utahime Records label has given Nakamori the chance to plan her selection of songs, advertisement, production and also to find and produce new talents. According to Nakamori she had been planning on starting her own label since five years ago. In 2006 she finally released her first original album under her Utahime Records called "DESTINATION" which featured dance influenced R&B-ish songs. Although it sold only over 10,000 copies MUSIC MAGAZINE gave it 9 out of 10 points making it even more evident that Nakamori's declining sales might be more due to the lack of promotion than due to the possibility that her releases might be getting "worse".

Cover art for the album Enka

In 2007 she returned to the "Utahime" series by releasing "Utahime Best - 25th Anniversary Selection" which included three new cover songs of which one was a live performance and one song once again originally by Yamaguchi Momoe "Ii Hi Tabidachi", a theme song used for the movie "Tabi no okurimono 0:00 hatsu". The album turned out to be a mild success for her with over 43,500 copies sold. Later the same year it was announced that "Ballade Best" would feature one new song "Ano Natsu no Hi" and three re-recorded tracks. The limited edition came with a DVD which contains footage of her first ever live concert in 1983, which had never been released before.

In April a new album "Enka" was announced to be released on the 20th of June. Nakamori now continued to cover classic enka songs with a orchestra once again arranged by Senju Akira. This was also the first time that fans had the chance to interact with Nakamori by voting their favorite songs at her offcial website! Later in May it was also announced that the release date had been pushed back to June 27th. On June 7th the track list was finally announced revealing that only three of the songs were chosen independently by Nakamori and the rest were chosen from the poll. The album was released in four editions: a limited CD+DVD edition, a limited 2 CD edition, a normal CD only edition and also a cassette tape edition. The limited DVD included recording material, promotional video material and interviews. The limited 2 CD edition featured instrumental tracks and also a bonus track. The cassette tape edition was introduced as a nostalgia item related to the genre's reputation as music of the older generations.

On June 26th Nakamori paid a visit to the Toyokawa Inari Shrine where she prayed for her coming album to be a success. The same day she did a Yahoo! Live Talk-interview in which she revealed that the idea for doing an enka cover album wasn't hers since she wasn't comfortable with the singing style, which she viewed as a too big of a challenge, but her staff finally convinced her otherwise. Even with limited promotion Enka still turned out to be mildly successful release for Nakamori as it reached #10 and charted for 12 weeks selling over 61,412 copies. It was later awarded at the 22nd Japan Gold Disc Award's Best Enka Artist category alongside Hikawa Kiyoshi category for introducing enka in favorable new light.

Trivia

Discography

Albums

Mini-Albums

Compilation Albums

Live Albums

Cover Albums

Others Albums

Box Sets

Singles

Concerts

Filmography

Movies

TV Dramas

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