By Michael Diana
Happy new school year y’all! Time to get back to teaching and studying after an all-too-brief spring. In celebration of all things learning, today we’re going to learn a little more music history. We’re not going back to the 80s this time though–not quite. Today’s musical lesson is… Shibuya-kei! Shibuya-kei was a popular music style in Japan in the 1990s and remained somewhat relevant until about 2004. The producer of both Perfume and Kyary Pamyupamyu, Nakata Yasutaka, started out with his group, capsule, as a part of the Shibuya-kei genre, but the artist we’re covering today was more integral to the growth of the scene.
Nomiya Maki: vocals, serving looks (not an official band position), baton twirling
Konishi Yasuharu: everything else
Okay, so technically Pizzicato Five formed in 1984 as a five-person unit that almost immediately became four. While the group was signed to a major label in 1986, the first two periods of Pizzicato Five’s life were mostly commercial failures, and they remained relatively unknown until the fateful day in 1990 when Nomiya Maki joined the group. Soon after Nomiya Maki became the vocalist, P5 began to gain popularity, helping spur the entire Shibuya-kei genre.
So, what exactly is Shibuya-kei? It’s a mix of new wave, house, soul and lounge music from the 60s and 70s, and other genres. It had a stylish feel to it that really evoked the Shibuya of the 1990s. Fashion was also an important part of Shibuya-kei, though it was more rooted in the fashions of the 60s and 70s than those of any other time period; Nomiya Maki really embodied the fashion of the scene.The most iconic groups of the Shibuya-kei movement were Pizzicato Five and Flipper’s Guitar.
In 1991, Pizzicato Five released three EPs and one full-length album, the latter giving birth to two of their most-loved songs, “Twiggy Twiggy” and “Baby Love Child.” Their biggest hit thus far came in 1993 with the song “Sweet Soul Revue,” which brought them to the forefront of the music scene. What followed was a string of successful singles/albums/EPs, a number of commercial tie-ins and theme songs, and even a debut in the states (one EP and several albums containing a mix of tracks from previous albums). Sadly, they released their final album in 2001 before breaking up. Nomiya Maki still releases music and performs, as well as pursuing other creative activities and performing at gay pride events (she loves her gay fans). Konishi Yasuharu continues to write and produce music and has worked with many big names, such as SMAP, Wada Akiko, PUFFY, ZARD, etc. In addition to producing original songs for artists, he is also a prolific remixer.
Sweet Soul Revue
The Night Is Still Young (Tokyo wa Yoru no Shichiji) *I also recommend the 10min album version, but that isn’t on YouTube anymore
Such a Beautiful Girl Like You (also recommend the album version of this one here)
Baby Portable Rock
Mon Amour Tokyo
Triste (Kanashii Uta)