Japanese, Reviews

The Most Bluntly-Named Compilation Album Ever: Utahime ~sentimental female vocalists~ (Review)

November 22, 2009 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook The Most Bluntly-Named Compilation Album Ever: Utahime ~sentimental female vocalists~ (Review)on Twitter

They’re female. They’re vocalists. And they’re singin’ some sentimental songs. It doesn’t get much more descriptive than that.

Sony Music has been printing an interesting series of compilation albums over in Japan. The “Utahime” series (translated “Songstress” or “Diva,” lit. “Song Princess”) features some of Sony’s signed female artists. This particular album, “sentimental female vocalists” (catalog # MHCL-1477) features ballads from these songstresses. Sony gave the spotlight to some of the most well-known and least tabloid-ridden vocalists in the fine country of Japan, featuring some of their earliest hits (from the late ’70s and early ’80s). Among them are very few vocalists who have made prominent appearances in videogames, though I did notice that Machiko Watanabe (who performed the ending theme from Wild Arms) appears on this album once (track 18). But otherwise, listening to this album was a real educational experience for me. If you want to join me in this educational experience, follow along after the jump!

So… I like history lessons. I really do! I especially like to learn more about the history of popular culture, though I’m most familiar with the history of my own country’s popular culture. Listening to this album gave me a taste of the roots of Japanese pop: the divas of the 1970s and 1980s who helped create their own subgenre of contemporary, “easy listening” music.

But that doesn’t mean, during my history lesson, that I have to enjoy what I hear. Though I can certainly appreciate what I hear, and it helps me learn what music has existed in the past to influence my own peculiar tastes in music (today’s J-pop, game music ballads from Falcom, things of this nature), I will confess that I simply do not like the music found on the “sentimental female vocalists” compilation.

To think, the 20 songs on this album are the equivalents of those “Time Life” compilations in my own country, it’s important to acknowledge that these songs are, whether the Japanese people like it or not, a part of their more recent heritage. But what they are, at the end of the day, are simple imitations of music that was first popularized in the West, and then adapted to the idiosyncracies and tastes of the Japanese people. The modern ballad, with Western instrumentation (piano/keyboard, trap set drums, guitar) dominates the instrumental soundscape. And the vocal performances sound like those of the female disco stars of America’s 1970s movement.

What I think I can appreciate most about this album are the actual individual singers who perform on this album. The music isn’t great, but the vocal performances are, on occasion, quite spectacular. Some examples include “Red Sweet Pea” (track 1) and “My Love Twilight” (track 5).

One piece where I found I actually did enjoy the instrumental was “Enchanted” (track 20). This is a really cool disco track; cheesy, but cool. I can get into it; it makes me want to dance. “Wind is blowing from the Aegean!”

If you want to join me in a quest to unearth the roots of Japanese pop ballads, this album is a place to start. But I have to give fair warning: you might not like what you hear. Check out the YouTube video below to get a taste, and then you can decide for yourself if you want this album, or any album from Sony Music’s “Utahime” compilations.

Check out the video below to hear “Enchanted” (sung by Judy Ongg), and tell us what you think of the song!

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