Japan in the 1970s through the 1980s was characterized by intense urbanization and economic growth, and many people moved into urban centers like Osaka and Tokyo. Yuppies drove around the shiny, clean cities of Japan on their way to work, clubs, or shopping centers, and they needed something to listen to on their car stereos while they did! This is where シティーポップ, or “city pop” comes in: a western-influenced, laid-back, smooth-jazz-and-boogie-fusion with a little bit of disco thrown in. Once you hear the mellow strains of city pop, it’s easy to imagine how it was inspired by a sunny day in Tokyo, during a time of affluence and growth, where the world seemed bright and full of possibility.
Since this is my first post on this blog, I wanted to start with a record that I feel embodies the sort of attitude I strive for: optimistic, fun, and heartfelt; a sunny disposition with a smile. This is a record that’s perfect for driving around on a sunny day with big puffy clouds above you and somebody nice in the passenger seat.
Taeko Ohnuki (大貫妙子) began her career with the band SUGAR BABE, whose members counted j-pop royalty Tatsuro Yamashita, among other influential musicians. SUGAR BABE broke up after only one release (SONGS, which I will surely feature later on), but all the members went on to have solo careers. While SUNSHOWER isn’t Ohnuki’s first solo record, I think it’s my favorite of her early works. Released in 1977, it’s a prime example of city pop and the sort of attitude embodied by j-pop at the time. Her voice is clear and bright, and the big-band disco sound really lends itself to the sunny mood of the record. My favorite track, and probably the most famous, is “The City” (都会), on which Ohnuki’s voice really shines against its lilting clarinet and funky synth backdrop. Also–with the 70s coming back in style and all–the album art is definitely fashion inspiration, at least for me!!
At the time of SUNSHOWER’s release, Ohnuki’s career as a singer and songwriter was just getting started, but she went on to collaborate with some of Japan’s most influential musicians such as Ryuichi Sakamoto and other members of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
I would recommend throwing this album on your stereo and giving it a listen on a summer’s day drive–or using it as an escape during the cold, dark depths of winter! Listen here.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98fqXx-KFgI)