Akina Nakamori Singles Box 1982-1991 [PART 2]

Welcome to Part Two of my look at the enormous 28-Disc Set covering Akina Nakamori's singles during her years signed to Warner-Pioneer Music Group.

In Part One I covered 1982-1985, which conveniently took up exactly the first half of this set. As we move into 1986, things began to change a little bit. Nakamori was definitely given more control over her music, though this was more apparent when it came to her albums. Between 1986 and 1987 she released a self-produced concept album featuring some tracks by EUROX (the fan-flippin-tastic Fushigi...which is going to be a future post), the all-female produced Crimson, and the New York City recorded and 100% English album Cross My Palm (GOD I want to write about this one...so much to say). It's almost as if she was living two careers through her singles and her albums. It's not like one was feeding the other one though...everything she was doing reached Number One.

Trouble was on the horizon, however. You see, one of the things that kind of inspired me to go ahead and write this post was a certain Youtube channel. His former channel was called "Fever Metal" and currently posts as "hikali kagaya" [UPDATE: Banned] until the inevitable copyright shut down. He has been posting archives of her seemingly endless television appearances (primarily from the defunct BEST TEN). It's staggering. She had to have been working nonstop since her debut. Nakamori also somehow managed to squeeze in a relationship with Masahiko Kondo, whom she met while filming her acting debut in the 1985 film Ai - Tabidachi.

The cracks started to appear in 1987. There is something just...off about Cross My Palm, the big single from the year was absolutely brutal, and her relationship seemed to be in a very bad place. All of this came to a head in 1989 with a suicide attempt and her subsequent retreat to Hawaii for a year. One of the defining artists of the 1980s Japan was completely absent by the end of the decade.

With that said, the singles from the period are a trip. I didn't have a whole lot to say about Nakamori herself in the previous post, but you can tell that everything from 1986-1991 was just a little more personal than you would normally expect from the tightly controlled image of a JPOP superstar, especially one from this era.

So how does the story of Warner-era Nakamori end? Let's find out...


15. DESIRE -Jonetsu- c/w LA BOHÉME

There is one critical component to this single that sticks out more than the music itself. This single has it's own wardrobe. The cover kinda alludes to it, but trust me...it's so much more. When performing either of these songs Nakamori wore a kimono, single black glove, high heels, and a bizarre, umm, schoolgirl (?) wig. The wardrobe had been explained by her as "I feel like wearing this" which is just awesome, but it kinda has me wondering if she was trolling someone. To me she looks like a weird child assassin, but what do I know about fashion?

When you get past the weird look, you get probably......my favorite single of her career. DESIRE is just and out and out excellent pop song. It has a great beat and is catchy as all hell. This song really deserves all of the praise it received then and now.

When it comes to LA BOHÈME, I have to say that I actually like this song better than the DESIRE by juuuust a little bit. Start to finish LA BOHÈME is just a rad friggen song. The intro, the chorus...the whole thing is just perfect. It even managed to make great use of the cowbell in 1986. How is that possible? I guess the cowbell is the one thing that a synthesizer just can't replace. The funny thing about LA BOHÈME is that it was initially supposed to be the A-Side for this single. Honestly, they went with the safe choice by choosing DESIRE, but LA BOHÈME would have probably performed just as well. I can see why they made their decision, though.


16. Gypsy Queen c/w Saigo no Carmen

I kinda think this one is a little underrated. Gypsy Queen has the the misfortune of following an absolute smash, but is a gem in it's own right. It's a floaty song that kinda brings back the basics. The synths take a back seat to some skillful instrumentals. As usual, the vocal talent is on full display.

Saigo no Carmen could probably only be the B-Side to Gypsy Queen. There is a theme to this single and these songs go together perfectly. This one may be a little on the tacky side, but I like it a lot.


17. Fin c/w Abunai MON AMOUR

This song is where Nakamori's sound begins to take a new direction. Considering this single came out hot on the heels of the awesome album Fushigi and before the slick Crimson, it all kinda makes sense. Fin has a bit of a floaty metro sound to it that seemed to stick around in a lot of her 1987 work.

Abunai MON AMOUR is the B-Side. I can't decide if this song is ripping off Stevie Wonder's Part-Time Lover or Jermaine Jackson's Dynamite (a song that she was apparently fond of as it was part of her set during the BITTER & SWEET performances). I'm kinda leaning on the former, but either way I love it. It completes a low-key, but fantastic single. Both songs are equally as good and play off of each other nicely.


18. Nonfiction Ecstasy

Heh. Alright, this one is a little weird. This single was released as a cassette-only. The music to it is almost cartoonish, but the singing is as spot-on as you would imagine. If the music were done a little more seriously, I don't know if it would have been as memorable. Nonfiction Ecstasy is a little difficult to describe. Even the title is a bit weird.

Given the unusual nature of this single, there is only the vocal track and the Karaoke version. So yeah, there is no B-Side or Live Version.



Man, the intro to TANGO NOIR is pretty rad. This song is almost a combination of both DESIRE and LA BOHÈME, but isn't as endearing. I guess the big difference is the energy in the vocals. That isn't a bad thing, but it certainly changes the dynamic. She also didn't have the child assassin thing going for it.

MILONGUITA is the B-Side song. It's smooth, but kinda forgettable. The only thing I seem to remember about this song whenever I see the title is that it has a lot of random noises in it. Not bad, but it isn't a go-to song.


20. BLONDE c/w Seikyoto (Amish)

Alright, I love this single.

BLONDE is a bit of a treat for me since I actually loooove her English album Cross My Palm. It might not be the same lyrically, but BLONDE is clearly a modified version of the composition of THE LOOK THAT KILLS from Cross My Palm. It's a solid song that really takes advantage of what's already great composition by one Biddu. Yeah, Biddu is the same guy responsible for a lot of early disco and is responsible for Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting. Love or hate the biggest hit on his resume, the man knows his way around a pop song.

Seikyoto, or Amish as it's sung in the song, is the B-Side to BLONDE. This is one of the glitziest songs I can think of from Nakamori's catalog. While a lot of her work from the year seemed to focus on having more of a New York sound, this one feels more L.A. to me. It's just a little bit louder and flashier than it needs to be. I gotta say, I love this one too. Great single overall.


21. Nanpasen c/w Koiji

Oh boy... I feel like Nanpasen is kinda where things start coming off the rails...

For starters, Nanpasen (or Shipwreck) is actually a cover song. It was originally released by Tokiko Kato in 1984. The lyrics (something I realize I don't really talk about often...but this time it's pretty important) are particularly gut-wrenching. The thing is, at the time Kato released this song she was married and had three children. I have a feeling that the song was much, much more personal for Nakamori. Performances of this song (and a few others, to be fair) regularly feature many tears. Her relationship with Masahiko Kondo was famously not doing well at the time and the aforementioned burnout was probably setting in.

Koiji is almost as downbeat as Nanpasen, but it might as well be a dance song in comparison. Koiji does one thing very, very well. It completes this single. While both songs are really a bummer, together they bring Nakamori back to her roots as the hopelessly lovelorn girl. You could almost pass this single off as 1983/1984 era Nakamori. It's kinda funny that there is a strange sense of nostalgia for what was then only a few years prior, but it's a stark reminder of what made her popular in the first place.


22. AL-MAUJ c/w Bara hitoyo

I don't really care all that much for AL-MAUJ, but at least it is a breath of life following Nanpasen. I can't really pinpoint what I don't like about this song. Maybe it's the way the lyrics just kind drone on, maybe it's the line "Watashi akuma/watashi tenshi" (Feh). Whatever it is about this song, I tend to give it a skip.

Bara hitoyo is the B-Side. I prefer it to AL-MAUJ, but it definitely knows it's place as a B-Side. It's a lighter song, but the slick instrumentals and vocals make it totally worthwhile.


23. TATTOO c/w Shoakuma


OK, OK, OK. So TATTOO is one of the songs I tend to recommend to people trying to cut their teeth on Nakamori. It's such a perfect song, but very unusual in a way that only Nakamori could only pull off. The song builds up for one minute and forty-eight seconds before it gets to the awesome chorus. It's basically half over! That's not even all of the weirdness. The bass line will have you wondering "Have I heard this song before?". The mention of "Replicants" will make you want to go watch Blade Runner. I know I've used the word "perfect" and variations of the word like ninety-two times so far in this set review, but there is no other word for TATTOO. It really shouldn't be that much of a surprise considering Nakamori and EUROX are a winning combination...

Shoakuma. It's the B-Side. I would say that this is a decent enough song, but I don't know. I think they could have pulled something a little more retro and fitting to close this single out. I really like the intro at least.

I feel like I have to talk about the Live Version of TATTOO that is included on this set. This is the live version from the April 1989 AKINA EAST LIVE INDEX-XX III shows. For starters, the intro is flippin' awesome. It kinda goes against the whole build-up that the studio version has...but it has a whole new dynamic. Oh, and one of my favorite anison singers, Shinichi Ishihara (B-Fighter, Dragon Ball Z, GoGo Five, Kamen Rider Agito, etc.) sang back-up for Nakamori during these shows. This is my favorite of the Live Versions included on this set...by far... In fact, I have an issue with one coming up...



You know what...I think this song is completely underrated. I MISSED "THE SHOCK" is the first of Nakamori's singles since 1984 to not hit number one. I can't work out why. Granted, I may be a certified EUROX fanboy (this would be Nakamori and EUROX's last collaboration as EUROX basically ceased to exist after this) but this song is far better than a lot of her previous efforts that seemed to have no problem topping the charts. This peaked at number three, though. The vocals are just *so good*. The incredible detail that EUROX brings to their music is also on full display. The only thing questionable about this song is probably it's title...but even then, it works in context of the actual song. "OoooOoooh I missed 'THE SHOCK', Shock."

BILITIS is almost a repeat of Shoakuma from TATTOO. It doesn't fit the A-Side all that well. That said, I'm actually quite fond of BILITIS. It's a lot more fun than Shoakuma was.


25. LIAR c/w Blue On Pink

This very well could have been the final single from Nakamori. I mean, the title kinda says it all. Her relationship with Kondo had gone bust around this time and some months later she made an attempt on her own life. LIAR is a good song, but not one that she should have gone out on. Unlike Nanpasen, this song is a more modern ballad. It's slick and light.

Blue On Pink complements LIAR very well. It's a smidge more lively than it's A-Side. I really enjoy the little details with the synths that are smattered throughout the song. It's no surprise that this single brought Nakamori back to number one...but it still has me confused as to why I MISSED "THE SHOCK" didn't make it...


26. Dear Friend c/w Caribbean

If you were to make a playlist of all of Nakamori's Warner-era singles, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend making this the last track. It might not be chronological, but Dear Friend truly is the perfect bookend to what is an incredible run of songs. That isn't to say the next two singles aren't good (they are, spoilers) but this song is victorious. It's her big return and truly unlike any of her previous singles. This is a fun song. That isn't to say she's had songs with fun music. She was clearly having fun singing this song. After a year away from the limelight, she was energized. This is such a great song.

The B-Side is Caribbean. Again, there is a certain energy to this song that just takes hold. It may have only been the 90s for like seven months at this point, but this song is such a 90s song. It's on the jazzy side with some steel drums thrown in because...well, the title is Caribbean. It's no surprise that this single went number one as I'm sure people were curious to see what she was returning with. I kinda wish I could ask what people thought of this single at the time...it's so different...

I do have beef with the live version of Dear Friend included in this set. So the version used is from her 1991 concert series that included an elaborate costume change for Dear Friend. Such a thing would require time for Nakamori to squeeze into the dress that she wore for this song, so a very long intro was crafted to fill the time. The entire intro is included in the Listen To Me Live Album, but for whatever reason it sloppily fades in on the version included on this set. It also cuts out early. They managed to include the full intro for TATTOO, but not this one. It probably wouldn't be such a bad thing if the intro wasn't so great. I guess if you're a big enough fan of Nakamori to buy this set, you probably already own Listen To Me, so there's that. I guess they were saving on disc space or something...


27. Mizu ni sashita hana c/w Angel Eyes

Mizu ni sashita hana is considered to be Nakamori's 25th single despite being the 27th included in this set (Akai Tori Nigeta and Nonfiction Ecstasy are unofficial). I dig this one due to it's sheer minimal nature. It isn't much too more than Nakamori and a piano. It's another well-done ballad that still managed to carry this single to number one even though the TK dance explosion was soon rolling in.

Angel Eyes is the B-Side. I kiiiinda like this one, but it's kinda forgettable. The only really noteworthy thing about this one is that Nakamori's voice is much lighter than usual. Two years prior she was singing sultry tunes like TATTOO, but for Angel Eyes she sounds like, well, an angel.


28. Futari Shizuka c/w Wasurete...

Nakamori's final single for Warner was Futari Shizuka. I think it's fair to say that this song is a bridge between her 80s and 90s work. It is reminiscent of some of her then-recent singles, but it features a 90s flair that distinguish the song from her previous work. I know, that might sound like it was written by Captain Obvious, but when you listen through the catalog like I have it is pretty clear. The song itself is fantastic, it isn't a slow song at all and has a mysterious sound to it. It was a great way to go out before taking a break from the music business.

Wasurete... is the B-Side from this single. It's kind of a bummer of a song. Like Nanpasen, this song had the tears rolling throughout whenever it was performed live. Unlike Nanpasen, there is a shakiness in her voice even in the studio version. As this is the very last song she released under Warner, I suppose it is a little sad. The two songs together make for a great single. It didn't quite top the chart, but it did reach number three.


Recommended Pick: From the singles I reviewed in this part, it has to be DESIRE/LA BOHÈME. Both songs are just astounding. It was an easy choice to make, but that isn't to say that this post isn't full of awesome singles. I really love that 1985-1988 era the best. For the overall set...you know, I'm still going to have to give it to Meu Amor è/Lonely Journey. It truly is the most accessible single from her Warner years. Who doesn't love a song that is just pure belting the way Meu Amor è is?


Overall Set Review: I kinda covered this in Part One, but I think it's worth revisiting the set as a whole one last time before closing out this post. This set, and it's attention to detail, is enough to satisfy the most hardcore of fans. I think the only major gripe I have with it is the lack of Karaoke for Akai Tori Nigeta/Babylon 12". Everything else is just overboard with it's hammering down those details. Certain sleeves use different textured paper for Christ's sake! I don't think this set would be truly appreciated by anyone less than a super-fan, but it still an absolute treat if you love CD Box Sets and physical media (ugh, I hate that term). If you can find a minter for a decent price and really... *really* like Akina Nakamori, then get it! This set is long sold out, but used prices aren't too far off from the original list price.


Thank you for checking out my post on this super-box set. I have done marathon CD reviews in the past, but I couldn't bring myself to review all 28 discs in one post for this one.

Regularly scheduled programming resumes in August, but if you'd like to read more posts like this one let me know. I'd be happy to spread myself out a little more, plus I enjoyed the break from Tokusatsu for a minute.

See ya!


Akina Nakamori Singles Box 1982-1991 PART 1

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