Yukiko Okada and the bygone golden age of idols

Yukikofeature70s/80s idol pop had this crazy-addictive (and adorable) quality which I miss in the modern day Japanese popular music. Production is a bit different, and the sub-genre itself has evolved to fit the standards of today. I believe that at some point I mentioned here how this sort of music is not particularly challenging and repetitive.
Sure, but damn did it sound delightful back in the day. The period when lots of good stuff came out lasted up to mid 80s or so, and is referred to as the golden age. The singer I discovered only recently is Yukiko Okada, but she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite idol pop performers.

frontcbackcthecdYukiko Okada wanted to become a star more than anything, and after a bit of a struggle she went on to win a TV talent program Star Tanjō! at the age of 16 (other greats like Momoe Yamaguchi or Akina Nakamori also took part in this one). After listening to 3 or 4 of her albums, I was flabbergasted, and angry that I haven’t found out about her sooner. Then, as I usually do with artists I’m genuinely interested in, I headed to the web to do more research. It was heartbreaking to learn that her career did not last very long, as she committed suicide in 1986. The circumstances around this tragedy are kind of odd – the girl was found in a bathroom crying ,with slashed wrists and gas in the air… what happened next was that 2 hours later she jumped out of her agency building.

bookletcovyukiko6yukiko5Reading information like this immediately makes you think how the success and fame are not everything and they don’t give you happiness. While at times it might be true, I do regard such approach as condescending and ignorant. Yukiko was only a teenager and she dreamt of stardom, it has be acknowledged in the first place. Crazy notions can twirl in the mind of an adolescent and there may be many reasons for taking her own life.
It’s depressing, but her music definitely lives on and it gleams with charm and happiness.

summerbeach summerbeach2 yukiko2I bought a limited album entitled Golden Idol – Yukiko Okada, which is a part of series of compilation records of the biggest idols from the 80s. The beautiful cardboard sleeve release has an awesome 18x18cm size cover, thick booklet which contains both lyrics and photos of single covers. There are 18 songs on the CD (HQCD format), among them some of my favs, like 二人のブルー・トレイン (Futari no Blue Train), Summer Beach, 恋人たちのカレンダー (Koibitotachi no Calendar), or リトルプリンセス (Little Princess).
Now I’m tempted to get the Momoe Yamaguchi album from this series.

yukiko4 yukiko3 yukikoFinally, I’d like offer few more comments on idol pop. Starting with the 90s Morning Musume, and currently AKB48 and its different units, ‘aidoru’ is now mostly associated with large girl bands, with the latter group enlisting over 100 members. Add to that the graduation system, and you end up with mad number of ‘singers’ – no sane person can memorize them all.

zombiearmyLolita army says sex sells.

They’re pushing for quantity over quality, and the music suffers. Hell, I’m not even gonna sugarcoat, it’s utter crap. The band members are more focused on acting cute on Japanese variety shows or releasing photobooks rather than making fine music. Well they’re gorgeous, but please don’t butcher the music. Give me back the 80s idols!

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