Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Noriko Sakai - Otoko No Ko Ni Naritai (1987)

Seeing as pop idol Noriko Sakai has been in the news quite a bit these days due to bizarre circumstances surrounding charges of possessing small amounts of methamphetamine, we'd like to switch gears and revisit the actress and singer's earliest recording, "Otoko No Ko Ni Naritai" ("I Want To Be A Boy").

In our opinion, Sakai, lovingly referred to by her fans as "Nori-P", stands on the threshold between two eras of idol culture. Whereas the 1980s is regarded as the "golden age" of idols, whether due to a lack of consumer interest in music-based television programming or the beginning of instantly available media on the internet, the 1990s ushered a new type of pop star. Standard criteria of idol status, such as a passable level of musicianship, were becoming less and less relevant. Performers who were previously staples of the variety show circuit seemed to be unable to compete with a new breed of teen idol whose popularity was based solely on their appearance. Sakai, who received her start as a model in magazines that promoted the latter of the two, bares the traits of both types of idol.

One such magazine that helped launch this new trend of image-centered celebrities was called Momoco, created in 1983 as an offshoot of its parent periodical, the gravure idol monthly BOMB. Though Momoco ceased printing in 1994, at the height of its popularity the magazine spawned a 30-minute television variety show entitled Momoco Club. While the show lasted less than a year (October 1986-September 1987), it paved the way for the careers of a number of future idols, not least of whom being Sakai.

In 1985, she had first caught the eye of the editors at BOMB during a Shiseido-sponsored talent audition. There she was also discovered by a managing director from Sun Music, a subsidiary of Victor Japan, the record label to which Sakai was until recently signed (due to her current drug scandal, Victor has since pulled her records from stores and halted downloads on most of her songs). After the audition, Sakai became an official member of Momoco Club, and in February of 1987 she released her debut single "Otoko No Ko Ni Naritai", just days before her 16th birthday. She would release three more singles that year; to date, she has recorded over 30.

While it's hard to escape the apparently odd title of her first record, the lyrics merely seem to reveal a naive young girl's desire to experience the freedom that boys seem to enjoy in the world. However, as this desire was in fact the effort of prolific lyricist Yoshiko Miura, one can't help but wonder if the lyrical content of the song was not meant to convey a woman's frustration with life in a severely male-dominated society. Nevertheless, "Otoko No Ko Ni Naritai" granted Sakai outstanding success and catapulted her to idol status.

During the 1990s Sakai enjoyed a considerable following throughout East Asia. In 1992, she traveled to perform in Taipei, becoming the first Japanese entertainer to hold a solo performance in Taiwan. To this day, she is still well-known throughout the region, noting particular popularity in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

What allowed Noriko Sakai to become successful as an idol was not only her alluring, innocent image, but her ability to sing and dance as well. As can be seen in early television performances, she incorporated the style of dance known as para para into her routines, known for its elaborate choreographed patterns of hand and arm movement.

Noriko Sakai - Otoko No Ko Ni Naritai
酒井法子 - 男のコになりたい

And here she is performing "Otoko No Ko Ni Naritai" live on television, January 25th, 1987.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home