Friday, October 24, 2008

Singer/ actors… and/ or actors/ singers: Part 2

by Chris MaGee

Back in mid-September I ran a quick feature on Japanese actors who flirted with singing or singers who went on to become successful actors. Kenji Sawada and Tomorowo Taguchi fell into the latter category and of all people Riki Takeuchi fell into the former (my girlfriend is still obsessed by his song “Ma-tsu-ri”). Well, I had a great response to it so I thought I’d do a follow up, but this time letting the ladies take the mic. Now, I could have easily posted some videos of Meiko Kaji or even of Anna Tsuchiya, but I wanted to focus on stars who when you saw that they had recorded songs would get you shaking your head in disbelief.

So, without further adieu may I have a warm round of applause for…

Rie Miyazawa “Dream Rush” 1989

Most of you will recognize actress Rie Miyazawa from her roles in Jun Ichikawa ’s “Tony Takitani” and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Hana”, but after doing commercials and some TV work as a child she got her big start as a J-Pop idol with her 1989 album “MU”. Form that album comes this so sweet it’ll give you type-2 diabetes single “Dream Rush”. I like the way the director of the video tries to make it look like Miyazawa isn’t just standing their dancing with her elbows by getting her to change into a half dozen flashy outfits. Man, it’s all fresh-faced, happy and clean… and dull. Don’t let that squeaky clean image fool you though. Two years after this song was released Miyazawa outraged Japan by releasing a nude photo book titled “ Santa Fe ” in which she shamefully exposed the one thing that sends Japanese censors into epileptic seizures: pubic hair (!)

Kayoko Kishimoto “Naked Bride/ Street of Sorrow” (1977)

Who is that beautiful young woman on the cover of that album? (Sorry, no video for this one folks.) Well, she was only 17 at the time, so she may be hard to recognize, but that’s Kayoko Kishimoto. “Kayako who?” Shame on you! Takeshi Kitano fans will know Kayoko Kishimoto from her near mute performance as Nishi’s (Kitano’s) dying wife in his 1997 film “Hana-bi” as well as his far from mute girlfriend in 1999’s “Kikujiro”. Again like Rie Miyazawa above Kishimoto started out with ambitions of pop glory by releasing an album in 1977 titled “North Wind”. You can tell she really wasn’t cut out for the music biz though because she takes a page from the William Shatner Handbook of Performance and talks her way through most of “Naked Bride/ Street of Sorrow” the first single from the album. I spent a long time trying to track down English lyrics for this one, but no dice. If anyone could help I’m dying to find out what she’s telling her mother she’s so sorry about.

Hideko Takemine – “Ginza Kankan Musume” (1949)

Here’s a real golden oldie sung by a legend of Japanese cinema. Along with Setsuko Hara and Machiko Kyo one of the most respected actresses of the 1950s was Hideko Takemine. She starred in some of the defining films of directors Mikio Naruse (“Flowing”and “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs”) and Keisuke Kinoshita (“Twenty-four Eyes”) and gave brilliant performances each time, but in her role in Koji Shima’s 1949 musical comedy “Ginza Kankan Musume” she was called on to add singing to her repertoire… and damned if she didn’t pull it off. Here she sings (I think along with her co-star, actress Shizuko Kasagi) the theme song from the film, also called “Ginza Kankan Musume” or as it became known amongst the G.I.s stationed in Japan during the American Occupation “The Ginza Cancan Girl”. Tap your toes to this one, folks!

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