And why is Plastic Love Overrated
I was at a party a few months ago in in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA. The event itself was called “Plastic City”, and obvious homage to a certain poplar Youtube sensation where for one night only, you can dance to City Pop and other retro 80s Jpop. For the most part the event was ok, I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t dancing my butt off, however in hindsight, the music selection was a bit too basic. The amount of actual City Pop songs they played I can count on one hand, on top of that the songs they did choose, you can easily just find yourself with a simple youtube/google search. They played songs that every City Pop enthusiast has heard a hundred times over already, the most notorious example being Plastic Love by Mariya Takeuchi. For an event that pretty much exploited the heck out of Mariya’s Iconography, even naming the event after her song, you would think that they play more than one song by her....they did not. And the worst part about it is that everyone seems to focus on that one song by her when she has made a variety (no pun intended) of other music throughout her career. To understand how much of a career she’s had, we have to start at the beginning.
Born in 1955, Takeuchi grew up at her family inn, the Takenoya, in the city of Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, along with her six siblings. Her family loved music, as they would listen to records from all over the world. Everything from American pop, French songs, Italian music, tango, to jazz. By the time she was in 3rd grade she was already introduced to the Beatles, and from that point on, she had entered a whole new world of music that stood apart from the traditional standards she was used to. She had already learned to play the piano and guitar, but British rock inspired her to travel.
In 1972, for her 3rd year of high school, she studied in Rock Falls, Illinois, United States as an international exchange student through the AFS Intercultural Programs,. Her musical career didn’t start until 1978 while she was studying at Keio University, with the release of her single "Modotte-Oide, Watashi no Jikan" (Please come back, my time) and the album Beginning. Her first full-length album, “Beginning” features an all-star cast in the credits. Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi of the soon-to-debut Yellow Magic Orchestra along with Taeko Onuki and Happy End’s Shigeru Suzuki, came together to write, arrange and play on the LP. Takeuchi penned the lyrics for a couple of songs, along with the music for closer “Sutekina Hit Song,” a track that paid homage to the American pop she grew up with.
From that point on, Takeuchi would began to feel treated more like an entertainer or a celebrity, while she simply wanted to make music and write songs, she was frequently asked to be on variety shows or host TV programs. It was also around this time when Takeuchi met her future husband, Tatsuro Yamashita, while he was in a band called Sugar Babe, a music project celebrated today but one that wasn’t so well received back then. While her 1st impression of him was not the best (not musicly wise, but personality), they would go on to marry in 1982, prompting her to go on hiatus.
By the time she did get married, Takeuchi had released five albums, with several of them recorded at least partially in Los Angeles with a cavalcade of players associated with the West Coast rock movement, including David Foster, Jim Keltner, Jay Graydon, Steve Lukather, Jeff Porcaro, David Hungate.
Mariya Takeuchi didn’t make a musical comeback until the 25th of April 1984, with her album “Variety” . Whereas her previous five full-length releases found Takeuchi mostly performing songs written for her by other people, the music and lyrics on Variety were all her own. True to its name, Takeuchi covers a lot of ground, from bar-counter country on “One Night Stand” and lounge jazz on “Broken Heart” to bossa nova on “Mizu To Anata To Taiyo To” and even an ode to British pop titled “Mersey Beat De Utawasete.” And of course, the most well known song on the album “Plastic Love”, a hypnotising melody that conceals bittersweet lyrics. In Takeuchi’s own words ““(The lyrics) tell the story of a woman who lost the man she truly loves, and that no matter how many other guys would pursue her, she couldn’t shake the feelings of loneliness that the loss created.” The original recording features Taeko Onuki singing with Mariya on the hook while Yamashita provides the memorable guitar melodies.
“Variety” became a hit, outselling her previous release and debuting at the top of the domestic charts, it also happens to be Mariya’s favorite album that she worked on, and for good reason. If you’re a fan of Mariya Takeuchi I would encourage you to listen to the FULL album and not just Plastic Love, my personal favorite song of the LP happens to be “Broken Heart”, I’m a sucker smooth slow jam songs. I would also encourage you to listen to her album, Miss M (1980), which in my opinion is her best album prior to “Variety”, if the fact that Toto is the backing band isn’t enough to convince you, Mariya herself shows off some awesome english vocals throughout the album. I would also encourage you to listen to her less viral hits as well, Plastic Love is great, but there’s so much more music in her repertoire that’s just as catchy.
Here are my top 10 Mariya Takeuchi songs that AREN'T Plastic Love:
Sweetest Music - (Miss M 1980)
Broken Heart - (Variety 1984)
Secret Love - (Miss M 1980)
Hollywood Cafe (Loft Sessions Vol 1 1978)
二人のバカンス (Miss M 1980)
September (Love Songs 1980)
Every Night (Miss M 1980)
もう一度 (Variety 1984)
夢の続き (Request 1987)