From “Shin Sanjin Musume” to “Sta-birth” and “The Best Ten”… Saori Minami, the sparkle of a gem that established the origin of “idols” in Japan | FRIDAY DIGITAL

From “Shin Sanjin Musume” to “Sta-birth” and “The Best Ten”… Saori Minami, the sparkle of a gem that established the origin of “idols” in Japan

50 Years of Japanese Idols #1: Ran Ito's stunning presence in "Kohaku

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The history of modern idols began with the debut of “Saori Minami…

Candy’s 50th Anniversary Kohaku SP Medley” performed by Ran Ito at the “NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen” broadcast on New Year’s Eve ’23. The sight of her former groupmates cheering her on as passionately as they had back then was a big hit. In the same Kohaku, YOASOBI sang “Idols,” and idol category Kohaku contestants appeared one after another, transcending gender and nationality, and performed brilliant dances that made the most of their individual personalities. These two performances made us strongly think about the very existence of “idols.

According to idol critic Akio Nakamori, Saori Minami, who debuted in 1971, two years before Candy’s debut, was the first female idol of the modern era.

Saori Minami. Her debut song “17 Sai” was later covered by Chisato Moritaka in 1989 and became a hit. The singer Saori Minami’s impressive long hair, mini-skirt costume, and distinctive singing voice, as well as her bright tropical atmosphere, give the song an original quality. In addition to Nakamori, Saori Minami is often regarded as one of the “original idols.

Teenage girls sing and dance pop songs with cute choreography, costumes, and smiles. She is still in her infancy and has yet to become a professional, but she has grown during the course of her activities and occasionally shows a matured atmosphere.

Following Nakamori’s lead, we would like to trace the history of idols over the past 50 years.

A portrait photo of Saori Minami taken in 1971, the year of her debut. It is truly a picture of a sparkling gem in the rough (PHOTO: Kyodo News).

Four months after Saori Minami’s debut, Mari Amachi made her debut as a singer with “Suiro no Koi” (Light Blue Love), and her role as “Neighbor Mari-chan” in the drama series “It’s Time” (TBS), which was broadcast that year and received high ratings, attracted much attention, From 1972 to 1973, Mari Amachi, whose catchphrase “Snow White” suggests a pure image, had a series of hit songs such as “Hitoridemo Dareka (I’m Not Alone),” broadcast her own TV program, and even released a hit bicycle for girls named “Do Remi Mari-chan” bearing her name and photograph. From 1972 to 1973, Mari-chan created a “Mari-chan boom” in which even small children became enamored with her singing style and her seventh album, “Doremi Mari-chan”. Her singing style, the tennis-look outfit she wore for her seventh single “Koisuru Natsu no Hi” (1973), and the cheers of her fans shouting “Mari-chan! (Mari-chan!)” as the song unfolded, became an established part of her image as an “idol” that would continue to grow.

In the same year, Rumiko Koyanagi debuted with “Watashi no Shirokamachi” and won the Best New Artist Award at the Japan Record Awards. Saori Minami, Mari Amachi, and Rumiko Koyanagi were dubbed the “New Three Daughters,” and they became popular among the tea ceremony crowd.

Female singers in their teens and twenties who had been popular among the Japanese public had often performed Japanese covers of Western music, giving them a somewhat “professional” feel, but the idols who became popular in the 1970s and later had a sense of youthfulness that was considered a major attraction. The fact that the mainstay of entertainment had shifted from movies to TV, and that TV was now creating stars rather than movie stars appearing on TV, was also a major turning point before and after Saori Minami and the “New Three Musume”.

A Star is Born! Start

In the fall of 1971, a program that would become a major event in the history of idols was launched, a program that allowed viewers to experience the freshness of the era in which television played a leading role.

Star Birth! (Nippon Television Network Corporation).

(NTV), also known as “Star Birth,” was a public audition program for singers, in which the winners were awarded a contract with a record company or production company that wanted to sign them. As the title suggests, many stars, both male and female, were born from this program.

Among the successful candidates in the early years of the program, three of the most significant were Masako Mori, Junko Sakurada, and Momoe Yamaguchi. Because they were in the same grade, they were later called the “Hana no Chuzan Trio” (the three flower girls).

The following year, in 1972, AgnesChan appeared on the scene with “Hinageshi no Hana” (The Flower of the Hijari) and other songs, winning favorable reviews for her singing, which seemed to further develop the faltering and primitive Japanese lyrics of a Hong Kong singer. In the same year, Megumi Asaoka made her debut with the hit song “Watashi no Kataoki” in 1973. Masako Mori also made her debut in July of the same year with “Sensei.

In the male idol world, the “New Trio” of Goro Noguchi, Hiromi Go, and Hideki Saishiro also debuted in the same year, with Noguchi in 1971 and Hiromi Go and Saishiro in 1972, and dominated as top idol singers. The faces on the covers of the popular idol gravure magazines “Meisei” and “Heibon” also changed to focus on this generation, the Chuzan trio and the New Gosanke.

The year was 1973. Shizue Abe (In a Coffee Shop), Miyoko Asada (Akai Fuusen), Maria Anzai (Tears in the Sun), and others made their debuts, as did Junko Sakurada and Momoe Yamaguchi of the “Sta-birth” group.

I want to be a normal girl again.

In the same year, a group was born.

Candies. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the group consisted of Ran Ito (Ran), Yoshiko Tanaka (Sue), and Miki Fujimura (Miki), who performed a Candy’s medley at the “NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen” in 1923, which was very well received. They made their debut in 1973 with “Anata ni Mumu” (I’m crazy about you), and were featured in “8 o’clock! (TBS), but they did not have many hits in their debut. However, in ’75, they changed the center from Sue to Ran and released their fifth single, “Younger Boy,” which became their first Top Ten hit. In 1976, he co-starred with Shiro Ito and Masao Komatsu in “Migoro,” which became popular for its characters such as Densenman and Shirake Tori! Migoro! Laughing! in which she appeared regularly with Shiro Ito and Masao Komatsu, and her characters such as Densenman and Shirakegori became popular, expanding her popularity as an idol among the audience.

From left to right: Miki (Fujimura Miki), Ran (Ito Ran), Sue (Tanaka Yoshiko) (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

As Candy’s popularity continued to grow and the group headed toward its peak, it came as a great shock when the group announced its dissolution at a concert at Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in July 1977, along with the statement, “I want to be a normal girl again.

Candy’s fans’ enthusiastic support, which could be seen in glimpses in Kohaku, such as throwing paper tapes toward the stage and calling out the members’ names, greatly expanded the enjoyment of idols, which has led to the present day, where people grow together in support of the group. However, the group’s statement made us realize once again that idols are fictional entities that are created together with their fans, and that they are different from “ordinary girls.

The group’s last single, “Soumo gaeshi,” which included emo lyrics that incorporated the song titles of their previous singles, became Candy’s first and last No. 1 single on the Oricon charts.

Following the popularity of Candy’s, another “Star Birth! In 1976, another duo that had a major impact and influence on the history of idols was born in the same year. Mie (now Mie Miui) and Kay (now Keiko Masuda), yes, the Pink Ladies, were born.

From their debut song “Inspector Pepper,” released in August, they went on to have a string of mega-hits, including million-sellers such as “S-O-S,” “Carmen ’77,” “Sinbad on the Beach,” and “Wanted,” and their sixth single, “UFO,” also became a million seller and won a Record The sixth single, “UFO,” also became a million-seller and won a major record award.

Pink Lady’s songs were not about the feelings of a life-size girl, which had been common in idol songs up to that point, but rather about the flamboyant costumes that showed a healthy amount of skin, and above all, the worldview of the songs, which were set in an out-of-this-world setting with aliens and baseball players by Yuu Aku, the melodies by Shunichi Tokura, the pop music of the trendy dance sound, and the music of the song “UFO” by Shunichi Tokura. Shunichi Tokura’s melodies, which are woven into pop music with trendy dance sounds, and the eccentric choreography by Fu Doi. The world of Pink Lady, which seemed to have evolved from the somewhat unusual world of Linda Yamamoto and Finger 5 that the duo of Yu Aku and Shunichi Tokura had created in the past, was an ideal form of idol entertainment on TV at the time, and little girls were all copying the choreography, The development of merchandise became a social phenomenon, surpassing even Mari Amachi in popularity.

Pink Lady’s daring choreography and costumes made her an instant hit. With five consecutive million-seller singles, the group earned more than 20 billion yen in three years and was considered a monster in the music industry. Photo: June 24, 1977 at NHK Hall (Photo: Kyodo News)

The Best Ten

It should be noted that in the midst of the Pink Lady whirlwind, the ranking program “The Best Ten” began airing in January 1978. The song “UFO” by Pink Lady came in first place in the memorable first broadcast, and the song has since topped the list many times, boosting the popularity of the program and its boom.

In addition to the “sta-birth,” major entertainment agencies also began holding auditions to discover and nurture their own idols, and in 1976, Ikue Sakakibara won the grand prize at the “1st HORIPRO Talent Scout Caravan.

After Candy’s broke up and Pink Lady’s popularity reached its peak in the late 1970s, a new trend emerged in the Japanese music scene.

Artists classified in the “new music” genre, such as Twist, Alice, Godaigo, Off Course, Southern All Stars, and Machiko Watanabe, had a string of hits, and as they became popular among some idol singers, the momentum of pure idol singers, both male and female, began to weaken overall. As a result, the momentum of pure idol singers, both male and female, began to weaken overall. Female idol singers during this period, such asTomoko Kuwae andChika Takami, were different from the idols of the early 1970s, and more like singers.

At the beginning of the 1980s, one of the biggest idols of all time appeared on the scene.

  • Text by Satoru Ota

    Writer, editor, interviewer. Started writing when he was a student, and currently writes mainly entertainment articles and interviews for websites and magazines.

  • PHOTO Kyodo News

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