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Mariya Takeuchi's 'Plastic Love' breaks Japan's top 10 decades after its original release

The iconic city pop tune track now has full-length official music video

  • Adrianna Cheung
  • 4 December 2021
Mariya Takeuchi's 'Plastic Love' breaks Japan's top 10 decades after its original release

Mariya Takeuchi's 'Plastic Love' was originally recorded back in 1984 and has enjoyed a recent uptick in popularity with thanks to Plastic Lover, an unofficial upload on YouTube that cultivated 24 million views before it was deleted. Even still, three decades after its original release, the track recently broke Japan's top ten sales chart for the first time and got a full-length official music video — which gives us a reason to listen to it another 24 million times.

But why is a nearly 40-year-old city pop song becoming so popular after so many decades?

‘Plastic Love’ was written and sung by Mariya Takeuchi and produced by her husband, Tatsuro Yamashita, in 1984. Since then, Takeuchi has been regarded as one of the most influential artists in the city pop genre, while Yamashita has been labelled as the king of city pop.

Towards the end of the Shōwa period in Japan, the country's shiny new modern cities were seeing Japan becoming one of the world's superpowers. Its cosmopolitan lifestyle also influenced music and city pop was born, loved for its ability to reflect a new kind of city life. Taking pieces ranging from synth-pop to new wave to jazz to disco and with a little influence from the West — mainly the English lyrics — we now had a well-defined new genre called city pop that represents the 1980s bubble era in Japan.

The background of 'Plastic Love' is still somewhat similar to the world we are living in currently, and perhaps that's why it still resonates with music fans. In a fast-paced world, we are all chasing that glamorously shiny lifestyle, but often neglect what's actually important, leaving a big hole in our hearts. 'Plastic Love' has a hypnotic groove and catchy melody but with lyrics that give off a hollow plastic feeling, we could all still relate to.

"I wanted to write something danceable, something with a city pop sound... [the lyrics] tell the story of a woman who lost the man she truly loves," Takeuchi explained to The Japan Times.

According to Takeuchi, the lyrics are about a woman who lost her true love. “No matter how many other guys would pursue her, she couldn’t shake the feelings of loneliness that the loss created.”

However, to get people from around the globe to listen to a genre that they probably have never heard of, a great track is not quite enough. The album Variety was released while Takeuchi was pregnant and the song ‘Plastic Love’ only reached 86 on the Japanese music chartsFast forward to July 5 in 2017, an eight-minute fan-made remix of the track was uploaded to YouTube by a user known as Plastic Lover with a thumbnail of the cover of Takeuchi's earlier single Sweetest Music, taken by Los Angeles-based photographer Alan Levenson. The YouTube video cultivated 24 million views before being taken down for a copyright issue with Levenson.

"Everybody questions the algorithm, but my feeling is that people looked at the photo and saw something about it. I think it's a great photo, and I don't say that about all my photos," Levenson told Pitchfork.

Thanks to the YouTube algorithm, internet memes, discussions on global forums and remixes of the track, 'Plastic Love' became viral and broke into the country's top ten sales chart, also getting a music video released by Warner Music Japan.

At the end of the day, the persona, the visual, and the music all play a virtual role in the success of 'Plastic Love' decades after its initial release. Now, dive into the modern interpretation of Mariya Takeuchi's nostalgic track ‘Plastic Love’ from below.

[via Kotaku]

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