Pink Lady (band)
|Origin||Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan|
|Years active||1976–1981, 1984, 1989, 1996–1997, 2003–2005, 2010–present|
Pink Lady (ピンク・レディー Pinku Redī?) is a Japanese female pop music duo of the late 1970s and early 1980s, featuring Mitsuyo Nemoto ("Mie", born March 9, 1958) and Keiko Masuda ("Kei", born September 2, 1957). In Japan, they are remembered for a run of pop-chart hits from roughly 1976 to 1979, but in the United States, they are best known for their short-lived 1980 NBC TV variety show Pink Lady, later released on DVD under the title Pink Lady and Jeff.
Pink Lady is one of only two Japanese artists to have reached the Billboard Top 40, hitting #37 with the single "Kiss in the Dark"; the other was Kyu Sakamoto with the original Japanese-language version of "Sukiyaki". They are also the first Japanese act to have ever performed in Seoul, South Korea, in November 1980.
In June 1979 Billboard magazine stated the duo had sales of over 72 million US dollars in Japan, and stated in September 1980 that Pink Lady's singles had grossed over $40 million, their album releases over $25 million, and their TV appearances, such as commercials and product sponsorship, near $35 million—a combined total exceeding $100 million.
Mie and Kei were childhood friends who grew up and attended school together in Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture. They first appeared in March 1976 on a prime-time TV talent show called Star Tanjō! ("A Star Is Born") (similar to America's Star Search). They were showcased as a cute, fresh-faced folk duo dressed in bib overalls. By the time the girls re-appeared on the show a few months later, their image had completely changed - they were now dressed in slinky, beaded, short-skirted white dresses, performing upbeat pop tunes. A few years later, they capitalised on the disco trend, with songs like "Monday Mona Lisa Club".
Peak of popularity
Nemoto and Masuda epitomize the Japanese concept of the aidoru or pop-star "idol," singing catchy, hook-filled pop songs, often with a disco flavor (in later years especially), and performing almost perfectly synchronized dances to accompany their songs. During the late 1970s, they had streak of nine No. 1 hits, five of which were consecutive million-selling singles according to Oricon; these include "Nagisa no Sinbad", "Wanted," "UFO" (their biggest-selling single, with 1.95 million copies sold), "Southpaw, and "Monster". Their 1978 single Chameleon Army charted for a total of 63 weeks - a record which has since not been broken in Japan. The duo became commercial pitchwomen for various products, ranging from shampoo to radios to children's books to ramen noodles. Just about every product Mie and Kei endorsed enjoyed a massive uptick in sales.
1978 was Pink Lady's peak year, during which they made their first concert appearance in the United States (in Las Vegas), and starred in their first major full-length motion picture. That year, the two also became cartoon stars with the airing of Pink Lady Monogatari: Eiko no Tenshitachi (The Story of Pink Lady: Angels of Splendid Fame), a 35-episode anime TV series directed by Katsuhiko Taguchi and aired on Tokyo 12 Channel (now TV Tokyo). The series was commissioned by T&C (Trust and Confidence), the duo's managing firm, with animation production by Toei Animation. (the singers did not play themselves in the anime; their voices were provided by other actresses.)
However, New Year's Eve 1978 represented the beginning of a downturn for Pink Lady. Nemoto and Masuda turned down an invitation to perform on the long-running annual New Year's Eve television music program Kōhaku Uta Gassen (Red-and-White Song Contest), to host their own TV special on another network. It backfired, as Kohaku garnered ratings nine times higher than Pink Lady. In addition, the women's managers announced that they had invited students from a school for the blind to the studio for the taping of the show, but the school denied that any such arrangement had been made. Critics accused Pink Lady of using blind children to promote their own TV special. They were not invited to perform again on Kohaku the following year, and in fact didn't perform on the annual special until 1988 - well after the duo had disbanded.
Pink Lady in the USA
With their record sales in Japan in decline, Pink Lady focused on the American market. Nemoto and Masuda appeared as guest stars on a Leif Garrett TV special in the spring of 1979, performing what was to be their first American single, a disco tune called "Kiss In The Dark," recorded phonetically in English and released by Curb Records, followed by an entire English-language album (a collection of disco tunes and ballads, including a cover of the 1966 Left Banke classic "Walk Away Renee"). When "Kiss in the Dark" debuted on the Billboard charts that summer, Pink Lady became the first Japanese recording act to chart in America since Kyu Sakamoto ("Sukiyaki") 16 years earlier. "Kiss In The Dark" reached #37 on Billboard magazine's top 40, (#49 on the Cash Box magazine chart). Their album reached the highest position of #205, according to Billboard.
Afterwards, the duo appeared with comedian Jeff Altman in Pink Lady and Jeff, a mixture of musical numbers and sketch comedy. The fact that Mie and Kei knew very little English limited their potential as comedians, and also caused them a great amount of stress, since both were essentially forced to memorize dialogue neither could understand. On top of that, they were forbidden to perform any of their Japanese hits until late in the show's short run, being forced to struggle through English-language disco and pop hits such as "Yesterday" and "Knock on Wood." The show lasted only six weeks in prime time on NBC before being pulled off the air, and to this day is celebrated by many as one of the worst television shows in history, as well as single-handedly killing off the variety show format that had been a staple of American television since its early days. The singers, frustrated, went home to Japan afterwards and never again attempted a run at the U.S. market. The albums and singles they released in America are now out of print, and one of the only ways for U.S. fans to get hold of Pink Lady's music is through Japanese imports.
Pink Lady today
Pink Lady's lack of visibility at home while they were filming the show in Hollywood, as well as the decline of disco music, hurt their record sales even in Japan, and in 1981, after making an unsuccessful attempt to update their sound to appeal more to adults, Pink Lady disbanded. The two have reunited a few times since for concerts and new recordings, and have also kept busy with successful solo careers as singers and actresses.
In 2005, the duo announced their farewell tour in Japan, titled the UFO tour (a pun on their 1977 single UFO, and the tour's commercial title Unforgettable Final Ovation). That same year, they released a choreography DVD for all their singles up to Chameleon Army.
On Wednesday September 1, 2010, the duo announced their comeback during a press conference presenting the release of a specialised photo-book. Innovation, a 2-disc greatest hits release with re-recorded versions of their past hits, was released in December of that same year. A concert tour was followed in March, 2011, which marked the 30th anniversary since their official disbandment in 1981.
Pink Lady's music has been used as background music in several anime series (aside from the aforementioned Angels of Splendid Fame biographical series), including Majokko Tickle "The Big Wind Up" and His and Her Circumstances.
In 2011 the Japanese music program Music Station listed them in their Top 50 Idols of All-time based on their sale figures supplied by Oricon. They were placed no. 15, with sales exceeding 13,000,000. Billboard magazine however, states they sold over 40 million singles and 25 million albums.
Pink Lady singles
- Pepper Keibu (August 1976) - #4
- S.O.S. (November 1976) - 1 week at #1
- Carmen '77 (March 1977) - 5 weeks at #1
- Nagisa No Sindbad (June 1977) - sold 1 million, 8 weeks at #1
- Wanted (Shimei Tehai) (September 1977) - sold 1.2 million, 12 weeks at #1
- UFO (December 1977) - sold 1.55 million, 10 weeks at #1
- Southpaw (March 1978) - sold 1.46 million, 9 weeks at #1
- Monster (June 1978) - sold 1.1 million, 8 weeks at #1
- Tomei Ningen (September 1978) - 4 weeks at #1
- Chameleon Army (December 1978) - 6 weeks at #1
- Zipangu (March 1979) - #4
- Pink Typhoon (In the Navy) (May 1979) - #6
- Nami Nori Pirates (July 1979) - #4
- Kiss in the Dark (September 1979) - #19 Japan, #37 USA
- Monday Mona Lisa Club (September 1979) - #14
- Do Your Best (December 1979) - #36
- Ai Giri Giri (March 1980) - #58
- Sekai Eiyuu Shi (May 1980) - #45
- Uta-Kata (September 1980) - #48
- Remember (Fame) (December 1980) - #86
- Last Pretender (January 1981) - #85
- OH! (March 1981) - #46
Singles after disbandment
- Pepper Keibu (1977)
- Hoshi kara Kita Futari (1978)
- Pink Lady no Katsudou Ooutsushin (1978)
- Magical Musical Tour (1979)
- Kiss in the Dark (1979)
- We Are Sexy (1979)
- Turning Point (1980)
- Suspense (1984)
- Challenge Concert (1977)
- Summer Fire '77 (1977)
- Bye Bye Carnival (1978)
- America! America! America! (1978)
- '78 Jumping Summer Carnival (1978)
- Live in Budokan (1979)
- Sayonara Pink Lady (1981)
- Best Hit Album (1977)
- Best Hit Album 2 (1978)
- Best Hit Album 3 (1979)
- Pink Lady (1981)
- Pink Lady BLOOD NEW (1987)
- Pink Lady HISTORY (1990)
- Remixes (1990)
- Pink Lady BEST ONE (1993)
- Pink Lady Best Selection (1996)
- Pink Lady Twin Best (1997)
- Rare Trax (2006)
- Mega Hits! (2006)
- Pink Lady Platinum Box (2006)
- Pink Lady - Yu Aku Works (2008)
- Pink Lady Golden Best (2009)
- INNOVATION (2010)
- Pink Lady Singles Premium (2011)
- Pink Lady No Subete (1990)
- Pink Lady (1997)
- Pink Eyed Soul (1997)
- Pink Lady & Jeff (2001)
- Pink Lady Last Tour UNFORGETTABLE FINAL OVATION (2005)
- Pink Lady No Katsudou Ooutsoshin (2006)
- Pink Lady Night (2010)
- Billboard Magazine June 1979. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Billboard Magazine, September 1980. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
- Billboard Magazine September 1980. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Hoover, William (2011). Historical Dictionary of Postwar Japan. Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 200, 201.
- Cooper, Kim (2001). Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. Feral House. p. 179.
- "Pink Lady profile page on official Oricon website". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- 音楽CD検定公式ガイドブック下巻. レコード検定協議会. p. 136.
- Billboard Magazine May 1979. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Complete Dictionary of Movie Staffs in Japan 日本映画史研究会. 科学書院. 2005. pp. 944, 1208, 1448.
- Masataka, Yoshida (2004). Nijigen Bishouron 二次元美少女論. 二見書房. p. 143.
- Schilling, Mark (1997). The Encyclopedia of Japanese pop culture. Weatherhill. p. 189.
- Billboard Magazine September 1978. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Billboard Magazine May 1979. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Billboard Magazine, September 1979 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- Billboard Magazine December 1979. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- Brian Phillips. "Pink Lady and Jeff (review)". TVparty.com.
- "Modern Japan - Famous Japanese - Pink Lady". Japan Zone.
- "Music Station announces their Top 50 Idols of All time". Tokyo Hive. Retrieved 2011-07-28.
- Schilling, Mark (1997). "Pink Lady". The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. New York: Weatherhill. pp. 186–189. ISBN 0-8348-0380-1.