by Chloe Catajan
If '80s dance pop or anything remotely electronic was part of your YouTube rotation last year, then you've likely had Mariya Takeuchi's “Plastic Love" come up on your recommended list. The fan-uploaded video, featuring the nearly eight-minute track and the now iconic press shot of the Japanese singer-songwriter, has skyrocketed to over 25 million views as it continues to be the main streaming format for the song (it's not available on Spotify or Apple Music). Now, the glimmery city pop anthem that won the Internet's heart has an official music video—35 years after its release.
Directed by Kyotaro Hayashi, the “Plastic Love" music video reflects the way city pop framed the world back then. The genre emerged during Tokyo's tech and economic boom in the '70s and '80s, drawing influence from the latest gadget crazes (think, the Walkman) to music reminiscent of city life (disco, soft rock, and funk, to name a few). These fun, dreamy, and colorful atmospheres are brought to life by Hayashi's saturated, neon-lit snapshots of urban Tokyo. Textured with haze and grain, the music video also plays on the romantic, nostalgic factor that city pop offers today.
It isn't explicitly clear how Takeuchi's 1984 single resurged into the international mainstream in such a big way. Sources like Open Culture take into consideration YouTube algorithm magic. Others, such as YouTuber Stevem, discuss meme culture and the rise of sample-based genres like vaporwave and future funk spreading city pop's influence, and more specifically, Takeuchi's. Likely a combination of all factors, the viral success of “Plastic Love" has launched Takeuchi into a different, obscure-yet-massive realm of fame compared to the kind she's cultivated in her motherland.
Future funk producer Night Tempo's “Plastic Love" remix.
In Japan, Takeuchi has long been a well-renowned pop star with 12 studio albums under her belt, selling more than 16 million units by 2009. These days, she's dropped a couple new singles as well as Souvenir The Film, a documentary to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her career.
“Plastic Love" is one of the many milestones in Takeuchi's career, the single coming off her number-one album, Variety. But now, it's also where her two worlds of fame merge.
“It never occurred to me to try to (release) work in the west," Takeuchi said looking back on the Variety era in an interview with The Japan Times. “Considering that it was mostly performed in Japanese, we figured it would be impossible to go abroad. However, looking at YouTube's comments section for 'Plastic Love' now, many viewers don't really seem to care what language it's in."
With the release of the “Plastic Love" music video, albeit abridged, Takeuchi fans worldwide, old and new, now have something to discover and revel in together. On top of that, Takeuchi is also set to put out a three-disc compilation album, Turntable, on 21 August 2019.
Marshall, Colin. How Youtube's Algorithm Turned an Obscure 1980s Japanese Song Into an Enormously Popular Hit: Discover Mariya Takeuchi's “Plastic Love". http://www.openculture.com/2018/10/youtubes-algorithm-turned-obscure-1980s-japanese-song-enormously-popular-hit-discover-mariya-takeuchis-plastic-love.html.
Plastic Love. https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/plastic-love.
St. Michel, Patrick. Mariya Takeuchi: The Pop Genius Behind 2018's Surprise Online Smash Hit from Japan. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2018/11/17/music/mariya-takeuchi-pop-genius-behind-2018s-surprise-online-smash-hit-japan/#.XPA8DNNKjOQM.
Warner Music Japan. https://wmg.jp/mariya/news/83463/.