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March 25th, 2023 marks the 38th anniversary of Mariya Takeuchi’s now famed “Plastic Love”.
“Plastic Love” is not only famed and regarded as a crown jewel in the Japanese genre of city pop. But it’s longevity and rise to popularity is a fascinating story.
Over the past few years, TikTok has resulted in a whole bunch of old songs finding new life and new audiences, and is so powerful in its ability to make hits of songs, that now the music industry has shifted towards promoting songs on the platform entirely. A mistake. Not a long term or viable marketing plan, because luck plays such a big part in it, and you can never rely on virality. But, alongside TikTok, we are also at a point in time when everybody is down for a throwback, a re-release or a remake, and the rise of vaporwave and lo-fi playlists on YouTube, which also resulted in older songs finding new audiences and going viral. Yet “Plastic Love” was an early instance of a social platform catapulting an old song to levels of popularity so great, that record labels couldn’t ignore it and began to act on it. And the social platform which did it?
Fucking YouTube. The platform that Japan can’t stand, but has no choice but to tolerate.
Back in 2017, “Plastic Love” somehow began turning up in everybody’s YouTube recommendations, resulting in it not only becoming a bit of a cult classic, but also putting global audiences onto the genre of city pop. “Plastic Love” actually showed up in my recommendations around that time, which is how I came across it. And it’s a beautiful thing, because it truly shows that it’s never too late for a song to find its audience. Especially when it’s a song which has all the makings of a hit. Because despite how much of a sure fire smash “Plastic Love” sounds, it wasn’t a hit at all when it first released back in 1985.
“Plastic Love” didn’t even have itself a music video, only receiving one in 2020, off the back of not only the newfound success in 2017, but the continued success the song would enjoy for the next few years. A success which is still continuing to this very day.
I would post the music video, but it’s shit and doesn’t feature Mariya herself. And there are not a great deal of live performances of “Plastic Love” online. So lets us all cherish one of the few which still exists. For now. Because, Japan. We know how they love to take down live performance videos.
This performance of “Plastic Love” is from Mariya Takeuchi’s concert Souvenir. And she looks and sounds great. She looks better here in 2000 than she did in 1985. And she still sounds great.
The cool thing about this performance (aside from Mariya looking snatched in her leather dress) is that her husband Tatsuro Yamashita, is part of her band, and contributes vocals. He does a lot. And at one point Mariya looks like she’s ready for somebody to switch off his microphone. But it’s a nice moment, given that he is the producer of the song and a frequent musical partner of Mariya’s. And a residual result of “Plastic Love”’s virality, was that it put audiences onto Tatsuro Yamashita, who is not only the producer of “Plastic Love”, but one of the most prolific figures in city pop and is regarded as the king of the genre. Live performances of his are also extremely rare and hard to find these days. So we’re getting two birds with one stone here.
I really hope Mariya’s team do the damn thing and start to make more of her discography available on streaming services, along with official uploads of music videos and performances. Because as great as “Plastic Love” is, it’s not the only great song in her discography. But even if it were, what a great song and an absolute classic. Overplayed? Yes. But it’ll never get old. And I’ll never get tired of it.