Fingerprints of Future Funk — Momoko Kikuchi’s “Glass No Sougen”
Momoko Kikuchi’s 1987 single counterbalances city pop energy with quiet fervor.
What strikes me almost immediately every time I listen to Momoko Kikuchi’s “Glass no Sougen” (Glass Grassland) is just how little the intro sounds like city pop. The 1980s genre is best known for its exciting, if occasionally garish, instrumentation, melding funky brass with nascent drum machines and punchy vocals. But “Glass no Sougen” instead begins with an impish restraint — while the era’s drums and bass are plenty prevalent, Kikuchi’s demure vocals belie the underlying city pop hit.
Glass no Sougen - YouTube Music
Provided to YouTube by VAP Glass no Sougen · Momoko Kikuchi ガラスの草原 ℗ VAP INC. Released on: 1987-10-08 Composer: 林哲司…
When the hook rolls around and Hiroshi Shinkawa’s arrangement swells, the track greets you with that patented city pop-cum-future funk bounce, as a trumpeting fanfare and choral flourishes brighten an otherwise down tempo R&B track.
Momoko Kikuchi might not have experienced the renaissance that her city pop contemporaries Mariya Takeuchi or Anri have in recent years, but her contributions to the genre rival their importance. Kikuchi made her debut in 1984 with the album Ocean Side, the title track of which is a take on Anri’s “Windy Summer.”
Tracing Kikuchi’s artistry over the years entwines her with more than a few notable names. “Glass no Sougen” was arranged by Hiroshi Shinkawa, whose handiwork included support of the soft rock outfit Omega Tribe. Hayashi Tetsuji, also of Omega Tribe fame, wrote and arranged for Junko Ohashi and Mariya Takeuchi before chipping in on Ocean Side, and later composing “Glass no Sougen.” Likewise, bassist Kenji Takamizu who played on Kikuchi’s Adventure, pitched in on Miki Matsubara’s Who Are You?
Despite this musical history, the first time I heard Kikuchi’s 1987 track was in 2015 thanks to its inclusion as a sample on Macross 82–99’s 2015 project, Cham! In hindsight, the track, titled “I Miss You,” is the album’s outsider. Though Macross’s previous projects, Sailor Wave and A Million Miles Away drew from Japanese dance and pop sounds, Cham! embraced a western tint. There was the obvious 50 Cent flip on “Ash”, which turned the lecherous “Just a Lil Bit” into a chilled out groove, just as there was the lounge jazzy “In the Moonlight.” By and large, Cham! stepped away from Macross’s usual future funk stylings.
I had genuinely forgotten about “Glass no Sougen” until Night Tempo’s EP, The Showa Groove. Released in September 2021, it’s a four-track reimagining of some of Kikuchi’s hits. Amidst the other tracks, which feature glossy, horn-laden boogie sounds, “Glass no Sougen” showcases Kikuchi’s quiet resolve. Her vocals are icy, unlike so many 1980s singers who preferred belt over breath. Night Tempo tosses in a hearty backbeat that adds a bit of heft to Kikuchi’s original track, in addition to folding in all of the future funk staples — vocal filters, and a funky bass line — to build out the relatively under-produced track.
Glass no Sougen (Night Tempo Showa Groove Mix) - YouTube Music
Provided to YouTube by VAP Glass no Sougen (Night Tempo Showa Groove Mix) · Night Tempo · Momoko Kikuchi 菊池桃子 － Night…
“Glass no Sougen” marked a turning point for Kikuchi. The track was the ending theme for the TV drama Love is Hi-Ho, a show that marked Kikuchi’s first lead acting role. The track’s steely determination, best represented by lyrics about seeing a dazzling future and the heartbreak of an unfulfilled dream, is something of a departure from her musical beginnings. Though she’d release two albums after “Glass no Sougen” (and re-record an album of her songs in 2014), Kikuchi’s career would take a turn from behind the microphone to acting in front of the camera.
Placing “Glass no Sougen” in the context of Kikuchi’s career provides a sobering reminder about the translation of city pop to future funk. The latter often finds itself stripping meaning from tracks, in part due to a language barrier and in part to its appreciation for a displaced sense of nostalgia. As one of Kikuchi’s last enduring pieces following a breakout run through the Oricon charts in the mind-1980s, “Glass no Sougen” reminds that for all of city pop’s pomp, there is always a deeper story behind the music.