Okinawa has been likened to Shangri-La in the past with its laid-back lifestyle and renowned longevity. Whether or not the connection is intentional, Shangri-La has been chosen by Okinawan singer Manami as the title track of her new album. Earlier this year she collaborated with singer Awich on the CD Two but the new solo album is her first since last year’s Jungolden Night.
As before, Shangri-La is very much a joint affair as Manami co-wrote all the songs with her brother Daisuke Nakamura and he is also responsible for the arrangements, keyboards and programming. The talented Nakamura really knows how to create catchy synth-pop and gets straight down to business with the opening title track and then the second song ‘Kimi no Kaze’.
Manami’s vocals are strong and clear and she has an engaging personality which somehow manages to radiate through her singing. Her lyrics are carefully crafted and positive. But on one song ‘Koi no Yume’ she sings what sounds like a pastiche of a 1960s American pop song complete with adolescent lyrics, whistling, and a lovelorn chorus sung all in English. It’s completely silly but quite irresistible.
As on her previous album she tries some slower ballads but these are her weakest point and the frankly tedious ‘Yumeboshi’ is over six minutes but seems almost twice as long. Much better is the more adventurous ‘Mabuya’ which hints at her Okinawan background as well as her interesting work with Awich.
The album contains seven new songs plus two bonus tracks, one of them a remix of last year’s ‘Jungolden Night’, the other an instrumental version of ‘Shangri-La’. So this is another mixed bag but with enough good moments to override its weaknesses. For the first time the album is being distributed throughout Japan so she may well gain a larger following to go with the already strong fan base she has on Okinawa. The title track is also being used in commercials to advertise Okinawa’s Orion Southern Star beer.
Shangri-La is released by VillageAgain/Siesta
More details and a promotional video for the song ‘Shangri-La’ can be found at Manami’s website: