While it’s an area I’m a lot less familiar with, there’s something appealing about classic idols. I love seeing the evolution of idols throughout the years. Plus, there’s a lot of fantastic music from earlier eras that often gets covered, to various levels of success. These are not only 10 fantastic idol songs, but songs that are pretty representative of the earlier idol years. This list is all music from before Morning Musume debuted; I’m not using Showa/Heisei as a divider. This is because Morning Musume really feels like the cutoff of the modern idol era to me.
10. The Peanuts – Koi no Vacance
Ah, The Peanuts; doesn’t get much more classic than this. I’d imagine most of you know this from the H!P group W, which is where I first heard it. However, I think it’s a fantastic song and the original is very much worth a listen. While the W version gave it a bit of an update, it’s not a very big one. Even though at parts Koi no Vacance sounds pretty old fashioned (it WAS from 1963) it still holds up today. Perhaps more than anything vocals are the the focus here; everything else is a lot quieter. So you hear the lovely harmony more clearly. There’s a lot about the way this song sounds that makes it feel old school, but it’s still a fun listen.
9. Koizumi Kyoko – Nantettatte Idol
Kyon Kyon is one of those idols I know a bit about, but I’m much less familiar with. Still, Nantettatte Idol is one of her most memorable and notable songs. The beginning is especially great with the build up, but the entire song is a lot of fun. It’s also fairly rare to have idol songs about idols, but Kyon Kyon has you covered. “Scandal nara No Thank You” is probably my favorite lyric. Still, this song is just a bundle of energy, with the chorus full of Kyon Kyon shouting “YEAH” and the whole thing moving forward quickly. It’s a high energy song about idols, so it is one of my all-time favorite classic idol songs.
8. Candies – Haru Ichiban
Candies were a very popular group, and there are many songs I could choose to put up here that I like. A Super Girls Subgroup recently covered Toshishita Otoko no Ko, and did so quite well. However, Haru Ichiban is probably their big song as a group, and its my favorite. Much like Koi no Vacance it totally feels like an older song. It’s also fairly repetitive, and it’s song all in chorus. However, it’s still a very compelling song, especially when they start singing with harmony. The guitar solo also does a lot in adding to the character of the song. The song wouldn’t be bad without it, but some of these little things make Haru Ichiban SO memorable.
7. Onyanko Club – Seifuku wo Nugasanaide
This song is my guilty pleasure. I really can’t help singing and dancing along. I love just how bold this song is; it’s cute and catchy, but essentially it’s an idol song about thinking about having sex. It’s the type of song that, when covered today, people still gasp when idols sing “tomodachi yori hayaku ecchi wo shitai kedo.” Also, did I mention it’s seriously catchy? The back and forth between the main song and the repeated “nyan nyan nyans” and such make this a fun and catchy song to listen to. This song is catchy and addictive, and has the bonus of having really bold lyrics, something I like.
6. Nakamori Akina – Shoujo A
I think there’s a bit of a perception that idols have been goody goody, and it’s only recently that idols have started being a bit more daring. However this isn’t the case! While Matsuda Seiko was the pretty standard idol, Nakamori Akina was a bit of the polar opposite; she played a much more mature role. Shoujo A, her second single, encompasses that perfectly. Akina’s deeper, slightly husky voice fits the bold brass sound and the driving beat. This song is intense and mature, not necessarily what you think of when you think of idols. I do like the sound a lot, though, and I admire Akina for breaking the mold.
5. Minami Aoyama Shoujo Kagekidan – Sweet & Toughness
OK, again, I assume if you have already heard/watched this that you know it because of the Canary Club song. Which is how I know this. However, it’s one of my favorite idol songs. It’s a very fun upbeat track that at some points sounds very much like it comes from the early 90s. That’s not a detractor, though; the song holds up. I much prefer the original to the Canary Club version, personally, so if you haven’t heard that version I suggest you give it a try.
4. Yamaguchi Momoe – Cosmos
Ah, Momoe, one of THE greats of the idol world. Even though Momoe is one of the most famous idols of all time, she really doesn’t have a typical idol image, which is interesting to me. Her mature songs and her deep voice make for an interesting time. Cosmos is really her best song; her deep voice sounds absolutely lovely, and the piano intro is almost hauntingly beautiful. As someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of ballads, this is one of the best idol ballads, period.
3.Pink Lady – UFO
When I talk about Pink Lady, it’s usually in the same breath as “Pink Lady and Jeff,” Pink Lady’s failed American variety show attempt. However, Pink Lady had a lot of fantastic idol music in the 70s, and there are a lot of classic songs remembered today. It was tough narrowing it down, but I ended up choosing UFO; it’s arguably their most famous track. From the spoken “UFO”s to the great harmonies, this is a track that still holds up. I think another thing I like about it is that, especially in the original, it always feels like it’s taking things seriously. It’s a silly subject for a song, but they give it their all.
2. Moritaka Chisato – Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo
Yes, the song I’ve been lamenting for making me feel old as a 22 year old person. Slightly iffy lyrics aside (that Chisato herself wrote!) Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo has fairly recently become one of my favorite songs. I think a lot of it is because of how much emotion the song has, as well as the energy that Chisato puts into all of her live performances. This song is at the tail end of my time frame (early 90s) and you can hear the difference; the arrangement feels very modern. That said, even among modern songs, Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte Mo would stand out among the best.
1. Matsuda Seiko – Natsu no Tobira
I knew a Matsuda Seiko song would stand at the top; however, picking was tricky. At one point the list had three Seiko songs on it, but I cut it down to Natsu no Tobira. Everything about this song is perfection to me; Seiko’s voice, the strings, just the way that the song leads into the “Fresh! Fresh! Fresh!!’ line. This is one of the best idol songs ever, and my personal favorite classic idol song.