Bringing back old, classic popular styles from their dormant spell is one way in which to gain attention in the popular mainstream nowadays. It is the revival of 60 and 70s blues and rock music that defines SUPERFLY, and makes her stand out in the current Japanese music scene.

SUPERFLY consists of vocalist Shiho Ochi, and former guitarist Koichi Tabo (although Tabo left the band, he is still ascribed composer credits), and the name of the band originates from Curtis Mayfield’s song ‘Superfly’. From their early beginnings at university where they spent time performing covers of their favourite songs, she has gained a reputation as “J-Pop’s soul diva”.

My first encounter of SUPERFLY was her energetic number ‘Alright!!’, the opening track to her 2009 album Box Emotions. The track radiates musical fire with a funky hook introduced by a driving guitar force and later repeated before every chorus, and the rapturous vocal energy of Ochi that takes us back to the virtuosity of Janis Joplin, propels the chorus to mountainous musical heights.

In addition, a mesmerising music video, reminiscent of the visual characters of the Scissor Sisters or the kaleidoscopic colours of hippie culture complements the vitality of the song.

While her artistic integrity is firmly rooted in rock, Ochi is a versatile musician who at one hand can exhale a musical gust of dynamism and verve, but on the other angle can melt the hearts of listeners with her enchanting and expressive vocal tone in hits like ‘Eyes On Me’. Her beautiful songwriting craft echoes the music of Carole King, and surely places SUPERFLY on a par with the great Western rock singers and songwriters of the past.

As well as writing songs that pay tribute to retro styles, SUPERFLY understands the pop sensibility that is called for in the mainstream environment. タマシイレボリューション ‘Tamashii Revolution’ (‘Soul Revolution’), alongside ‘Eyes On Me’ feature in her album Mind Travel from 2011, was written especially as a gesture of support for the Japanese players during the 2010 World Cup. Its modern pop-rock arrangement is jammed with vibrant funky brass band and Samba beats and flavours. Whilst the song takes great influence from rock music of the past, perhaps its grand scale makes a football pitch a more appropriate setting for SUPERFLY to boast her mighty vocal talents.

Surrounded by a musical mainstream that is saturated with cutesy ‘idol-pop’ fashion, SUPERFLY restores the energy of Western, Woodstock-style rock music, bringing back its relevance in today’s Japanese music scene and transcending expectations.

Other Listening:

  • Wildflower
  • 愛をくらえ (‘Eat Love’)
  • 愛を込めて花束を (‘Flowers with love’)

© Isaku Takahashi