Big in Japan

Composed by Alphaville

Song Review by

At the time, Alphaville singer Marian Gold claimed that their debut single, "Big in Japan," was a metaphor for the perils of heroin addiction. Perhaps the idea was lost in translation from Gold's native German, because while the lyrics hint at stylish alienation, they're not easily tied to anything as concrete as a junkie's life. However, the song does feature a memorable, catchy chorus and a nagging quasi-Asian keyboard hook, and Gold is at least as good a Bryan Ferry mimic as, say, Icehouse's Iva Davies. The only problem is that by the time this song came out, late in 1984, the synth pop scene was already dying on the vine, with most bands this side of Depeche Mode either splitting up or turning into more traditional pop/rock groups. Had it come out two years before, "Big in Japan" would have fit perfectly in the new pop zeitgeist; as it was, it just sounded kind of dated even the first time you heard it.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Forever Young 1984 Warner Music / WEA 4:46
The Singles Collection 1988 Atlantic 3:49
First Harvest: The Best of Alphaville 1984-1992 1992 WEA International 3:55
Big in Japan 1992 WEA 3:59
Pop & Wave, Vol. 2 1993
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:53
Greatest Hits of the '80's & '90's 1995
Various Artists
Arcade Music 3:54
Fetenkult Disco 80 1998
Various Artists
Relax: Ultimate 80's Mix 1998
Various Artists
Polygram 3:37
De Pre Historie: De Jaren 80, Vol. 2 (1984) 1998
Various Artists
Eva 3:54
Visions of Dreamscapes 1999 Navigator 7:15
Best Of Superstars, Vol. 2 2000
Various Artists
WEA International 3:49
Flame 2000 Navigator 7:15
Stark Naked and Absolutely Live 2000 SPV 6:05
Don't Stop the 80's 2001
Various Artists
WEA International 3:53
Forever Pop 2001 WEA International 14:23
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Scorpio Music 3:31
The 80's, Vol. 2 2002
Various Artists
Warner Bros. 4:45
80's Forever, Vol. 2 2002
Various Artists
Warner Music 3:54
Electric, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records
Forever Young & Other Hits 2003 Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback
One Shot 1984 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 4:46
I Love Disco 80's, Vol. 3 2007
Various Artists
Beggars Banquet 7:20
7 Inch Heroes 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 4:36
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Retrodance, Vol. 3: The DJ's Celebration 2008
Various Artists
Music Brokers 6:54
80's/12" Extended Collection 2008
Various Artists
Music Brokers 6:56
Synth Pop 2015
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:49
100 Hits: Electric Eighties
Various Artists
Demon 3:53
80s Classics: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino / WSM 3:53
Classic Pop Songs, Vol. 02
Various Artists
Arcade Music
Forever Young: Best of the 80's
Various Artists
Warner Music 3:43
Hit! Hit! Hit!
Various Artists
Som Livre
Radio Air Play, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Warner Bros. 3:43
The  New Romantics [EMI 2009]
Various Artists
Mixed Repertoire 3:53
No Image
Various Artists
Rhino 3:53
Top Hits/80's Only Number 1's
Various Artists
Warner Bros. / Warner Music 3:43
Whata' Wonderful 80's
Various Artists
Warner Music 4:46
blue highlight denotes editor's pick