Chisato Moritaka

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Chisato Moritaka rose to fame in the mid-'80s, claiming the informal title of Japan's "Dance Queen" from Yoko Oginome. She wasn't the last to hold that title, passing it on to Yuki Uchida a few years…
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Chisato Moritaka rose to fame in the mid-'80s, claiming the informal title of Japan's "Dance Queen" from Yoko Oginome. She wasn't the last to hold that title, passing it on to Yuki Uchida a few years later, but she still managed to become a household name in Japan thanks to her ballads and upbeat pop tunes influenced by Janet Jackson and Pink Lady. Her wholesome but handsome looks, which she never failed to underscore -- she is known for her preference for mini-skirts -- also contributed to her success, as did the numerous ads and TV shows she appeared in; however, Moritaka was no pop construct, writing her lyrics and most of her music herself, and even composing songs for other artists.

Like many Japanese celebrities, Moritaka began her career by winning a contest -- in this case, the Pocari Sweat Image Girl Contest of 1986. She abandoned modeling for music the next year, debuting with the single "New Season," re-released in 1988, and the album of the same name -- her only one with lyrics composed by other writers. The album didn't chart, but the title track was used in a Taku Shinjo movie. A nationwide tour, the first of many, followed in 1988, when Moritaka also released two full-lengths and an EP, all of which reached the Top 20. The 1989 album Hi-Jitsuryokusha Sengen, boosted by the successful single "17 Sai," the cover of Saori Minami's ‘70s pop standard, charted at number two, being the second in her string of 12 Top Five albums (the first was Mite). In 1989, Moritaka also introduced a quasi-military scenic outfit (uniform jacket and mini-skirt), which has since became a wardrobe staple. Her popularity got her slots in ads for companies such as Pioneer, Asahi, Kirin, and Toyota, and even a year-long hiatus in 1994 caused by throat problems didn't hurt her sales, further supported by a clever shift from leggy teen pop to a more mature musical style -- she covered the Beatles' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" and produced the song "Watashi ga Obasan ni Nattemo," which builds on the lyrical themes of "When I'm Sixty-Four" and has become a favorite at wedding receptions in Japan. Moritaka's fortunes finally began to turn in 1998, when she switched from her old label Zetima to Up-Front Agency, the home of younger pop units such as Morning Musume. Her songs have become popular cover choices for Up-Front's artists, but her own releases began to drop to the lower half of Top Ten, and the 1999's Harvest Time bombed in charts, stopping at number 82. But by that time, Moritaka was heading to semi-retirement, marrying the actor Yosuke Eguchi and disappearing into family life. She still wrote lyrics for the debut single of Country Musume in 1999, and in 2007, she sang on a tune for a Nissan commercial that she produced herself.