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JAPAN BEAT
Puffy



Courtesy of Disk Garage

Five years on and they' still around. What is it with these girls? Not only have they outlasted the usual 15 minutes of fame allotted to idoru (idol) groups, but they've accomplished the rare feat of achieving popularity at home in Japan and abroad as well.

Osaka-born Yumi Yoshimura and Tokyo native Ami Onuki formed Puffy in 1995 after meeting independent producer Tamio Okuda, who promptly took charge of their career. Through his own music and that of Puffy and Morning Musume, Okuda has become a central figure in the late '90s J-Pop scene, offering a girl-next-door vision, which contrasts starkly with rival idoru producer Tetsuya Komura's plastic daydream fantasies that dominated mid-'90s J-Pop in the form of figures such as Namie Amuro.

Puffy's first single, "Asia No Junshin," took the techno-dominated charts by storm in 1996, launching a Puffy sensation, which emanated from Japan across Asia. Soon limited edition Puffy dolls were selling in Hong Kong for twice their price in Japan, and Newsweek was citing Puffy as a factor in defining the new Asian middle class.

With the Puffy wave cresting in 1997, it seemed like their allotted period of fame had run out. But the jeans-clad girls forged on, enlisting the talents of heavyweight producer Yasuharu Konishi of Pizzicato Five for their 1997 Solo/Solo double CD. Recognizing their growing popularity across Asia, they also included a track sung in Mandarin for their Chinese fans on 1998's Jet CD.

1999 saw the issuing of two new albums, Fever*Fever and PRMX, a remix album featuring contributions from Freddy Fresh and Malcolm McLaren among others.

2000 has seen Puffy take on the US, appearing at the Sony Japan music showcase to enraptured fans of Japan kitsch during the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, and filming their DVD Run Puffy Run in a road trip across North America.

The Very Best of Puffy appeared in July 2000, an appropriate retrospetive on a five-year career, which, even as the girls approach 30, has shown astounding longevity.

Puffy play Shibuya Kokkaido on October 30-31. See listings for details.


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