Flashback Friday: Manami featuring Pharrell - Back of my mind | When you're in 1st place and the blue shell hits

Flashback Friday: Manami featuring Pharrell - Back of my mind | Random J Pop

J-artists working with big name US producers is not uncommon. But it seldom happens at the beginning of their career and it's rare that's there's any kind of big campaign or buzz around which producer an artist is working with, the same way that there is in the West. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis quietly worked with Hikaru Utada and Crystal Kay. Rodney Jerkins quietly worked with Hikaru Utada and Ayumi Hamasaki. Namie Amuro had 3 albums featuring the production of Dallas Austin. And one girl had her debut single produced by one half of The Neptunes, but you may not had even heard the damn song.

Back in 2008, fashion designer, restaurateur, toll booth shift manager of the Japanese trend gateway and owner of clothing brand BAPE, the mononymous Nigo, held a star search for the next thing in Japanese R&B. The winner of whom would not only be sold a dream of being catapulted to superstardom, but would also have their debut album be produced by Pharrell Williams; who also happened to be a friend of Nigo's, as well as a business partner.

A then 22 year old Manami had auditioned and won the competition.

Minami's debut single "Back of my mind" was released digitally on October 19th of '09 in English and Japanese, and it slapped. Of course it would. We'd expect no less from Pharrell Williams. Even when his songs are garbage, it's garbage that slaps. Yes. Even Ariana's "The light is coming". But the song wasn't well promoted, and the music video was...well...see for yourself.

Between creative minds such as Nigo and Pharrell Williams, for them to not give Minami an actual music video shot on a sound stage with a fly ass set, the freshest looks and a scene of her rolling through Tokyo in a pink Lamborghini and a long neon coloured ponytail was so rude.

No shade to Manami. But I do have to wonder what the calibre of the competition in this star search was like. She has a nice voice, but it's nothing great that would make me stand up, do a church titty jiggle and want to know who be singin'. And she doesn't have that swag or visual it-factor to help compensate. Manami is Okinawan. Not wholly relevant. But there is something about that place and weak vocals. Namie Amuro, Daichi Miura and Mesia Kuroki all be from there.

Bless her.

"Back of my mind" wasn't the biggest hit. By the time anybody had heard the song, Nigo and Pharrell already had a hand on the helicopter rope ladder, ready to be airlifted out from having anything to do with a bitch. There was a follow-up single "Hold back", which also slapped and came courtesy of Pharrell. But the chopper was gone and Manami's dream of being the next Beyoncé was over by the time the song hit iTunes.

Minami continued to release songs into 2012, but none of them were produced by Pharrell Williams; which may have partly been due to issues that he had ran into with his own record label, Star Trak, to which Manami was signed. And also because established acts in the US were throwing him big ol' cheques to produce for them.

But her debut song lives on, even if her career doesn't. And according to YouTube comments, "Back of my mind" still gets love and goes hard in Roppongi.

When I'd first heard that Ariana Grande was working with Pharrell Williams, I was hoping he'd give the song to her to cover. And when I actually heard Sweetener and the type of songs that he'd given her, I found it even more of a shame that a cover of "Back of my mind" didn't materialise, because it would have fit in with the sound and given it a second wind. A long shot, I know. But a guy can hope.

Pharrell has such strong ties and relationships with artists in every creative field in Japan, that it seems strange that he's not worked with more of those in music. I've been wanting to Crystal Kay on a classic Neptunes beat for the longest time. Crystal and Pharrell have even met. Although he probably had no idea who she was, and his eyes probably glossed over when she said 'I'm a singer'. 'Great. Another one of these hoes' he thought to himself. Not knowing that she's the realest deal.

"Back of my mind" is still available for purchase on iTunes. So if you're feeling it and wanna support the cause, toss a bitch 99p for a download. Be sure to go for the Japanese version though.