Beauty album cover

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Virgin Japan

The aural equivalent of Shinjuku Station at rush hour, Sakamoto’s 1989 major label album Beauty captures the sound of teeming humanity from many walks of life in all of its over-caffeinated glory. Every second of it is overstuffed with sonic details, which would sound like bloat from just about any other pop artist. Yet Sakanmoto is deft, even when mixing Okinawan melodies, hip-hop drums, slick R&B, Indian tabla, cut’n’paste samples, synthesized woodwinds, rock guitar, and MTV pop to tackle the likes of the Rolling Stones and Stephen Foster. How else to explain an album that features Sly Dunbar, Brian Wilson, no wave legend Arto Lindsey, and Youssou N’Dour, all on one song! A global polyglot that on the surface might resemble a Benetton ad yet features plenty of elegant moments (see “Rose”) that are classic Sakamoto.

Andy Beta

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