From the first time I heard NENA’s amazing 1983 song 99 Luftballons I was riveted to the power and beauty of her voice and song! When I heard it again a half dozen months later in English I liked it even more, because the lyrics were telling a story that needed to be told. She didn’t slow down for a minute from then to 1987, at which point the band sadly imploded. She returned as a solo artist in 1989, with the second stage of her career going full tilt until 1997. She has had the full support of her original band members the whole time, including her ex, for both live and studio events. Not something many rock stars can say in that same situation.

After some film work and time to raise here family, she returned to the music scene with new tunes around 2005; during the between time she did manage to release a bunch of live albums. She kicked off the third stage of her music career with the 2 CD set of original music Would you like to go with me followed by a 2 CD collection of covers of some of her favorite music called, appropriately enough Cover Me. I particularly like that one of the covers was the most important song from Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, called Helden in German, Heroes in English. After that she seems to have been releasing around an album of original music each year.

Then came the pandemic. She had few shows last year, and this year she has a handful of tour dates scheduled, 2 major festivals per month ending in September. Starting in March of 2022 she will return in force, with what seems to be 2 concerts scheduled for every 3 days for the whole rest of the year. With lots of other bands following the same pattern, this has become the New Normal.

It was easy to pick the first tune to include here, since it chose itself: 99 Luftballons. This version was posted from a live tour performance from 2018, as was the 2nd track, Willst Du Mit Mir Gehn. For the third one I went with Licht; Enjoy!

I thought it was time I posted again about TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA, since they continue to release song after amazing song. All of these were uploaded to You Tube in 2021, in celebration of this year’s Together Again tour and their new album SKA=ALMIGHTY. The first track is Mede Tashi Song feat. Muro Tsuyoshi, posted on June 11th and currently sitting at just shy of 160K views. That’s followed by I want to meet you Feat. Hasegawa blank paper uploaded in March, and we finish up with a live version of Paradise Has No Border recorded at the Great Conjunction 2020 event. If the crowd looks a little less dense than you were expecting it’s because the show happened on December 3rd of 2020, so it is set with Social Distancing seating (not that anyone is actually sitting down), and the audience are all wearing masks.

Mylène Farmer is not just a world class singer, she also has some of the best choreography ever seen on stage, and her music videos have always been cinema grade. That last is no surprise to anyone, considering she was an actress before she got into music, and her long running collaboration with filmmaker Laurent Boutonnat for those videos. I am including two of her tracks, Déshabillez-moi, and Sans Contrefaçon, but you can find more on her official web site, and on her You Tube Channel. For those who don’t happen to speak French but still want to follow along with the songs, you can turn on Closed Captioning and select Auto Translate if the CC is not already in English.

Wagakki Band continue to create amazing music using their blend of traditional Japanese instruments (the literal translation of the word Wagakki) and modern rock tools. The first track is Aria of Life, their theme song for the Anime series Mars Red, while the second, Starlight, is the theme for the Japanese TV drama “Ichikei no Karasu”. Their music certainly lends itself to TV and Movie production with its unique sound, so they have been getting a lot of work in between recording albums and doing world tours.

Hikaru Utada posted her new song Pink Blood three days ago, and it already has over 2 million views. It is the theme song to the excellent anime To Your Eternity, currently airing in Japan and streaming on Crunchyroll. In comparison, her song One Last Kiss was posted on March 8th, and is fast approaching the 36 million views mark. If you don’t already know who she is, you have a couple of decades of her world class music to catch up on.