Thirty years after she shocked Japan with her retirement, the legendary Yamaguchi Momoe (50) is finally entering the world of digital downloads. It was announced yesterday that the 12 major digital distributors have reached an agreement to sell the 274 songs she released – 32 singles and 242 album tracks – together with videos of live performances. The files will be released over a period of four weeks from January 17, her 51st birthday. This year is also the 50th anniversary of Hori Pro, the top management agency that represented her. They reached an agreement with the likes of Dwango, NTT Communications and Sony Music to make the files available at prices from ¥105 for mobile phone ringtones to ¥525 for videos.
Even three decades after she retired to marry actor Miura Tomokazu (57 – they appeared together in 14 of her 17 movies), Yamaguchi’s legend is powerful enough to rake in the Yen. To date, six greatest hits albums have been released to commemorate anniversaries of her 1973 debut or 1980 retirement. Last month, a DVD box set featuring her many appearances on the “Best Ten” music show entered the Oricon charts at No.2. In her heyday, she was one of three pop starlets referred to as the “Hana no Naka 3 Trio.” Songs by the other two, Mori Mitsuko (51) and Sakurada Junko (51), are already available online, and Yamaguchi is believed to be the last of the Showa Era legends to go fully digital. Ironically, during her 7-year career, she never had a No.1 album and only four No.1 singles on the Oricon charts. But in 1978 she was popular enough to become the first – and still the only – teenager to be given the “tori” (headliner) position in NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” concert.