Stripe’s Song of the Day: Mariya Takeuchi – Plastic Love

A quirk of the YouTube algorithm resurfaced this city pop classic, but the late-night ballad remains beloved for a reason

Shoumik Hassin
Published : 14 Feb 2023, 10:30 AM
Updated : 14 Feb 2023, 10:30 AM

Stripe's Song of the Day is a regular feature showcasing the music currently stuck in our heads. Every week, contributors will string together their daily picks, and a playlist of the week's tracks will be available on Friday.

It was fate. At least, that’s how it feels.

Just six years ago, ‘Plastic Love’ was a minor footnote in the career of pop singer Mariya Takeuchi. A beloved star in her native Japan throughout the 80s, Takeuchi was a driving force of the city pop genre.

And though city pop was largely confined to the island nation of its origin, its particular mix sounds immediately familiar. Soft rock, with hints of R&B and funk, but with the edges sanded off. It’s a stereotype of the 80s.

Where hip-hop delves into the grit of the streets, city pop covers the shining, plastic surfaces. It’s the sound of the Japanese economic boom, the Walkman, and FM stereos - bright, airy, and almost spotlessly clean, with just enough of a disco groove to dance to.

Nearly 40 years later, it was mostly something for music snobs, Japanese pop culture nerds, and nostalgic older people to discuss on niche music forums. So why did the YouTube algorithm plaster ‘Plastic Love’ on everyone’s list of recommendations in 2017?

No one’s quite sure. I kind of like it that way.

I remember being surprised when I first saw the now iconic picture of Takeuchi crop up on my YouTube feed. I wasn’t listening to anything like it at the time. But, like many others, I clicked anyway.

If other city pop songs are the soundtrack on the drive to the party, ‘Plastic Love’ is that moment in the night when things take a melancholy turn. People have started to pair off and leave the dancefloor, and you’re struck with a sudden worry that it’s all a bit shallow.

I think that’s why people connected to it. Even in a language you might not know, and amid the bouncy beat and the bright brass, it feels like taking a smoking break and getting slightly too honest. Ever since her last heartbreak, Mariya confesses she’s just been playing games. She’s trying to have fun, but maybe that’s not enough?

Despite the self-deprecating touch, the hints of confusion, yearning, and loneliness come through. It feels personal and relatable.

And then you go back in and dance, hoping things will look brighter in the morning.

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This article is part of Stripe,'s special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.