When I talk about Japanese music, it’s always L’arc en Ciel that I mention first. I feel that if you watch anime, you’ve probably heard Ready Steady Go at the beginning of Fullmetal Alchemist, or Driver’s High at the start of Great Teacher Onizuka. If you’ve seen the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and kept watching the end credits, you would have heard Spirit Dreams Inside. If you’ve been to Otakon in the past, maybe you saw they had a concert years ago, and if you were anywhere near New York City in recent years, you’d have seen something advertised as they were the first Japanese band to perform at Madison Square Garden. L’arc en Ciel should be on your radar if you’re into Japanese rock and pop, even if you’re not listening to them.
So, if I’m talking to someone who listens to some Japanese music, my next inquiry would be either Utada Hikaru or Ayumi Hamasaki. If you play a lot of video games, you’ve likely heard a song from one or both women. Utada sings the theme songs for the main Kingdom Hearts games, both the English and Japanese versions of the songs. Ayumi pops up in so many places, I don’t remember which Japanese roleplaying video game my ex was playing but there was “music featuring Ayumi Hamasaki” and I remember glaring at him for not knowing who she was. But I’ll admit, I was way more likely to be familiar with her music than he was.
There’s Japanese performers that I haven’t listened to much if at all. I think I heard Glay songs for the first time recently because they came up on YouTube. The Gazette seems to be gaining steam. I’ve heard of X Japan and have listened to a couple of their songs but I haven’t gotten hooked on their music.
But I can’t say I had ever heard of Kyosuke Himuro… until now.
I was chatting with my friend from Japan about a week ago, sheepishly admitting that I bought the game Yakuza 0. I shouldn’t have purchased it, as it was within the first week of the game’s release in the western world and I shouldn’t have spent the money on it when I haven’t secured a new job. But, I was feeling confident after getting a call that implied I was on a shorter list of candidates, so I treated myself. Anyway, we were briefly chatting about the Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku series, when he mentioned that Himuro had a song in the fifth installment and then sent me a YouTube link to hear the song. It meant nothing to me, as I didn’t know who Himuro was or anything, but I clicked the link and listened to Still The One. Before the song was done, he sent me a link for a concert performance of Wild Romance.
I was trying to find lyrics for Still The One, but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t kanji. In fact, in the great search for HImuro lyrics, there were few instances when I could actually find translated lyrics. I assume it’s because I’m now looking for songs that haven’t been in every anime or every video game. In the grand scheme of things, I like it. It means I’m now being exposed to Japanese music that isn’t directed at me because I’ve seen anime or I’ve listened to probably every song that Hyde has ever recorded.
I usually pick one song and talk about what it means to me, but I’m having a difficult time deciding that at the moment.
I want to start with Wild Romance. It was the first linked video that showed Kyosuke’s face, not to mention it showed the way he performed. He’s very animated and energetic, often moving his arms or legs to the music or reacting to a break in the melody. It’s an infectious kind of energy, as I can’t help but get into the music and want to move around as well. Wild Romance is outstanding for playing while driving long distances on the highway, even if you don’t know Japanese.
What next? Revolver is the death of me, it really is. A bit of back story, I once remarked to my Mom that modern music isn’t like what it used to be. I made that remark while playing a Pandora-like channel of soft rock ballads on one of the cable television stations. Mind you, I was probably in the single-digit age range when a lot of those songs were popular, if I was even born yet at all. Regardless of that, it’s those songs which I enjoy hearing on warm summer nights, when the thinnest bed linens feel like winter comforters, when a cool breeze through the windows is occasional refreshment, and sitting outside or laying down inside is as enjoyable as going for a stroll with a significant other. It’s the songs that make it more than a sticky summer night, telling my heart to search for a love that can’t be found in the places where everyone else goes to find their own love. It makes me feel old fashioned, in a sense, or at least I feel like my heart yearns to be in a decade where our current hookup culture doesn’t exist. But anyway, Revolver… I had to use Google Translate for the lyrics, and I hope the translation isn’t too far off from the Japanese. The Google Translate method does result in some broken English, but the lyrics about not saying goodbye can’t be easily mistaken. That’s the part that gets me the most, “I will never say goodbye my love” which is already in English, and urging the listener to not say goodbye as well.
Oh, but then we have to mention Safe And Sound. How did I miss this collaboration? I’m a fan of My Chemical Romance, so I should have heard about what Gerard Way has been doing, Somehow, I missed Gerard and Kyosuke teaming up to record a song together and sounding awesome in the process.
There’s really too many songs! And then there’s Himuro’s previous gig as vocalist for Boøwy, which means even more songs. But I’m enjoying what I’ve heard so far, the beauty of the slow songs and the energy of the faster songs. Hopefully I’ll have a partner to slow dance to the slow songs, because my heart wants to dance. As for the faster songs, I want a partner in crime, someone by my side for every adventure that comes our way.
Kyosuke, what do you think about that?