I’d never thought I would say this. I’d probably die if I knew at 16 or 20 that I was going to sound like my parents. "Music just isn’t what it is anymore …", they would lament to the "innovative" sounds of Faye Wong, who brought on a new generation of breathy singing. "You are just a "traditionalist" that can’t keep up with the times", I used to think.
Japanese music has really moved on from the traditional enka to 70’s pop which still had a very distinctive Japanese flavour to 80’s bubblegum pop, 90’s R & B infused pop to today’s hip hop and rap generation. Where have all the good songwriters gone? Have they run of ideas or inspiration, or just that their melodic songs are no longer being heard because they feel that they have to conform to today’s trends?
Today’s popular Japanese music is heavily Western influenced and rarely do we all agree on a good melody because there simply isn’t one anymore. It’s all about hooks and all 5 seconds of it, repeating itself throughout the songs. The rest of the songs become fillers around this hook. I’m not complaining about all of them, and I am not sure if it is because I have grown older that I don’t feel like humming/singing to those songs anymore. The new generation move their bodies to the beat like waves hitting the shores, as they close in their little worlds with their iPods. then, my music transported me to a new fantasy land, and I sing to the entire song, with as much belief, even if I couldn’t understand what they were singing. That probably helped a lot too because then I could plan my own magic carpet ride …
Is this why we are seeing a growing trend of cover albums by singers that we have grown up with in the 80s and 90s? That they share the sentiment that there are not many good songs that they really feel are worthy or is it a project that they take on, in hope of good sales so that they can move projects that they really want to embark on?
Akina is slowly gaining more recognition amongst the younger generation as a "cover artist" because her cover albums sell a lot more than her originals. Not surprising since more marketing is dedicated to it, but are we, as a generation who have started listening to Japanese music in the 80s and 90s, unable to move on, and prefer to hang on to our melodies and memories?
What constitutes a good cover album? A good selection of songs or good sales? Is it a singer who is able to make the compositions theirs and move you to a new level or one that inclines you to pick out the originals and immerse yourself in those bitter sweet memories again? Where does Akina lie?
For me, Akina likes to pick more obscure songs, with the exception of Zero. It is always a gamble to challenge an original especially if the singer who popularised it is synonymous with the song. It is going to invite comparison but it is a good selling/talking point as well. It takes a lot of courage to do so and walk away with it victorious. Overall, I believe that Akina is good singer and is able to inject her own life into their songs. I don’t particularly feel that I have a desire to go listen to the originals to relive my memories. I can still walk that road with Akina. Another singer that I feel I can do is with is 福山雅治, whose cover album "The Golden Oldies" is the best selling cover album of all time and deservedly so. He is able to transcend the originals and make a song his, even if the original is a female singer. I haven’t listened to any of 岩崎宏美’s 「Dear Friends」 series, but she is a good singer, so I think she will fall into the "good covers" category.
Not so successful is 工藤静香 whose cover album is not as interesting, though it may be because she covered plenty of obscure material to me. Many people may also say that she has a rather unique voice which is not soothing, and the cover albums tend to be more "stripped to the basics", with a band or orchestra, creating that jazzy, easy breezy listening style that is unintrusive . However that said, she did lead me to the discovery of the song 「かもめはかもめ」 which I love. It is also one of the "quieter" songs in that album though.
Another singer that I have a hard time debating myself over is 徳永英明, who 乱火さん adores. His 「Vocalist」 series have been huge hits and I have always been cynical because I think it has more to do with the song selection that anything else. He can hit all the higher notes alright, but to me, he sounds monotonous, and I yearn for the originals to let them wash over me like tsunamis, not ripples that he sends.
While 「艶華-Enka-」 keeps its daily ranking of 28th for the second day, I noticed yesterday that 徳永英明’s 「Vocalist」 and 「Vocalist2」 re-entered the daily charts from nowhere to No. 9 and No. 6 respectively. Fuelled probably by the release of his new cover single 「恋におちて -Fall in Love-」 this week, it has invigorated sales of his two previous cover albums, in anticipation of his cover release due 15th August. Out of curiosity, I played his two 「Vocalist」 albums this morning, and in my "semi-conscious" state, I found them rather enjoyable, in an unintrusive sort of way, like BGM. Maybe I can now understand how 乱火さん feels. I think it is also a quiet evening album of loneliness, and his voice projects that. I sing along, but in my head, the voice of the originals floats, and my voice seem to channel them instead of him. I wonder why …
According to the AN Fun Site, the songlist for his new 「Vocalist 3」 has been released together with the news that another singer that I like, 杏里 is also releasing a new cover album to celebrate her joining the Universal Japan family. These are the tracklists for both albums:
01. PRIDE (今井美樹)
02. まちぶせ (original: 三木聖子written by 荒井由実 and popularised by 石川ひとみ in 1981. 松任谷由実 self covered it to higher heights in 1996)
03. ENDLESS STORY (伊藤由奈)
04. 桃色吐息 (高橋真梨子)
05. CAN YOU CELEBRATE？ (安室奈美恵)
06. やさしいキスをして (Dreams Come True)
07. わかれうた (中島みゆき)
08. 迷い道 (渡辺真知子)
09. たそがれマイ・ラヴ (大橋純子)
10. 恋におちて-Fall in Love- (小林明子)
11. Time goes by
12. 月のしずく (Rui: 柴咲コウ)
13. 元気を出して (薬師丸ひろ子,written and covered by 竹内まりや)
杏里「tears of anri」
やさしいキスをして（DREAMS COME TRUE）
あなたのキスを数えましょう～You were mine（小柳 ゆき）
LOVE IS ALL～愛を聴かせて～（椎名恵）
I am still happy to listen to 「VOCALIST3」 but I am looking forward to Anri’s cover album more. Maybe it is novelty but if Anri released an original album and this cover album, I think I would be more inclined to buy the latter. I wonder if I am now a laggard, someone who does not follow the buying trend as quickly as the younger generation would, or I just enjoy my music the way it used to be.
I don’t know if I ever want Akina to stop singing covers, because I think she would release a grea
t jazz influenced original album, or a cover album of 山口百恵 songs. I would also like to see her cover/sing a 中島みゆき and 松任谷由実 composition (魔法の鏡 is from her 荒井由実 years) in my lifetime because I think she has the experience now to cover them to satisfaction. Just like 「いい日旅立ち」, I think she covered it well. I don’t want to compare it with the original because Mome sang it when she was 19 and she is synonymous with the song, but I think Akina interpreted it well.