After reviewing Akina’s choice of songs to cover for her new album 「フォーク・ソング～歌姫 抒情歌～」, my initial reaction (as documented in my previous post) was “Who are all (most of) these singers and what are these songs?”.
I also expressed my concern that the songs were little known (to me) and they sounded too slow, so I was a little more than surprised when news reports kept mentioning “名曲”. Hence, I decided to do some research on the popularity of these songs and what better indicator than the sales and Oricon chart performance.
It took some time for me to collate the data but here they are, and I am sure you will be as surprised as I am:
(1) 私は泣いています – りりィ (Lily)
最高位: 3, 売上数: 76万枚 (this cannot be confirmed unless someone has the Oricon Chart Book)
1974年間ヒットチャートNo.12 – 52万枚 (at that time when they consolidated the chart)
Comments: I am really starting to love this song and it’s repetitive lyrics and beat. The Youtube videos of Akina singing this song in the background really helps too. I think this is the 「黄昏のベギン」 of this album.
(2) 「いちご白書」をもう一度 – バンバン
最高位: 1 (6 weeks at No. 1) 登場週数: 31 売上数: 75.1万枚
Comments: I first chanced upon this song when 松任谷由実 released it on her self cover album 「Faces」. It was love at the first listen. According to my Japanese friend who loves this song as well, it’s like a tribute to the famous US group “Simon and Garfunkel”. This folk song is so popular and covered so many times, I am really interested to know how Akina can inject new life into it.
(3) 雨の物語 – イルカ
最高位: 16 登場週数: 32 売上数: 34.1万枚
Comments: I was initially disappointed that Akina did not cover イルカ’s biggest hit 「なごり雪」, but I am happy now because I think this song suits Akina’s vocals more than the former. 「なごり雪」 has also been covered so many times, it may not be exciting as Akina covering this song, which is イルカ’s second biggest hit. Look at the number of weeks it stayed on the charts even though it’s highest chart position was only 16.
(4) さよならをするために – ビリーバンバン
最高位: 1 (2 weeks at No. 1) 登場週数: 48 (WOW!) 売上数: 69.5万枚
Comments: I think they are twins, but that aside, this song is definitely a grower. Look at the number of weeks it spent on the charts. I am liking this song the more I hear it.
(5) 想い出まくら – 小坂恭子
最高位: 1 (1 week at No. 1) 登場週数: 36 売上数: 85.3万枚
Comments: The biggest seller amongst all the songs she picked. This is one of those songs that you would listen and sway along. Love it!
(6) 才の別れ – 風
最高位: 1 (4 weeks at No. 1) 登場週数: 32 売上数: 70.8万枚
Comments: I think this is definitely very Simon and Garfunkel, especially at the bridge where they just hum along. It’s not a terribly exciting song in my opinion, but I like its easy listening melody.
(7) 冬が来る前に – 紙ふうせん
最高位: 4 売上数: 43.3万枚
Comments: A husband and wife team, and finally a song with a slightly faster tempo. It’s an okay song in my opinion, but if I had to choose a team like this, I would prefer チェリッシュ, though I think Akina’s voice may not suit their songs. LOL
(8) 無縁坂 – グレープ
最高位: 12 登場週数: 29 売上数: 32.7万枚
Comments: Like most of the songs that さだまさし writes and sings about, it’s a song that arrests you with its simple melody and his interpretation. Like 「秋桜(コスモス)」, it’s a tribute to an elderly mother from a son. Another potential jewel.
(9) 時には母のない子のように – カルメン・マキ
最高位: 2 売上数: 65.7万枚
Comments: My initial reaction was “So sad”. After a few listens, it has become my favourite of this set of songs, and it can potentially be the 目玉 (jewel) of this album. I was more intrigued when I read this about this big hit, during the Vietnam war protests, from this site:
Rough Translation: On 19th January1969 , there was a blockade held at Tokyo University by around 8500 students (from an “All-Campus Joint Struggle” Committee). A riot squad was sent, resulting in many injuries and about 600 arrests. The “University of Tokyo Yasuda Auditorium Incident” became a symbolic incident of the student movement at the end of the 60s.
This song, released a month after the incident, quickly became a quick sales and radio hit, and was named the “lullaby students hear at a barricade”, uniting them towards their goal.
Isn’t it an amazing story. I am sure you will have a greater appreciation of this song now. Right?
(10) わかってください – 因幡晃
最高位: 3 売上数: 63.6万枚
Comments: It is a nice enough song and it’s rather masculine, so I am interested to know how Akina will sing this or if the arranger will add some spice to its rather familiar melody.
(11) 恋 (松山千春)
最高位: 6 登場週数: 22 売上数: 32.5万枚
Comments: The lowest seller amongst all the songs she picked, but I like it. It’s rather different from the rest and I think it shows the progression of folk music from the 60s to the 70s and now the 80s. It’s a more familiar sound that we are familiar with, like 新谣 (Singaporean folk music).
I did this exercise purely for myself and my obsession with sales figures and chart positions, because I can then interpret why some songs are so popular and why some aren’t. It is good to know that these folk songs are not affected so much by marketing (as they are nowadays) but rather by virtue or incidents (like 時には母のない子のように).
I am sure that there are many stories behind all these sounds because that is the “purpose” of folk songs, which is an interpretation of the “sound of the hearts” of the citizens, which is why it can be so powerful.
So, my verdict is that Akina has chosen the right songs and if the number of weeks all these songs stayed on the charts has any indication, they are definitely 名曲 and we do not have to worry anymore about them being obscure, because they are not.
In writing this post, I hope that we will differentiate VAMP from other sites where you just read about the news. I like to analyse and I sincerely hope that you will develop a different listening, perception and potentially excitement (like me) after reading this report.