For the 15th anniversary of her CD debut, Maaya Sakamoto will release a best-hits album, “everywhere”. Her career began with joining a youth theater troupe, through which she received acting roles and sang commercial jingles. At just 16, she made her music debut while in high school with her “I Don’t Need a Promise” single (1996), and together with producer Yōko Kanno, went on to release many more songs. From her first album, “Grapefruit”, she had already started to write her own lyrics, and she speaks of the feelings of wanting to live up to the expectations of the adults around her, and also of the discoveries of new sides of herself with every new song she encountered as she threw herself more and more into crafting music. With her skyrocketing popularity as a voice actress and singer on the one hand, and her status as a normal high school student on the other, Maaya carried a sense of discord she couldn’t share with those around her. “I.D.”, the first track on the first disc of this best-hits collection, is a song that confronts head-on these feelings from when she was 17 and 18. This self-expression from putting her thoughts into lyrics and setting them to music is what carried her through adolescence.
“More than being able to sing, I wonder how I would have gotten through my teens and 20s if I hadn’t been able to write (laugh). It was a place where I could examine and question myself differently than in school. And being able to elevate that to a level of expression really saved me, I think.”
The free, feminine spirit she took on in college left bold marks on her music, as seen in her unrestrained and lively third album “Lucy” (March 2001), which was followed by the release of a mini album “Easy Listening” (August 2001) with its energetic, dance-friendly beats. Each release added a fresh branch to her evolution. Yet essentially, while she maintained this “sense of being an artist”, she also continued to sing theme songs for animations and dramas.
“One of the colors in my palette has always been that of an artist, but I think I’ve sung many songs that no one else would think of singing. There have been songs with a musical flair, songs with a kind of cutesy touch, English tunes, and songs I did for animations and dramas—I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to encounter these songs that never would have been created had I stayed as merely the artist Maaya Sakamoto.”
The suffering and setbacks she first experienced in her attempts at acting in the musical “Les Misérables” inspired her in her fourth original album “A Boy Named Alice” (2003) to produce such powerful tracks as “Look at the Sky” and “Let There Be Light”. After completing this album she parted ways with Yōko Kanno and struck out on the road of self-production. Her next single “Loop” is called “the song that marks her second debut” for this reason. Through the successive releases of her album “Loop in the Evening Calm” (2005) and mini album “30minutes night flight” (2007), she pursued an answer to the question, “What kind of pop music best fits me?” As she treasured new meetings and forms of communication, she picked up skills for turning concepts into reality.
Her latest release, “Windreader” (2009), while including “Triangler”, her first collaboration in several years with Yōko Kanno and the opening theme for the animation “Macross F”, came as an album with a consistent theme. In it one hears a fearless confidence that fairly echoes, “I have many sides to myself, but every side of me in every song is still me.” “Windreader” was truly a fitting way to put a period at the end of her celebrated 20s as she looks toward her 30th birthday.
Her best-hits album is filled with “the essential, crucial songs” from her 15-year journey. Released five years after that day she made that “second debut”, it features a rearranged, rerecorded version of “Loop”, a song that Maaya “wanted to sing once more while reflecting on the lyrics’ meaning.” Also included at the end of the second disc is a new track, “everywhere”—Maaya’s first try at composing a song. I’m forever, forever asking / the reason I chose myself—her voice in this song rings softly with the 15 years she has spent sincerely facing her music as well as herself. What is most spectacular is that her voice, even at this present height of her career and growth, has not lost its pure clarity. It continues to instill that curiosity for today and tomorrow just as it did when she was an ever-sparkling sixteen-year-old. Herein lies the greatest charm of this artist who will turn 30 this spring.
“For me, music is extremely important, and it commands the largest share of my self-expression. Of the various ways I have to express myself, music is the one that brings me into the most direct contact with myself and my thoughts.”
This is why she can go from here to anywhere, no matter how far. This best-hits collection, as it traces 15 years of her footprints, is sure to bring you into Maaya Sakamoto’s carefree Now.
[Japanese] Text: Miki Ueno