Starting with a concert on March 31st, 2010 in the Nippon Budōkan and continuing with the releases of a best-hits album, concert DVD, and her first cover single, to name a few, Maaya Sakamoto has come through the 15th anniversary of her debut in brilliant fashion. Item #6 in her “15th Anniversary Commemorative Project” hits stores on January 12th, 2011 in the form of her seventh original full-length album, “You can’t catch me”. After coming face-to-face with and weaving into one who she is, the roots she has put down until now, and her music in her previous release, “Windreader”, she took up this album in the milestone of her 15th anniversary in search of “the future of Maaya Sakamoto.”
When it came to production, the method she chose was collaboration with new artists. The list includes a fresh and impressive lineup of such names as Takaki Horigome (Kirinji), Keiichi Tomita, Shintarō Tokita (Sukima Switch), Suneohair, Jun Shibata, Hidetoshi Sakurai (Magokoro Brothers), and Atsushi Suemitsu.
She tells me each is an artist she has long enjoyed listening to. Furthermore, the combinations such as the one found on the second track, “Secret”, which features the lyrics of Maaya Sakamoto, the composition of Jun Shibata, and the arrangement of Zentarō Watanabe, are compelling. And in many cases, the request goes beyond just composition, and in the places where that artist would normally jump into the middle of his fellow band members’ performance and sing, one can sense the aggressive posture of Maaya Sakamoto the singer.
Beyond this, with many of this album’s lyrics written by male artists, she also took on the challenge of singing lyrics of a type she has never sung before, or of a lyrical perspective unique to a masculine point of view. On the other hand, when it came to tracks composed by female artists, she essentially seems to opt for writing her own lyrics, but in that area she dealt with the following challenge:
“For this album—though I might be late getting to this point—I felt like I wanted to eliminate even just a little of that side of me that can’t help but play the good little girl. By which I don’t mean turning bad, but I paid special attention to taking the everyday truth within me and turning it into words without dressing it up.
“The things I’m singing might just be a very plain, open side I’ve never really put into song until now, but I think that having reached where I am now I can get those who listen to it to like the way it sounds, and though I don’t really understand how, I think maybe I can turn it into the kind of entertainment that energizes you and make it something that you can enjoy as music. Taking on that challenge was the theme I set for myself personally for this release.”
With those feelings, whether working with someone or writing her own lyrics, she speaks of production as something where she “tried pushing out in so many different directions it sounds a little disorderly.”
Into “eternal return”, the first track, a song that speaks to the listener with its sprinting, piano-driven rock and lyrics that read, “You can dream all you want, but sometimes your love doesn’t reach / You can wish all you want, but sometimes your dreams don’t come true,” is poured realism and energy of a level never heard in her previous work.
“Secret”, with its serious musical phrasings, expresses the pain borne as a direct result of reaching adulthood and the impulse to push forward with bold words, and echoes with astonishing force in one’s heart.
In the closing “Topia”, one hears a life-size song set to a natural ambience of her picture of love and happiness at 30. As each successive track begins, there one finds a new Maaya Sakamoto that sets one’s heart racing. I’m certain that she had a place in mind she wanted to see, even at the cost of throwing away who she has been until now.
“The lyrics for ‘Moonlight (or, “Music for You to Sleep By”)’, which I was thrilled to be able to ask Mr. Horigome and Mr. Tomita work on, feel extremely new to me. This song is written with everyone born after me in mind. Recently I’ve been in situations where I’ve been looked up to as someone with experience, and when I thought about what I might be able to convey to those who are following me, I thought of things like, ‘there’s no one who can tell you what you really want to know,’ or, ‘just a short kiss will unravel even the mysteries of the universe’—I thought it would be nice if I could set down in my own words something about the future of this reality that’s seemingly depressing, yet also full of potential. I feel that the fact that nothing falls completely on the light side, but it’s also not entirely darkness, is the theme that runs through every track on this album.”
Expressing those ingenuous emotions she rarely put into song until now: for Maaya Sakamoto, who has continued to entertain her fans for 15 years, this idea and attempt was perhaps a daring adventure. However, because of this very fact, her approach to each song and her vocalization emerge as something spectacular that is more delicate, lovely, and silkily enchanting to the listener than ever before.
In addition, one can surmise that the exhilaration and communication with her fans which she has gained from her concerts in the past several years spurred her on with a desire to set even those emotions deep within her heart to music. This is a door opened precisely because she has built up a definite bond of trust, and the courageous sounds and words wrapped into this album will almost certainly become a source of new exhilaration and persuasion on the stage and lead to even stronger ties.
“When I finished ‘Windreader’, my last album, I felt such a sense of achievement that I was on the verge of completely burning out. But if you find complete satisfaction, there’s nowhere left to go, right? That’s why I felt I wanted to push myself to the edge.
“Now, having completed ‘You can’t catch me’, it feels like I’ve gone and stepped off in a new direction again (laugh). I’m glad I was able to finish with the sort of exciting feeling of being unable to stop myself. All through working on it even I couldn’t picture how it would ultimately turn out, and while I was trying out a lot of things that I wanted to try, to be honest there were a lot of parts to it that were frightening or risky. But unless you head that way there’s no point to going forward, there’s no going back and changing what I’ve already done, and I started with my feelings set to the point of thinking that if it still doesn’t work out I’ll give it up entirely! (laugh) But since there are things I’ve realized after trying this now, I now feel like I’m still a long ways from stopping. I’m glad I didn’t take a defensive posture here.”
The freedom and potential she grasps with this release are huge. This year that highlights vividly her 15th anniversary will continue from here, but I expect the ability to witness a new Maaya Sakamoto in this album is a huge gain for the listeners as well. “You can’t catch me”: this is a challenge to you who have known Maaya Sakamoto until now. “I can’t even catch myself,” she said with a bright smile, and my wish is that you will go from here and try to catch who she is today and who she will be tomorrow.
[Japanese] Text: Miki Ueno