Collected translations of Maaya Sakamoto news, essays, interviews, and articles

“Magic Number” Interview

Original author: Miki Ueno

Maaya Sakamoto’s new single, “Magic Number” is her first release in just over a year.

“It’s been a while since my last single, and I wanted to sing a really upbeat song”—with these thoughts, and with it being the opening theme to the anime “Kobato.”, the lyrics she herself wrote paint a picture with simple, straightforward strokes.

It has the innocent purity of a little girl, yet it is vibrant. With a bright, band-style sound, it radiates in a fresh voice and with fresh words the message of dusting yourself off after stumbling, and on the count of one-two-three, starting to run again.

“For me too, whenever I’m really feeling down or running into walls or thinking it’s all hopeless, somewhere inside I have this baseless positiveness that lets me believe without a doubt that somehow it’ll work out, since so far it always has.

“I don’t think of myself as an optimistic person, but I think everyone probably has this sort of feeling in their hearts. Even when you think you’ve got nowhere to go, you can’t completely get rid of the feeling that it might just work out someday. It’s silly, yet it’s also something wonderful. I feel like that’s a simple sort of strength, the kind that’s the only source of the will to press on. I have a feeling I’ve come all this way running into things left and right and just knowing all I could do was push forward, so I think in that sense the lyrics are a reflection of who I am.”

Still, why do these lyrics today have such a “fresh” sound?

The answer to this lies in the first long vacation she took since her debut, a five-week journey across Europe after the release of her “Windreader” album and tour, which seems to have had a positive effect on this single’s production and recording. While letting her instinct guide her from one foreign land to the next, she spoke of being reminded unexpectedly of her “side that deals in expression” unusually often.

“For instance, when I went to the opera and the orchestra began tuning before the start, I remembered how I felt when I was behind the curtain, waiting to go on stage. I recalled how terrifying it was when the tuning started, and at the same time I really longed to be on stage again. I spent some time at a B&B where there just happened to be a piano, right around the midpoint of my trip, and by then it had been about two weeks since I last touched a piano. I saw it and thought, Ah! They have a piano!, and I was told, ‘Feel free to play it whenever you’d like,’ so I did, and it made me realize again how much fun music is.

“Those sorts of things just naturally happened during the trip, to the point that it was amusing. That’s why coming back to Japan, I was happy to be back to recording in the studio after that time away.”

A return to her expression, and her music.

This “Magic Number”, which she was able to approach with a refreshed attitude, is also the final single of her 20s.

“It’s amazing to think that my 20s are coming to an end. But my debut was when I was 15, and even now I haven’t really changed, when you think about it. So I have a sort of vague feeling that it’s going to stay that way in the future.

“When I was younger, I pictured my 30s as being a really grown-up age, but with “Magic Number” I wanted to say that’s not always the case (laugh). I kind of think that there’s some unchanged part of me from my childhood that I’ve just been running with, and it’ll probably be like that for the rest of my life. With the idea of “running” for this song, in my mind I had a picture of that sort of everlasting girlishness you see in “Alice in Wonderland”. One moment you’re told, “You’re an adult, so you should act like one,” but the next moment you hear, “I guess you still have some growing up to do,” and while wondering which is correct you decide to just keep running—I feel like it’s not just me, but many other women who feel this way. “Alice” is a story of adolescence, of wanting to hurry up and be an adult, yet still wanting to have fun as a child, and I imagine she grows up still feeling that way.

“So this song has the idea of ‘the way Alice would look at 29.’

“It also includes the idea that even after I turn 30, I bet I’ll still be the same as always (laugh).”

On March 31st, the day she celebrates her 30th birthday, she is slated to put on a concert to commemorate the 15th anniversary of her debut at the Nippon Budōkan.

“Since I’ve been in the Nippon Budōkan just once as a surprise guest for a “Macross” concert, I have a general recollection of the size and the view of the audience from the stage. I don’t know if it was that I had a really good impression of the arena from that time, but I had a strange sense of calm. The Budōkan has a reputation for being a big place, but the distance between you and the audience is small, and I felt it had a warm atmosphere, so I’m honestly and sincerely looking forward to this concert.

“15 years is a milestone, so as I sum up what I’ve been through so far, I want to keep hold of that side of me that’s constantly looking forward to new things, just like I’ve always been.”

The B-side for the “Magic Number” single is “Private Sky”, an up-tempo number created with an eye toward a concert performance. The disc also includes the live recordings of “Weathervane” and “Empty Your Pockets”. This is her first single that focuses so much on the idea of a concert, and this too should be celebrated as a step forward on the momentum of the previous tour’s success. This milestone of a season during which we can look back on Maaya Sakamoto’s past and await expectantly the future is a time for all to enjoy.