Maaya Sakamoto's Picks
Reflections on each of the 30 tracks included in the best-hits album “everywhere” (Text: Maaya Sakamoto)
My second album, “DIVE”, could be called in multiple senses an “awakening” for me. It was at that time that I think I reached a true awareness of my music and words and confronted them on my own, and I feel like it was the first time I became conscious of the fact that I am Maaya Sakamoto, a completely unique being.
First off, this title was a temporary one that Ms. Kanno chose before the lyrics existed. After the lyrics were completed, their theme of, “I’ll run as far as I have to for the person I love, so call out my name!” had an image of a full-out sprint that was unmistakably dog-like, so the title stuck. For the music video we even filmed with a real, live Mameshiba.
The mini-album “Easy Listening” was created with the concept of acting out a slightly different version of myself. Up until this track, I had never written such a fervent love song, and while my intent was to write the lyrics in a fairly grown-up manner, when I hear them now they surprise me with their sort of youthfulness, and they come across as immature.
Wonderful lyrics with a soothing melody. The staff of NHK’s “Songs for Everyone” also really enjoyed this song. The warm, gentle illustrations drawn by Keizō Kira to go with the song further expanded its appeal. When I first saw them, the tears simply started to flow. This song was carefully knit together from the love of many people.
“Ring -23 karat-”
In 2003 I covered my own single “Ring”, released in 2000, and included it in “Nikopachi”. I sang the new version when I was 23, thus “23 karat”. There is actually an English version of this song (a duet with myself and Shanti Snyder) called “You’re not alone”, and even a Hangul version covered by a Korean singer.
“Sea of Miracles”
One of the tracks that I’m comfortable with singing now, but shocked me like nothing else with its high key when I first sang it. I remember picturing myself as a shrine maiden as I stood before the mic. Now that I think of it, I caught cold and came down with a high fever on the day of recording, so we ended up postponing and redoing the vocals several days later. I was 18 at the time.
I was stunned when I first read the line that goes, “In the midst of the wind, those pitiful creatures…”. It’s an extremely unusual song, and a difficult one at that. It took everything I had just to hit all the notes, and during recording I actually had yet to feel like my body was in tune with it. But after I heard it again with more objective ears after downmixing a few days later, I remember the lyrics piercing my heart severely, and I suddenly started to cry.
I always feel like playing this song every year when the cherry trees bloom. Originally this song was a cover, with lyrics added to a melody used in a tea commercial. Incidentally, at the time I drank nothing but tea, as the bitterness of coffee was not at all pleasing to me. Yet now, not a day goes by when I don’t have a cup of joe.
“The Day the Wind Blows”
Even though I sang this as a high schooler, it has always fit me perfectly at any age, regardless of when or how many times I sing it. It has a passion within its soft sounds, and I find it very invigorating. I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays as this kind of song forever. Its theme is eternal.
Despite singing it so long ago, this song doesn’t feel the slightest bit old. As I used it for the ending theme to a long-running radio program called “Maaya Sakamoto: I.D.” (on NACK5) that I used to host, hearing this track brings back memories of that show. I was extremely fond of that program.
From the lyrics’ standpoint, this song is huge. Writing this song gave me a feeling that I had formed a kind of standard in my mind. As I write lyrics I’m focused entirely on how to convert the picture that’s only in my mind into words, and this song was the first where I felt that this process really came together.
“tune the rainbow”
We actually did the photo shoot for this song and “gravity” on the same day. Ms. Kanno was the photographer for both. The outfits were all mine, so the photos took on a rather cozy feel.
My 2009 album “Windreader” had such especially deep emotion that I felt as though everything I had been through happened so I could reach this point. The album’s core formed around its main tune, “Weathervane”. I imagine I’ll sing this song for the rest of my life.
“I Don’t Need a Promise”
Though it was released when I was 16, at the time I recorded this song I was still 15. The thought of becoming a singer hadn’t even crossed my mind, yet through some odd stroke of fortune I went from there to sing for 15 years, and here I am at 30. It all started with this song.
“Loop ～sunset side”
It goes without saying that I love the original version. So I of course had a very good reason to record a cover version for the best-hits album. To me, this track is like my second debut song, and it’s very close to my heart. I wanted to sing it again, as I am now, for the person I was when I first encountered this song. Just as the lyrics read, after time goes by we again come face-to-face—that’s how it feels. The end of something is the beginning of something else. I imagine I’ll continue on as I have been in this infinite loop. The true identity of the lyricist h’s, which I can now reveal, is actually Haruichi Shindō (from Porno Graffiti).
“Magic Number <123!mix>”
Ahh, when I hear this song my mood always brightens. Every single time it energizes me, just like a magic number should. Perhaps from the tone of the chorus, many seem to think of it as an endlessly positive tune, but it was during that times that I thought of giving up that I pulled through like in this song. It’s great for when you’re feeling down.
I started writing these lyrics with a theme of natural healing. A wound to the soul doesn’t disappear easily, and its hiddenness can make it troublesome, but the human body is equipped with the ability to heal itself naturally. Just like a cut, little by little it fades away, and while it may never completely disappear, I want to trust that a day will come when I can trace the outline of the scar as I fondly look back on that time.
“Let There Be Light”
If the voice of my real, “true” self still reaches anyone……when I wrote this I was struggling through a desolate time from which I didn’t know how to escape. I had fallen into the pit between my own mediocrity and my desire to live up to the expectations of those around me, and I forced myself to transform that despair into light. As I said, “I’ll hold that warmth to my heart again someday and walk on,” and, “The courage to be reborn is already within me,” inside I was wondering if that day would truly arrive. That’s why, after years have passed, I sing it today.
“The Reason We’re In Love”
A song recorded on the count of three with Satoru Shionoya on piano. His ad lib piano intro really brought a vivid picture of the constellation Orion to my mind, and I was awestruck listening to him take up each phrase of the lyrics with a delicate touch as he played. The reason this song is loved by so many is because everyone has at one time or another fallen head-first into true love, and for that I think it’s a wonderful tune.
When I announced that this song would be in the best-hits album, I heard numerous comments of surprise at its inclusion. Come to think of it, it may indeed be a surprise. But in any case, I love this song. So I put it in. That’s the only reason. I like singing in English, and I’ve done so since my debut album, but these days this song has felt like an inseparable part of me, and one I can sing easily and enjoy freely.
Nearly all of the recording for my album “DIVE” took place at the Yamanakako Studio. So when I hear this song now, I think of that summer vacation I spent with everyone there. I remember the time that bug that was bigger than any you’d see in Tōkyō found its way into my room and caused a commotion, the amazing food I had at the in-studio restaurant, and the time I went stargazing with everyone.
“blind summer fish”
Most of my songs begin with the music, but this one began with the lyrics. I’m particularly fond of its passionate yet rational feel. Somehow this album has a general feeling of summer to it. For me, who doesn’t get along well with summer, to put out a summer-y album seems rather unusual. My other albums tend to have wintry cover art. But for “Easy Listening”, when it comes down to it, underneath that translucent dress is a swimsuit.
This is my only English single. For some reason I remember Christmases past when I listen to this song. As I recall, the recording was around that time of the year, so I think that may be the reason.
“NO FEAR / To Love”
The first song I attempted to play the accompaniment for. People often ask me, “What made you want to start out with this tricky of a song?” but I pressed through it merely with a mental picture of how cool it would look to be able to play it. Since I can’t read music I practiced it completely by ear, and I was never aware of the key or beat changes midway through……. I was lucky my brain didn’t realize how difficult it was.
“30minutes night flight”
This is the title track for a mini-album made with the concept of a 30-minute night flight and recorded to fit exactly into 30 minutes. I love the intro, with its heart-pounding signal of the beginning of a wonderful story, and the way it conjures the picture of a small propeller-driven airplane taking flight into the night sky. With not even one single in the tracklist for this conceptual mini-album, it may seem like an unspectacular release, but this disc actually means a lot to me. I’d be truly happy if you’d listen to the entire album straight through.
A huge number of fans have told me they first learned of me through this song. It has a sparkling sound, and the lyrics burst with expectations for my future self. I doubt I could have sung it so honestly had I not been where I was at 18. Yet when I sing it now, the line that goes, “Here I have limitless possibilities, in my hands,” always brings me back to that unblemished state. So I think I’ll always be able to sing this song, and I’ll always want to sing it, no matter how many years pass.
The first song I wrote lyrics for. The lyrics came from discussing various ideas as I worked with Ms. Iwasato, who supported me when I reached dead ends. As I reread them today, I realize that I started using at that time words such as “time” and “space”, and theme of “moderation” I express today. I can’t help but think that in the end, there’s always been one thing I’ve wanted to say, and I’ve devoted this long time to confronting it.
This song was used as a theme song for a planetarium feature. I’ve always loved planetariums so much that I’ll even go by myself, so I was thrilled to be able to do this collaboration, but ever since the surprise event at the Tōkyō performance on the “WE ARE KAZEYOMI!” tour, this song has an even more special place in my heart. I’ll never forget that beautiful sea of blue lights. I’m happy the scene from that time was preserved on the concert DVD.
“Empty Your Pockets”
A song from when I was 16. Somewhere along the way it became a standard song that I would always sing at concerts. When I hear the audience’s enthusiastic rendition of that “la la la” part, it reaches all the way to the depths of my being and instills me with such emotion that I tremble. But lately I’ve been surprised to discover there are many fans who aren’t familiar with the original version of this song I sing at every concert. I suppose I can’t blame them…people these days probably don’t listen back to my first album… So here it is. This is the original version.
I’m extremely happy I could have this special song, the first I composed, arranged by my close friend Mr. Kōno and recorded with the same band as on the concert tour. We call loving and being loved by someone “happiness”, but it occurs to me that maybe loving and being loved by your own self, who is closer to you than anyone and always has been and always will be with you, is actually a very important side of happiness. We were all born to love ourselves. I believe at our birth we chose the self we would have and thus staked a claim on life. As I sing these words, I celebrate my 30th birthday today.