At 18, she released her second album, “DIVE”. In the spring of 2010, Maaya Sakamoto had this to say about the lyrics of “Pilot”, part of this second album:
“As I read it again today, the lyrics are so delicate it makes me wonder how in the world I wrote them. In one line I referred to adults as ‘them’—my teenage self had a feeling if I wrote in ‘adults’ straight up, it would turn into something else. At the time I was already intimately aware of the fact that my personality can’t use the most direct expressions, and I couldn’t stand it if it wasn’t so perfect that you couldn’t replace any phrase or word with a different one.”
But this delicate, deliberate approach to lyrics changed as she added to her experience.
“Compared to my teens and early 20s, I think my choice in words has gotten simpler. I guess you could say I’ve become able to look things straight in the eye without shying away. Today there’s a side to my lyrics that feels as though I switched attitudes and decided as long as I’m the one singing, whatever I write is fine. I feel I’ve stopped dressing things up.”
In an interview after the release of “Windreader” she spoke of how “the lyrics from who I am today are my most favorite.” So then, in her new album “You can’t catch me”, how did she plan to move forward from there? The first hint was in the first track, an up-tempo piano-driven rock number called “eternal return”.
“The music itself was energetic and had a pop sound, so I felt I could take a chance at writing in some negative-sounding lyrics. I used to think that if I didn’t leave a way out it wouldn’t pass as entertainment, so I avoided putting negative thoughts into words. That’s why, even though I myself have weaknesses, I had a lot of songs where I forced an attitude of strength out to the front. But with this album I wondered if maybe I could find the right balance of strength in who I really am, and the song I wrote while I had this in my thoughts was ‘eternal return’.”
The reality she sang of in “eternal return” is one where love might not work out and dreams might not come true.
“Whether it comes true or not, you still reach for it. I feel that living that way with your desires is a beautiful thing. I’m the type that tries to hide those things, and I hate that side of me that can step back and give in to others. That unpolished yet beautiful humanness in being true to your desires is one of the things I wanted to express through the album. ‘Secret’, the second track, has the same theme, and the words ‘desire’ and ‘wish’ show up here too.”
On the other hand, there are also songs sung with beautiful and fleeting imagery.
Take “Lake” for example, which has dreamlike lyrics set to a melody from Kaori Kano.
“The lyrics for this song found their start in a dream of mine. Since I was a child I’ve often had a dream in which I’m standing all alone in a place where I can’t tell if I’m seeing a lake or the result of a flood, and the surface of the water is still, like a mirror. As I listened to Kaori Kano’s melody, that image popped into my mind. I took that as the starting point and when I created a main character who realizes her heart has strayed from the person by her side, it turned into a song about lost love that ran deeper than I expected. This album has several songs that I wrote as an imaginary story like ‘Lake’. It differs from how it used to be, when my lyrics had a direct link to my feelings, and it made me realize how much I’ve matured.”
In “Moonlight (or, ‘Music for You to Sleep By’)”, a track composed by Kirinji’s Takaki Horigome, she speaks of how she wrote the lyrics for those born into the generation following hers.
“This track came out with a slightly new feeling to it from my view. I look around and find that I’ve reached a mature age, and I have more chances than I used to to lend an ear to those younger than me. The thing I’ve been able to say in those times as I look back on my experiences has been, ‘Everything now will become the past, and one day it’ll become a source of strength.’ I tried to work these thoughts into Mr. Horigome’s beautiful melody and Keiichi Tomita’s romantic arrangement.”
Filling the last spot on the album is “Topia”, composed by Kana Yabuki, a musician younger than her.
“Ms. Yabuki is a composer just a little younger than me who just started and has picked up attention from the songs she’s written for SMAP and others. I loved the gentle melody she wrote right from the first time I heard it, and I decided that in the midst of all these songs about desire and farewells I wanted at least one purely happy track (laugh). I wanted to put Tōkyō Tower, the symbol of my hometown of Tōkyō—a symbol which these days is taking on a more and more nostalgic existence—into the album somewhere and this jumped out at me as the place to write it in.”
“Topia” is a song of the simple happiness of returning to a home where the person you love is waiting.
“The idea of having someone to love, and while that person isn’t someone whose greatness is enough to save the world, to you he’s your only salvation and the very definition of peace—that’s a form of happiness we can obtain in reality. I wanted to sing about how this world has contradictions and irrationalities, and although there are a lot of things we can’t reach, the most beautiful thing out there is within arm’s reach, and sing it with words that aren’t some made-up fancy. From my teens and into my 20s I’ve sung all kinds of songs about a beautiful world that I regard as ideal, and those ideas are going to stay with me, but I think this here might be the life-size picture of who I am at 30.”
Soon one year will have passed since greeting the audience with “Maaya Sakamoto is 30!” at the Budōkan.
“Having passed 30, I’m not sure if my feelings have settled. After putting everything I had into the ‘Windreader’ album, I started working on an album out of a craving that resembled a sense of urgency to keep from settling into that place, and ‘You can’t catch me’ came from reaching out to so many places that even I was uneasy. But because I’ve encountered even more new things, my craving for more is stronger today. It’s unlike how things were in my teens and 20s, and I can’t wait to see how stepping into new territory as I please will change me in the future.”
The image Maaya Sakamoto held in her mind all through creating this album was that of a passenger bus, boarded by a multitude of people and tracing a wandering route through numerous stops. The cover art and album title were born from this image. Where the bus will go from here no one knows.