SONGS FROM THE HEART:
70s Folk, Rock with a New Face
January 27, 1999
A young street musician gets back to basics in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. (Kyodo)
Recent years have seen the emergence of many young Japanese musicians who play music reminiscent of the 1970s. Their songs--sometimes accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, with lyrics that spill over into the next line--remind people in their thirties and forties of what they grew up listening to. But a closer listen reveals that the familiar strains are more than just imitations; they are refreshingly original attempts to convey a more personal message through the medium of popular music.
Yuzu: Not Just a Revival
A radio director says of Yuzu's music, "The lyrics come first; the songs are written so that you can hear every word." Although their sound is unmistakably folk, the editor of one music magazine feels that Yuzu has little in common with Japan's earlier generation of folk musicians. "Their music is appealing not because it's a revival," he says, "but because it represents a return to basics."
Antidote to Flamboyance
As for why there has been such a surge of artists who emulate the 1970s sound, critics think that people have begun to tire of flamboyant acts that focus on making a visual, rather than emotional, impact. "Twenty-five years since their boom, folk and rock music from the 1970s seem fresh once again." Whatever the reason, it is not surprising that artists who place great importance on lyrics have chosen a simpler sound as their medium of expression.
Lyrics Before the Melody
Many recent hits in Japan may resemble the folk and rock music of the 1970s, but the similarity cloaks an entirely new sensibility that is firmly grounded in the 1990s. They are the sound of youths making a serious attempt to put their feelings into words and say something meaningful to their audience. Veteran lyricist Yu Aku has been mourning for many years that "there aren't any real songs anymore; there's music, certainly, but there's nothing worth singing." Recently, though, he says that young people are finally starting to write songs whose lyrics reach his heart.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.