I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Masayoshi Yamazaki/SMAP -- Celery (セロリ)

During the late 1990s, both singer Masayoshi Yamazaki(山崎まさよし) and premier (at that time) Johnny's Entertainment group, SMAP, were heading to the top of the geino heap. SMAP was absolutely taking the Japanese entertainment world by storm (ironically to hand over the torch years later to another Johnny's unit going by the Japanese word for 'storm', Arashi『嵐』) with their songs, TV roles and variety show appearances. Yamazaki would also storm the charts with his heartrending ballads that got him a lot of airplay in the karaoke boxes and tears from grateful listeners at his concerts.

But they have a common bond through a most polarizing vegetable.

"Celery"is Yamazaki's 3rd single released in September 1996. Written and composed by him, it's a happy-go-lucky uptempo song talking about the fact that no matter the differences between a romantic couple, if they still love each other, that's good enough. The green leafy vegetable is merely one example of a potential difference-maker and ultimately a minor one, at that. The video was also fun to watch as Yamazaki, who I had always thought to be a very introspective type, showed an amiable side as the single young man getting settled into his new apartment....something that I could relate to very well....although I never quite had the opportunity to cavort with a bunch of cute women in bikinis (ahem).

The single itself peaked at No. 68 on the Oricon weeklies, and was also a track on Yamazaki's 2nd album, "Home", released in May 1997. It went Double Platinum and peaked at No. 4 on the album charts.

At the same time that Yamazaki's "Home" was released, SMAP revealed its cover of "Celery" to the world. Thanks to the Fender Rhodes, their version has more of a groove and perhaps more of a 70s/early 80s feel to it. And perhaps because it was the guys who were singing it together, I think the song seems to have a wider meaning of overall friendship instead of a romantic relationship. In any case, the SMAP cover was the one that I discovered first, and it's the one that I like better. Plus, it's the first time I've seen KimuTaku and the fellows get all gussied up for a video, and just sitting on the stools singing away....kinda like the old days of singing on a variety show. Nice little change.

SMAP's "Celery", their 25th single, was able to hit No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and was the 27th-ranked song for 1997. The song was also the theme song for member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi's drama at the time, "Ii Hito"(いいひと...Good Guy). I never saw the show myself but I remembered the trailers for the series with the amiable Kusanagi playing just the nicest guy anyone had ever met. And that's the image he has in SMAP....aside from an unfortunate incident involving him running around drunk and naked in a Roppongi park several years ago....would still love to treat him to a non-alcoholic drink. The song also belonged to the group's 10th album, "SMAP 011 Su"(SMAP 011 ス)which was released in August of that year. It peaked at No. 3.

SMAP doesn't sing too much anymore, so I think coming across "Celery" once in a while serves as a bit of a reminder of their up-and-coming days. And as for my opinion on celery, I hated it as a kid but actually do like it now nice, raw and crunchy.

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