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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ayaka Hirahara -- Jupiter

Even without realizing it, I had been hearing excerpts from the various movements of Gustav Holst's magnum opus, "The Planets" for decades on TV and the radio. One of my earliest exposures was "Mars, The Bringer of War" which came from a viewing from....get episode of that sci-fi show "Space: 1999" titled "Space Brain" in which Commander Koenig and his intrepid crew on Moonbase Alpha had to battle a massive wave of foam while "Mars" was playing (you'll never see a bubble bath the same way again). In retrospect, the final battle (as was much of the series) was pretty darn silly but Holst kicked major butt with that movement (yeah, those last few words don't sound that great together, do they?).

"Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity" was the other movement that I have heard the most. And I also heard it within the Japanese pop sphere via an episode of "Music Fair" when ALFEE was plugging their 1990 album, "The Alfee Classics with London Symphony Orchestra".

So several years later, when I heard the velvet tones of Ayaka Hirahara (平原綾香)sing for the very first time through one of the music channels, my brain automatically perked up in recognition. "Jupiter" was her debut from December 2003, and it became a regularly heard song throughout 2004 and most likely beyond. It was just one of those songs that perked everyone up and made them listen because of Hirahara's vocals. According to the J-Wiki article on "Jupiter", the singer herself was the one who had suggested placing lyrics onto the original Holst melody, and that duty fell to Yumi Yoshimoto (吉元由美)who had helped out on a lot of Anri's (杏里)R&B discography in the 80s and 90s. It turned out to be a great idea since Hirahara has that lower register in her delivery which isn't what I would call husky but a really mellow vintage of scotch. And this was an artist who had started her musical career as a saxophonist but was given her true calling when the president of her first label, Dreamusic Incorporated, discovered her via her performance in a high school re-enactment of "Sister Act II".

I never mentioned it in the other articles I've written about Hirahara, but her family has got quite a musical background as well. Her elder sister, Aika(平原愛花), is herself a singer and saxophonist, while her father, Makoto(平原まこと), is versed in a number of woodwind instruments and her grandfather, Tsutomu(平原勉), was a trumpeter.

"Jupiter" went as high as No. 2 on Oricon and became the 3rd-ranked song of 2004, going Triple Platinum with 675,000 copies sold. It would continue to keep on selling, finally breaking the million barrier halfway through 2006. And Hirahara would also get that opportunity to perform the song at the 2004 Kohaku Utagassen.

And here is the original Holst take on the big guy himself.

Source: Gunma Astronomical

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