It's always nice when family and friends ask about the music I have enjoyed over the years. Last week, my brother, who's not usually into my stuff, actually asked about borrowing a few Anzen Chitai（安全地帯）discs when he and his family came over for dinner. Like any good teacher or salesman, I provided more than what he was asking, and I lent a couple of CD singles featuring the amazing Koji Tamaki（玉置浩二）. One was his 11th single from 1996, the energizing "Den'en"（田園）which was the theme song for the Fuji-TV comedy-drama, "Coach" which I did catch in its first run on Thursday nights. Tamaki was also the co-star, playing the goofily adorable employee, Seitarou Mikuni, of a failing cannery out in the boonies.
The other single I lent my brother was a CD of the following single, "Mr. Lonely" from August 1997. Some of the surrounding trivia about this particular song is quite similar to that of "Den'en" in that "Mr. Lonely" was also a theme song for a Fuji-TV drama on Thursday nights, "Konna Koi no Hanashi"（こんな恋のはなし...A Story of Love）in which Tamaki had a supporting role as another adorkable character, Konosuke Shimodaira (interesting compared to his cool-as-ice persona as lead singer for Anzen Chitai). However, the drama itself is quite a bit more serious with a young Hiroyuki Sanada (way before "The Last Samurai", "Lost" and "Helix", among other Hollywood projects) playing a nasty company head who finds out that he has terminal cancer before making amends in what remains of his life. I never watched this series since I was never much for the heavy dramas, but I ended up catching the last few minutes of the last episode. Yup, he dies....but in a better state. There is also an English write-up on the show on Wikipedia.
"Mr. Lonely", though, was another Tamaki triumph. It didn't quite hit the heights that "Den'en" did, but it's the type of ballad that one of my favourite singers can just blast out of the park. Initially, I thought from the title that Tamaki was singing about Sanada's character, Shuichiro Harashima, but his lyrics (he also composed it), about humbly offering to help, seem to reflect Tamaki's character. In any case, unlike "Den'en", "Mr. Lonely" has that contemplative down-on-your-luck-but-hopeful feeling that reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" from years back.
And that voice as he belts out the opening notes! The above video has him singing the song acapella and it's awfully hard to stay stoic once he does so. "Mr. Lonely" peaked at No. 15 on Oricon and was also placed on his 6th album, "Junk Land" from September 1997. It went as high as No. 9 on the album charts.