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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Gen Hoshino -- Sun

When NHK News announced the annual lineup for this year's "Kohaku Utagassen", the folks there were kind enough to show some of the new acts performing. One guy who caught my eye was actor-musician-songwriter Gen Hoshino(星野源). I had never heard of him before but NHK featured a very brief clip of singing a pretty catchy tune by my estimation, and with his dapper attire, I immediately got reminded of KAN and Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之)from about a quarter-century ago.

I believe that clip by Saitama-born Hoshino was for his song "Sun" which is his 8th and latest single from May 2015. Surely enough, hearing the whole song (or much of it...there was some promotional stuff in the middle) got me in a rather chirpy mood. As its title suggests, the song is darn sunny (helped by the video including the cute choreography) and Hoshino's lyrics are nothing but pure liquid optimism. He could probably be run over by a car and he'd still have a grin on his face.

"Sun" is his most rankings-successful song so far, hitting the No. 2 spot on Oricon. It is also a track on his latest album, "Yellow Dancer" which was released just within the last week and has already hit No. 1. I'm hopeful that this will be the song that he performs on the Kohaku in a few weeks. By the way, Hoshino is also a member of the band Sakerock.


  1. Nice blog! Have you ever written about チャラン・ポ・ランタン
    or is it too far removed from Showa Era?

    1. Hello there.

      Thanks for the compliment. Actually, I checked out Charan Po Rantan on your tip and rather like their fun & energy. Kinda reminds me of a mix of singers including Ego-Wrappin. I'll have to talk about the sisters sometime soon.

      No worries about singers who are too far removed from the Showa Era. We've covered singers well into the 21st century.

  2. does anyone in Japan sings important lyrics? I mean, kind of political or socially-based lyrics, even in a metaphorical, indirect way. Because my impression is that, despite being musically interesting, their lyrics are all about love problems, human feelings, and so on...

    1. Hi there.

      To be honest, I'm not sure if there is anyone on Oricon who sings about the big picture things. Way back in the late 1960s, there were artists who were singing about stopping war and peace much like some American singers were doing at the same time. But I can't remember anything other than the usual pop themes since then.

    2. Thank you for your answer. Can I ask what do you think about this situation? Everywhere else in the world you can find artists singing about social issues. Obviously there's a lot of trashy pop which is only about love, but even in the mainstream you can find someone politically or socially active. Just think to songs such as "Same Love" by Macklemore in America or "Carmen" by Stromae in Europe (the first against homophobia, the second about the power of social networks).
      Alternative artists also sing about social issues quite often, while Japan seems to be the only nation where both alternative and mainstream artists use similar lyrics.
      I don't think this is too good for them, it seems like if nothing's wrong in their world, or that they don't care about it... what's your opinion?

    3. Hello again.

      Well, I'd like to start off with an anecdote of sorts. One night I was watching the news back in Japan when the lead story on one of the commercial networks was the AKB Elections! I just thought "Man, what a peaceful country..." Now, obviously the news didn't always start with something so fluffy but I have seen this from time to time.

      I don't listen to much contemporary pop music on either side of the Pacific nowadays, but true to the definition of the genre, a lot of the music is disposable. but in America and Canada as you have pointed out, some of the acts have incorporated social and political issues. This may not be a good example but I remember even Katy Perry's "Roar" which talked about how to stand up for oneself.

      Referring back to my first paragraph, I think Japan, despite its pop culture, is still very much a socially conservative country especially when it comes to the business side of things, and the recording business is very much a business. Basically, it's "Don't rock the boat!" even more than the case may be in the States. For the Oricon charts, it's usually about safe feelings and images on the listener side and rankings and money on the corporate side. I can't think of any Top 10 hits that have had a strong social message but if there is anyone out there who can let me know about one, please do so.

      At the same time, though, I'm not convinced that there is a complete absence of songs with a social message in Japan. I think even a few of the mainstream acts have perhaps snuck in some such songs in their albums but never got released as official singles. And I've seen plenty of buskers on the streets among whom there are probably some singers who have taken aim at the government and their policies. But I'm also sure that the media will not cover them.

      As I've mentioned to my collaborators on the blog and in some articles, I've never been much of a lyrics person; it's been more about the melody for me which would explain why we've been able to keep this blog going for as long as it has. Obviously, you care quite a lot about the words that go into a song. If I may ask, do you live in Japan and do you have a lot of exposure to Japanese music? The reason I ask is that it seems that you have listened to your fair share of it.

      Your last statement "... it seems like if nothing's wrong in their world, or that they don't care about it..." was quite interesting. One thing I've observed is that currently there is a good deal of apathy when it comes to elections in Japan and that has been the case for several years. I could not vote in Japan but I was somewhat concerned about the situation. I'm not saying my country of Canada has got an incredibly engaged electorate either but I think it is more concerned about how their matters are run, and I was quite happy to be involved in putting down my vote. Sorry, I think I've gone a little off-topic here.

  3. I'm Italian, I read your blog quite often and I love it, because it's quite difficult to find so detailed informations about Japanese pop music everywhere else on the net (Google Translate is not so useful with Japanese Wikipedia). I'm the one who wrote that comment about Matia Bazar:
    I'm not exposed to Japanese music, but I'm interested in it. I agree with you on the fact that music comes first. In fact, I'm interested in lyrics only when I like the music. That's why I like Japanese music, it is so rich and refined, even if lyrics are not necessarily brilliant.
    What about rock bands? I know you are more into pop, but there are some popular rock artists that you probably know, such as Eiichi Yazawa, RC Succession, Boowy, The Blue Hearts, Buck-Tick, X Japan, Luna Sea, L'Arc-en-Ciel... what they usually sing about, as far as you know?

    1. Hello there.

      Thanks very much for reading the blog. Yup, it's pretty difficult to come across the old stuff in Japanese pop music which is one of the reasons that I started "Kayo Kyoku Plus" in the first place.

      I hear you about Google Translate. Sometime I put stuff in there just to see if I can get something humourous. :) I realize that I do have it at the upper-right hand corner but for those readers who may not be too fluent in English, I figured it was better than nothing.

      Thanks again for introducing me to Matia Bazar. Now that I'm in my 50s, I have become quite aware that it's more than likely that I have fewer days ahead of me than there are behind me so when I come across new and fun songs to hear, I am more treasuring of them.

      Basically, I'm more into the pop scene and I can't say that I am a die-hard fan of any of the rock bands in Japan although I like certain songs by some of the bands that you have mentioned such as The Blue Hearts, Luna Sea, L'Arc-en-Ciel and Eiichi Yazawa. The songs that I know by them, though, aren't really message songs, though. They seem to follow the same tropes of love or having fun, although I'm pretty sure that there is perhaps a bigger chance for them to insert tunes with "big picture" themes into their albums as tracks rather than official singles. By the way, what are your favourite rock bands and songs by them?

      Japanese music (and this includes even some aidoru tunes in the late 1980s) can be quite rich and refined. A number of the songs are arranged in a way that I couldn't ever imagine being done in America or Europe (Taeko Ohnuki would be one example...her music in the early 80s did have that certain Frenchness but I'm not sure if there was anything like that sung in French pop music). I guess the major reason that I fell for kayo kyoku/J-Pop was because it was so different from what I knew in North America and Europe.

  4. I like all the rock bands I mentioned, except maybe RC Succession. Yes, Japanese music at its best is rich and refined, but there are obviously many other music scenes with similar properties.
    You asked about French music of the late Seventies-early Eighties, so I want to recommend Jacques Higelin (as you can hear the arrangement is fantastic and quite peculiar).

    In Italy we also had a lot of great music at the time, superbly played and produced. Here's some songs you can find interesting :)
    1) Lucio Battisti "Con il nastro rosa" (1980)
    2) Angelo Branduardi "Gulliver" (1980)
    3) Alice "Per Elisa" (1981)
    4) Franco Battiato "Summer on a Solitary Beach" (1981)
    5) Pino Daniele "Yes I Know My Way" (1981)

    1. Hello again.

      Thanks very much for the bands. I've so far listened to Higelin and Alice. Checking out his Wikipedia entry, he's been around for a very long time but it seems like he was a bit into the techno-cabaret from what I've heard so far. As for Alice, she's got quite the powerful and projecting voice so she reminds me somewhat of the late Laura Branigan who had also first hit it big around 1981.

      As for Italian pop songs around that time, did they follow the New Wave trend as was the case in the UK and perhaps Germany?

    2. We had many new wave bands, but they were underground acts. On the charts you couldn't find them, fith a few exceptions (Franco Battiato and Alice both adopted new wave sounds at one point, and they were successful).

      The Italian charts at the time were occupied in part by stupid easy listening with sounds derived from disco music (this category dominated the singles chart in particular), and on the other side by pop music with sounds derived from jazz-fusion, funk music, and AOR (the same kind of sounds you can find on the albums released in the early Eighties by Yumi and Tatsuro). This second category was prominent on the albums chart.

      This beautiful song by Teresa De Sio can easily explain that kind of sophisticated pop sound from Italy:
      (Here's a playback version from the Italian television: )

    3. I've just listened to the other songs that you kindly recommended to me, and Pino Daniele's "Yes I Know My Way" was especially fascinating. As you described in your 2nd paragraph, there was that pop sound derived from jazz-fusion, funk and AOR which basically describes City Pop in Japan. And Daniele hit it right on the head with this song (Italian City Pop?)...and part of his delivery (especially when he cries out the title) reminded me of Kenny Loggins at around the same time.

      And oh my golly, Teresa De Sio's "Voglia 'E Turnà" sparked my emotions...just like the ballads I used to hear as a high school student. :) Love the mellow keyboards. Thanks kindly.


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