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.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Noelle's Top 10 Chage and Aska Songs

Oh wow, we're already at the tail-end of 2015. I guess that calls for another list under the "Author's Picks" label. I'd been thinking about the topic for this list for quite a while, and I managed to narrow it down to simply my favourite songs by my No.1 favourite artistes - one for the enka and kayokyoku category, and one (two) for J-pop. Unfortunately that made me torn between the two; to go with the stoic-looking albeit silly kayo crooner Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清), or with the J-pop duo that introduced me to Japanese music, Chage and Aska. I was very close to choosing Mae-Kiyo because, as you already know by now, he's currently the center of my attention, but had a change of heart closer to this date and decided to go with C&A, whom I had known for a much longer time. And also it was Aska before Mae-Kiyo so... ...

Alrighty then, without much further ado, here's my top 10 Chage and Aska tunes. They are listed in order, but there may be some shuffling here and there over time. It wasn't particularly tough to pick out the first few, but as the spots on the list decreased, the harder it was to choose just a handful of songs from their huge repertoire that spanned about 30 years.

10. Koibito wa Wine Iro (1988)
For the 10th spot on this list, I was contemplating on "Koibito wa Wine Iro" (恋人はワイン色) or "Meikyu no Replicant" (迷宮のReplicant), both of which were released at different times in 1988, and decided to go with the former due to me listening to it more often the latter. It's most likely because of the love song's upbeat melody and lyrics about the progression of this fellow's relationship, which also incorporates a bit of Aska's own personal experience - from the first faithful encounter with the woman by spilling wine on her dress, to their eventual separation.

9. Chikyu Umare no Ucchujin (2007)
Next comes "Chikyu Umare no Ucchujin" (地球生まれの宇宙人). It's the most recent C&A song to grace this list, being released in 2007 as a track in the duo's last album "DOUBLE". This unique and somewhat strange song about what I think is an oddball (or "alien", since the title literally means "An alien born on earth" if I'm not wrong) trying to fit in with the rest of the world was the main driving force that pushed me to get this album a number of years back. What I like most is the refrain where it gives an almost hopeful feeling and the image that comes to mind is one of grey cloudy skies clearing up after a rainy day and finally having the weak sun rays shining down - that's been happening often in Singapore recently... the cooling year end weather is upon us at last, woohoo!

8. Sons and Daughters ~ Sore yori Boku ga Tsutaetai no wa (1993)
For "Sons and Daughters" (Sons and Daughters ~それより僕が伝えたいのは), I prefer the version where the acapella group 14 Karat Soul is doing the backup vocals, which I think is only in the album (Red Hill) version; it gives this tune a soulful touch, and of course I think it's cool to hear those guys chiming in at the later half of the song. I can't yet relate to Aska's lyrics, and I'm not entirely sure if I ever will, but it's still very heartwarming to read/hear.

7. Red Hill (1993)
It actually came as sort of a surprise to know that "Red Hill" clawed its way into my top favourite C&A tunes a while back. I mean, I liked the song back when I first heard it, but at times I thought it was a tad long and boring. In the recent year, however, I began to have a growing appreciation for Aska's mysterious and atmospheric music that takes a turn for dramatic at one later point in the song. Plus, I think that it fits the image of two wanderers crossing a barren desert of red sand in search of some lost city (as seen on the album of the same name, which is probably my favourite album cover out of most of their albums I own) very well.

From "See Ya".
6. Mizu no Heya (1990)
Ah, "Mizu no Heya" (水の部屋) is a really comfortable song that has an element of nostalgia in it. Hearing its music makes me think of a blizzard of sakura petals in sepia tone or monochrome. The lyrics include certain events that happened in Aska's childhood, like folding origami in class. You can check out the song here. "Mizu no Heya" was released in C&A's 13th album "See Ya" in 1990.

5. NATURAL (1994)
I've always liked "NATURAL" for its rousing but not overly raucous melody brought to you by Chage (it's about time). Although used as the opening theme of this baseball movie "Hero Interview", a sunny and windy autumn day with the dried leaves flying around in tornadoes is what comes to mind instead of Japan's most popular sport.

4. if (1992)
This one was a tough call. I didn't really know whether to put "if" here or on the podium, and up to the very moment I wrote this, it was within the top 3. But after some consideration, I felt that the other song that took the place of "if" better deserved that position, as I will explain in a while. I much prefer the single version of "if", where it's got a greater variation in its music - from somewhat slow-going ballad to doo wop at the chorus, which is my favourite bit of the duo's 29th single.

3. On Your Mark (1994)
Yup, the very song that kick-started my interest in Chage and Aska is definitely on this list, and at a high position too. "On Your Mark" is one song that brings back many memories from when I was young, and I remember what made me love the song so much was that transition to the chorus and the intense instrumental bit with the wailing electric guitar... I still really enjoy those parts of "On Your Mark", even after all these years. "On Your Mark" was released in 1994 with "NATURAL" and "HEART" as C&A's 35th single, and it seems like this is one of their more internationally known hits, besides "SAY YES", of course.

2. Meguriai (1994)
Well, this is the song that eventually replaced "if" on the podium, "Meguriai" (めぐり逢い). I had intended for "Meguriai" to be at 4th place, but after listening to it again I had second doubts. It's such a relaxing song and I do like hearing the sting of the electric guitar that breaks the monotony, and like "On Your Mark", it brought back some cherished memories, this time those of my second trip to Japan, more specifically exploring the area around the Kaminarimon in Asakusa, which happens to be my favourite place in Tokyo, and walking around the yellow ginkgo leaf-covered grounds of Yoyogi park.

1. WALK (1989)
And now for the big No.1. Similar to "Red Hill", I didn't expect myself to like "WALK" that much. But after learning what Aska's lyrics were about and learning to appreciate the interesting melody he composed at a deeper level, "WALK" steadily... walked (I'm sorry but you saw it coming)... by the all the other songs in this list all the way to first place.

From "DOUBLE".
I know I can do an "Author's Picks" article any time I like so to a certain extent there's no need to make a big decision about whose top 10 (Mae-Kiyo or C&A) I should write about, but I felt that picking one of them for the article on this day in particular is quite... significant (to me, at least).


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    I figured it was time for the Author's Picks to come out since the year is coming to an end. It's good to see you with your Best 10 of Chage & Aska. Thanks very much!

    For me, I enjoyed your 9th and 10th entries. "Koibito wa Wine Iro" is a song that I haven't heard in a long while. It was good to hear it again. But No. 9 was quite the revelation since it was my first time...your translation of the title is correct but I think for Earth, it's actually spelled "chikyu". Anyways, it was quite the whimsical tune especially with the flute in there and something that I didn't imagine hearing from C&A.

    For "Natural", I vaguely remember the movie it was the theme for. But man, Hiroyuki Sanada looked so young without the long hair and full beard that he usually sports in his Hollywood projects now.

    I've got my own list coming out but it's a little different. Hopefully, I will be able to get it out before the end is up.

    1. Hello J-Canuck.

      No problems on doing up the list. :) It was quite fun to do as I got dig through my old memories and my C&A albums for those pictures.

      Yeah, No.9 is quite a unique tune by C&A, and I realise that a couple of other tracks from "DOUBLE" have sort of a similar vibe, like Chage's "Here & There"... Not as outer-space-sounding, but still not something you'd hear from the duo in their earlier singles. I've made the amend to the "chikyu", by the way.

      Wow, Hiroyuki Sanada looks pretty cool now with his longer hair and beard. Makes him have that Johnny Depp look, though more polished.

      I'll be looking forward to your Author's Picks. I'm curious to know what you'd be writing about since you've already done your favourites list on Akina and Seiko.

    2. Hi, Noelle.

      I think Sanada has pretty much eclipsed Ken Watanabe as the go-to Japanese actor in Hollywood.

      As for my contribution to Author's Picks this Holiday season, it will be quite different. It won't be a Top 10 list. :)


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