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, January 18, 2016

Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Be A Superman (ビー・ア・スーパーマン)

Over the past weekend, the movie channel Showcase was running multiple viewings of "Man of Steel", another reboot of the Superman franchise. I did see it on the big screen and my good friend actually gave me the DVD but until this past weekend, I hadn't bothered seeing it again. Watching it with relatively fresh eyes again, I could appreciate certain scenes (Krypton, the battle scenes) but I thought it was basically a movie of some good scenes which wasn't quite more than the sum of its parts. I am hoping that "Batman vs. Superman"  which comes out in a few months brings something far more magical and is perhaps somewhat even better than the past year's "Avengers" entry.

Well, let's make a cheap segue to YMO or perhaps for this song anyways, YMO. I first came across "Be A Superman" on my purchased "YMO Go Home!", and I had never heard of this entry since it came out in August 1993, well over a decade after my awe for the Yellow Magic Orchestra had dissipated. The title was certainly intriguing enough. Were Sakamoto and the boys paying tribute to the American superhero or were they going for the more philosophical Man/Superman (not that I know much more about it)?

It was indeed a single created by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi(坂本龍一・高橋幸宏), and I was impressed by the nice little R&B groove added to the percolating techno. Would have loved to have seen this performed at a rave in the later hours. As for the "Superman" part, the lyrics didn't go either way. Instead it was just a gravelly voice (and a pretty voice) exhorting what seemed to be a perpetual hikikomori to get off his or her duff and make something of himself or herself.

Imagine my surprise on finding out in the liner notes that the gravelly voice belonged to the late William S. Burroughs. "Naked Lunch" W.S. Burroughs?! Did YMO actually lure this guy out to the recording booth? I'm not totally sure but I think the band just pulled out a few samples although I don't know which speech or lecture the phrases came from. Whatever the case may be, it was quite the inspired song.

"Be A Superman" was indeed on YMO's 7th and final studio album, "Technodon" from May 1993 which peaked at No. 2. As for the single itself, it only got as high as No. 76. But hey, that doesn't take away at how cool it still sounds.

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