Credits

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, March 25, 2013

Shogo Hamada -- J.Boy



Simply one of the coolest guys around, Shogo Hamada (浜田省吾) has had a solid career during the 40+ years he's been in the industry, and has been steadily popular in terms of sales since the early 80's. HMV Japan, for instance, lists him as No.59 on its Top 100 Japanese Pop Artists list. He's also had a significant influence on other popular Japanese male songwriters, especially in the lyrics department, such as Yutaka Ozaki, Masaharu Fukuyama, and Kazutoshi Sakurai from Mr.Children. I actually decided to give him a try after finding out that he's one of Sakurai's musical heroes...a strong selling point for me. And I'm so glad I did, since his music is a pleasure to listen to. He's a rock star with a big heart. English Wikipedia provides a pretty comprehensive profile on him, so I'll just focus on the song at hand so we can get a glimpse of what this singer is about.

"J.Boy" (i.e. Japanese Boy) was a title track from his 11th studio album released in September 1986. He headed overseas to the US to do the mixing part of the production, where he worked with two artists he wanted to meet for a long time: Jackson Browne and Don Henley. The album peaked at No.1 on Oricon weeklies and became the 21st-ranked album of the year with 419,000 copies sold for the first issue. The two CD re-issues have also charted well thanks to Hamada's new-found surge in popularity during the early-90's. He couldn't have picked a better title track to headline the album, as "J.Boy" is a fantastic number of grand proportions that is meant to be played in an arena concert. It's also got striking lyrics which go hand-in-hand with the music. Huge thanks to J-Canuck for providing the following translation for "J.Boy" and helping me magnify the content. I must say, we're doing pretty well with J-names here.

At the bell at the end of work
The stolen heart and body are returned in the evening
The human wave that sets off for home
I unloosen my tie
Sometimes I wanna scream in anger for no reason
J.Boy …the ideals I set forth are also far away now
J.Boy…I also lose the pride I should protect

I run myself ragged in the endless rat race
And throw out my home and throw out my work, the friends that left me
Then I try to plug the hole in my heart
I endure the mountain of work I bear
J.Boy…in this country of plenty and distrust
J.Boy…What do I gamble on? What do I dream about?
J.Boy…I’m a J.Boy

Several things are going on here. For one thing, the song is a critique of the Japanese working society during the bubble economy and describes the lifeless state of mind of many white-collar workers during that period. At least that's what Hamada's intention was according to J-Wiki, but one could certainly universalize the theme to apply to the youth of today who are trying to make ends meet in the midst of an unstable global economy. You can just feel the protagonist's despair through Hamada's delivery during the verses. No normal human being wants to be just another bolt in the machine. But at the same time, it's a song about pride and freedom, which the protagonist regains by riding away from his prison into the dawn on a motorcycle. Try listening to part where the instruments quiet down with the "4 in the morning..." lyrics in mind. After you get to the line "I wanna break through the sun...", a blast of horns and guitars will come your way, giving off an effect of liberty rushing into the hero's veins.


4 in the morning, can’t sleep
Leave my girl in bed
I stick the key into the motorcycle
In the dark, I slide in
And until everything fades away
I race the wind and ride
J.Boy
Show me your way!

I wanna break through the sun rising over the horizon

J.Boy…smash through the everyday
Overtake the sadness

J.Boy…stop the loneliness
Blow away the isolation

J.Boy…J.Boy

According to J-Wiki, Hamada designed the title to mean "not yet grown Japan". Hence the "boy" part. The protagonist of this song and the album is the same figure that appeared in Hamada's previous album Down By The Mainstreet (1984) as much younger boy, and now he was undergoing a transition towards adulthood as he was figuring out his purpose in life while dealing with all the surrounding mess. This transformation would be more-or-less complete in the following album Father's Son (1988). As for the "Japan" part, Hamada just seemed skeptical about Japan's bubble economy, which he thought was expanding too fast for its own good, especially within such a small territory. I'll let you interpret that comment however you wish. Or you can just simply appreciate the song for its introspective message about finding freedom within oneself.


Like I mentioned previously, "J.Boy" demands to be performed live, and it certainly became one of Hamada's setlist staples since 1986. The above performance comes from a 2001 concert. It's a real treat. The song was also used as a rooting anthem for the Japanese team during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where it was rearranged under the title "J.Boy remix for J athletes".

Source: wallpaperdreams

3 comments:

  1. Why have I never listened to this before. It's an amazing, important song.

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  2. I have to agree with jari. This is a great song and a bit of a musical time capsule about the malaise that was seeping into young corporate Japan during the economic heydays.

    I especially love the horn section!

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  3. Thanks Nikala for this awesome post on 浜田省吾's 「J.BOY」. What a great song and certainly every bit as good as his other hits like 「ラストショー」 and 「悲しみは雪のように」. The 「J.Boy remix for J athletes」 version is pretty cool too but Hamada's original is definitely better.

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