Takahashi Yoko – 20th Century Boys and Girls

Hello! 🙂 This is Chani here bringing you all things obscure! I say this is obscure because I generally don’t follow the popular Asian bands of the day the way NeeNee does. Rather, I am attracted to music that interests me, plain and simple, however I come by it and whatever genre it may be. Generally, I prefer music that is pretty melodic and also songs that have good lyrics, usually either sweet/romantic  or meaningful/philosophical in some way, and extra props to songs that manage to do both! I think this is generally because I like to try to relate music in some ways back to themes in my own life, or the world at large, or – most geekily – to the original fiction stories that I work on as a hobby in my spare time (some fanfiction as well, but we won’t get into that right now, LOL). I guess that’s why I like anime songs a lot, but although I often start my Asian music journeys with anime music, I can follow that path to other routes, too, as you’ll see with the album I review below. I am a semi-musical person, having done some choir in school as well as private voice lessons, so I don’t always restrict my music interests just to what is ‘popular’ at any given time. Okay, now that I’ve given you that introduction to why the music I Review here may often be obscure, let’s get to the album!

Today, I will be reviewing Takahashi Yoko’s latest album, 20th Century Boys and Girls, which was released on June 23, 2010. She is an older singer, born August 28, 1966. Those of you not immediately familiar with Takahashi Yoko might be when I tell you that she is the vocalist for “Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE/Cruel Angel’s Thesis”, the opening theme for the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime. She also performs a great deal of other songs from the various Neon Genesis Evangelion soundtracks, and as might be expected, that is where I was first exposed to her as a singer. Now, lyrics from Evangelion songs are, as a general rule, pretty meaningful and philosophical, and they also have good melodies (most if not all composed by Sagisu Shiro), so already I was hooked. When I realized she had released an album called “~refrain~ The songs were inspired by Evangelion”, I had to check that out too, to find more Evangelion-like songs. And then I discovered her song “One Little Wish”, which was included on the “Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE 2009 VERSION” release, and it was a done deal. The song was so amazing that I needed to hear more of this woman’s stuff. So I went onto CDJapan (best site ever!) and ordered two of her compilation albums, “Best 10” and “Golden Best”, as well as this most recent album I will review below.

20th century Boys & GirlsThe hat she’s wearing on the cover is quite entertaining to me 🙂 It’s covered with numerous amusing little decorations, including some smaller hats. On the images inside the book, we see up close pictures of some of the decorations, one of which is a mini phonograph which is quite cute. Now as for the content of the album itself, the track list (and my title translations) is as follows:

01 魂のルフラン (2010Version)  – Tamashii no Rufuran/Souls Refrain (2010 Version)
02 残酷な天使のテーゼ (2009VERSION)  – Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE/Cruel Angel’s Thesis (2010 Version)
03 コブラ – Cobra
04 君をのせて – Kimi wo Nosete/Resting on You/Putting on You (like physically touching you)
05 愛はブーメラン  – Ai wa Boomerang/Love is a Boomerang
06 炎のたからもの –Honoo no Takaramono/Treasure of Fire
07 Goodbye Day
08 光の天使 CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT – Hikari no Tenshi/Angel of Light CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT
09 キャンティのうた  – Chianti no Uta/Song of Chianti
10 人間の証明のテーマ – Ningen no Shoumei no Teema/Theme of “Proof of the Man”

My favorites are tracks 3, 4, 7, 8, and 10, though all of the songs are pretty good. Overall, the whole album has a very jazzy feel to it. It’s like a more sophisticated pop/jazz style for most if not all the songs. Sort of has a very ‘grown-up’ feel, in my opinion. I think my favorite song on the album is “Kimi wo Nosete” though as you can see above it’s hard to translate the meaning in my opinion. Maybe the meaning would become clearer if I translate the whole song, but I am instead going to translate one of her songs from one of the “Best” compilations that I purchased, “ Living with Joy”, which I should post to the blog within the week. Maybe one of these days I’ll try my hand at translating “Kimi wo Nosete”, but for the time being you’ll just have to enjoy listening to it. 🙂

Tracks 1 and 2 are simply new releases of two Evangelion songs, and while I like them, there are so many different releases now of both that it has to be pretty phenomenally different or exciting to impress me, and those are just fairly general in my opinion. Although it’s not one of my top favorites on this album because it’s not new to me and is again fairly generic, Track 5, Ai wa Boomerang, really pleased me because it is a cover of one of my favorite songs from the Urusei Yatsura anime, specifically the theme from the second movie, “Beautiful Dreamer”. For those of you who don’t know, Urusei Yatsura is a manga written by Rumiko Takahashi, author of Ranma ½ and Inu Yasha. It is her first major work, was written in the 70s and 80s and made into an anime, and features the perpetually unlucky lecherous high-schooler Ataru Moroboshi and his adventures with his alien princess fiancée Lum, and the many other aliens he encounters over the course of the series. It’s mostly just madcap zaniness but I really love the series, and Lum is awesome! 🙂

Another track I really love is “Cobra”. It has a bit more of the jazzy feel than “Kimi wo Nosete” does but it struck me as an interesting song pretty early on. You can listen to it below.

“Goodbye Day” is VERY jazzy, but I find it quite catchy. “Children of the Light” is similarly catchy.  I haven’t gotten that familiar with “Honoo no Takaramono” and “Chianti no Uta” yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t come to love them even more later on. Listening to music and getting to love songs can sometimes be a slow process for me, and things that don’t impress me right away can become huge favorites later, so we’ll see. 🙂

For all you Asian Drama fans, Track 10, Ningen no Shoumei no Teema appears to be the theme song for a 2004 mystery/crime Asian drama of the same name. It’s also one of my favorite songs on the album. The lyrics (sung in English) are as follows:

Mama, Do you remember the old straw hat you gave to me
I lost the hat long ago; flew to the foggy canyon, yeah…
Mama,I wonder what happened to that old straw hat
Falling down the mountain side; Out of my reach like your heart

Suddenly the wind came up
stealing my hat from me
Swirling whirling gusts of wind
blowing it higher away

Mama, that old straw hat was the only one I really loved
But we lost it, no one could bring it back
Like the life you gave me

Suddenly the wind came up
stealing my hat from me
Swirling whirling gusts of wind
blowing it higher away

Mama, that old straw hat was the only one I really loved
But we lost it, no one could bring it back
Like the life you gave me
Like the life you gave me

Now, this song just screams “meaningful, philosophical lyrics” to me, which is probably why I love it so much, in addition to the nice melody. You can tell her English accent isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad. Now, I don’t know much about the drama itself or what connection, if any, the song has to it, but to me the song could have a double meaning. You could see it as lamenting a person’s loss of relationship with their mother, which seems more obvious. But to me, it could also be about, and it really expresses the transience of life… yeah, like I said, I like philosophical stuff. 🙂 Anyway, you can hear the song here:

Well, that’s about it! I think I’d probably rate this album an 8 out of 10.If you are interested, you can purchase it at both YesAsia and CDJapan. So until I choose to blog another potentially obscure album, please enjoy broadening your musical horizons 🙂

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