Hope everyone had a happy Valentine’s Day. I meant to post this before the holiday, but consider this a tribute to the hard-working Japanese gals. Or you can keep this in mind when you’re making next year’s V-Day playlist.
When I came up with the idea for this countdown, I envisioned a woman serenading her lover. Then, I noticed that many of the popular Japanese love songs by female artists are actually about lost loves. Broken hearts don’t exactly put most people in the mood for romance so I tried to avoid those. I also left out covers of English love songs (e.g. Ringo Shiina’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”) and the really obvious choices (e.g. “Valentine Kiss”) just to have something a little more original.
For those of you who are new to my countdowns, “Hi 8” is a pun off of the name Hibari and the reason why I pick 8 instead of 10. Sometimes, like today, I include what I call a “+4 bonus” of a related category (or sometimes the opposite).
Hibari’s Hi 8 – Love Songs with Female Vocals
8. “Just Communication” by Two-Mix – This is not what you normally think of in terms of love songs. However, it has some of the most passionate lyrics, e.g. “Through kisses, more than words,/ we feel each other’s heartbeats.” (from Jpopasia)
7. “Watashi no Koi wa Hocchikisu” by Hokago Tea Time – The title translates as “My Love Is a Stapler”, which is an unusual but cute analogy. The song contains a naïveté that is a refreshing break from the dramatics and flowery poetics of mature love songs. Sometimes it pays to not always know what to say.
6. “Sakuranbo” by Ai Otsuka – Here’s another unique analogy; Otsuka compares herself and her lover to a pair of cherries. This upbeat song expresses the joy of being in love and the optimistic feelings that comes with it.
5. “Koi no Mahou” by Kumi Koda – If I didn’t try to prevent an artist from appearing multiple times, Kumi Koda would dominate this countdown. She’s got a knack for cute love songs as she does for aching ballads and sexy dance numbers. I chose this one because it’s about a girl who falls for her friend, which makes me think of romantic comedies (and a couple real life examples).
4. “Hanamizuki” by Yo Hitoto – I would have ranked this higher (especially since it inspired a romantic film), but it kind of breaks my rule about sad songs. It’s not only about loss though; it’s about the hope that comes with love.
3. “Dearest” by Ayumi Hamasaki – You listen to the first couple of bars, and you know that a sweet ballad is coming up. The lyrics reveal that this is a more mature song than some of my other picks, as they talk about the struggles to get to a point of happiness.
2. “Truth” by Reira starring Yuna Ito – Yuna Ito has such a soothing voice that can also belt out powerful notes. Add an orchestra and electric guitars, and you’ve got a dramatic ballad made for the cinema (this was in NANA 2). This song made me compare Ito to Celine Dion, the queen of dramatic ballads.
1. “Yuki no Hana” by Mika Nakashima
You know you have an epic love song when Korean, Mandarin, and English artists have covered it. Nothing beats the smokey voice of Mika Nakashima (another ballad queen) though. The song is a bit subdued, but Nakashima conveys a vulnerability and honesty that is only revealed with true love.
+4 Bonus – Anti-Valentine Songs by Female Artists
If February 14 is your least favorite day of the year, I’ve got a treat for you as well. My bonus songs are full of sass and a take-charge attitude for anybody thinking, “Who needs romance?”
4. “That Ain’t Cool” by Kumi Koda feat. Fergie – This song makes the list because of its star power. When two hot divas from both sides of the Pacific warn you about cheating, you’re going to listen. I also like Koda tells the girls that they can “have [their] cake and eat it too”. Why settle for anything less, right?
3. “Bye My Darling” by Crystal Kay – Like Koda and Fergie, Crystal Kay does not stand to be mistreated. Only she also promises a bit of revenge to go along with her sayonara.
2. “Hey Jerks” by Youjeen – This list wouldn’t be complete with a loud, angry rock number. Youjeen delivers one while straight up refusing to be trapped in any jerk’s fairy tales. It’s so refreshing to hear an Asian songstress be so in your face (she even curses in the English version).
1. “Independent Woman” by Minmi feat. Pushim
Independent Japanese women don’t have to go to Destiny’s Child for their anthem. Minmi and Pushim tell ladies to forget about heartbreak, be bold, and have fun. This is the song to blast when you’re ready to party with your girlfriends.
Finding anthems for the single gals was harder than I expected too. That’s why the bonus list took a more anti-romance/don’t-mess-with-me approach. Next month it will be the guys’ turn in honor of White Day.
Listening to: “Natsu no Album” by Manami Kiyota