Hyadain Week, Day 1: "Ikuze! Kaito Shojo" & “Hyadain No Kakakata Kataomoi-C”
Kicking off Hyadain Week with two essentials that explain his tastes and sensibilities
Hello! Welcome to Hyadain Week of This Side of Japan, a special week-long program where we celebrate the producer’s 10 best songs of the 2010s with my very special guest, Crests. You can return to the intro page to learn more and check out the overview of the week. You can check out previous issues of the main newsletter here.
“Ikuze! Kaito Shojo” by Momoiro Clover Z (2010)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Kenichi Maeyamada
Ryo: Every song on this list is essential to Hyadain’s discography as a highlight of his songwriting, but “Ikuze! Kaito Shojo” might be the most important one. I don’t think I’m being dramatic saying that without this song, it would lead to a catastrophic butterfly effect in the idol scene of the 2010s. Who knows what the fate of Momoiro Clover Z would’ve been without their calling card? How would the scene have looked if the group didn’t break through?
Let’s take a step back, though, and talk about the music of “Ikuze!” When I was first getting into idol music, what captivated me about this song was its restless pacing, emphasized even more by the vocal lines quickly passed back and forth between the idols. Hyadain had already got down how to lay down these fast beats and rhythms through the songs he uploaded a few years before on Niconico Douga. What are some of his signatures or quirks do you hear from his Niconico songs that carry over to the music of “Ikuze! Kaito Shojo”?
Crests: Even though musically the song is very Niconico and Hyadain, the biggest characteristic carried over is the personality in the song. His Niconico songs contained many characters and personalities, and I think that’s actually what makes him great for writing emblematic idol songs.
I’m not sure how many people know this, but Momo Clo’s major-label debut was originally supposed to be “Hashire!” Hyadain happened to submit “Ikuze!” for a contest to write a B-side for “Hashire,” and it not only won but ended up becoming the single in its place because of how well it showed each member’s character. He of course later ended up being a go-to guy for songs tailor-made for idols and idol groups’ personalities.
Apart from one Lucky Star song before that, “Ikuze!” also marks his entry into more Niconico-style songs under his name of Kenichi Maeyamada. His reveal that Hyadain and Kenichi Maeyamada were the same person came a day before the official release of “Ikuze!,” though people were already fairly certain that the uploads were a work of a professional musician based on the quality. After this, his professional music noticeably became a lot more over-the-top in sound and lyrics.
“The World Warrior” by Hyadain (2008)
Crests: His Niconico songs were generally video-game remixes or songs with fun lyrics and many references to popular culture or other things he was interested in. In a way, this is no different as to how “Ikuze!” was written with one of the contest categories being “phantom thief girl.” He was a fan of Lupin The Third, and the song also contains many vague references to popular culture. Another feature of his Niconico songs was the very unique and varied vocals he had in them—all done by himself. He carried this over to the particular and interesting vocal direction in “Ikuze!,” such as Ayaka Sasaki’s, or Aarin’s, “aha~n” that she very much struggled to get right during recording.
Some other small quirks in this song, I think, are actually also things potentially inspired by Tsunku, a big influence of his. Things like the talking, male background vocals, and “ah~” are commonplace in Hello! Project songs. There are many other bits from his past Niconico songs found in “Ikuze!” that he would carry on in his career, such as announcing the second verse and including various random sound effects—here, a siren and a sound of a smashed glass, but he has a large collection full of game sound effects or train noises, which he often uses as a train otaku.
Ryo: Hyadain would work on more ambitious songs—bigger scales, more out-there arrangements, more ridiculous concepts. “Ikuze!,” meanwhile, is a relatively simple idol song that does traditional idol things, like throw cliche gestures that break the fourth wall to directly appeal to the listener: “I’m coming to steal... your heart!” Momo Clo all sing. That said, even within those parameters, Hyadain still deeply empathizes with the idol experience through the eyes of both a fan and a musician. The bridge is my favorite: when Kanako Momota sings about the twinkling, onlooking eyes that “shine brighter than the night sky,” you feel exactly why so many young girls aspire to get on that stage. “Ikuze!” is a song for idol fans by an idol fan, but it’s also a song for idols by idols.
Hyadain’s deep respect for idols that comes through in “Ikuze!” has made the song an enduring now-classic in the idol-music canon. It only teased his seriousness towards idol songs as music as well as idol groups as a vehicle to discuss more serious matters, like depression, self-acceptance and freedom of expression. He’d find it appropriate to have idols sing a politically loaded lyric like, “it’s OK to have a variety of colors / it’s called ‘diversity’ in English” straightforwardly, without euphemisms or lyrical metaphor. We’ll definitely talk about those points as we go through more of his songs.
“Ikuze!” represents a master key to Hyadain’s later works, though it’s also a major fall in the dominoes of the last decade in idol. For one, a good half of the groups we’ll mention in this week-long feature would not likely exist without “Ikuze!” Momo Clo Z’s success allowed their company Stardust to invest in the production of more new groups. The growth of Stardust also helped establish a stratum of idol in between the mainstream and underground—a middle class of idol, if you will. Hyadain had a major part in this rise by writing the debuting singles by multiple acts from the company, and it’s only in the last few years that Stardust has started to move away from his influence. An extremely tough question, I know, but what about “Ikuze!” makes the single so important in the modern idol scene for you, Crests?
Crests: I think the biggest thing is that it was something fresh and new to the idol scene and the J-pop scene in general. There wasn’t really anyone out there doing more Niconico-style music outside of the website, much less any sung by actual people.
The song was originally not well received by Momo Clo fans at the time, who were confused by it. But it slowly ended up becoming more well received by the fans and the public, and it has since even been recognized by professionals as one of the most impressive Japanese idol songs. It gave Momo Clo a strong identity and propelled Momo Clo, Stardust, and Hyadain himself forward.
“Ikuze” propelled idols in general as well, and I think it was a necessary catalyst for the Idol Sengoku Jidai. As for why that is, it introduced many new things to the idol world that people didn’t know they wanted—something more in-your-face and entertaining. I’ll be mentioning a few of Hyadain’s main values as we go on, but above all, his most important value is to put music out there that is simply just fun, enjoyable, positive and can become a bright moment in people’s lives. “Ikuze!” is memorable and fits all of those characteristics.
“Hyadain No Kakakata Kataomoi-C” by Hyadain (2011)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Kenichi Maeyamada
Ryo: “Hyadain No Kakakata Kataomoi-C” is Hyadain’s major-label debut single, but many may be familiar with it as the title track to the 2011 anime Nichijou. It’s not his first anime tie-in in the slightest: He had done the music for Toho Shinki’s One Piece song, “Share the World,” for one, though his songs for Mitsudomoe are probably more relevant for this discussion. He’s a well-suited musician for an anime-song gig if you consider his knack for fleshing out characters and their background stories in the form of a pop song.
The multiple voices in this single calls back to his Niconico songs. While the music video helps make sense of the song by hiring an actress to lip sync those parts, it also obscures the fact that those feminine voices actually belong to Hyadain. That particular voice has also been given her own name of Hyadaruko—his alter ego of sorts. Can you tell me more about Hyadaruko, Crests?
Crests: Hyadaruko has been appearing in Hyadain’s personal works since his third work on Niconico, “Yie Ar Kung-Fu Rap.” She appears in most of his solo songs but is always portrayed by an actress or idol during music videos or performances, such as Natsuko Aso or former Momoiro Clover member Akari Hayami. Just like how Hyadain’s name came from a Dragon Quest spell (known as Kacrack in English), Hyadaruko’s name is a play on the spell of the same name (Crackle in English), with ko changed into the character 子, commonly used in Japanese to make names female. She would even sometimes write posts on his blog, which was changed to be Hyadaruko’s blog once on April Fool’s day. The existence of Hyadaruko among his other voices actually led people to believe for a while that Hyadain was a group of multiple people who made music together.
Part of Hyadaruko’s voice is a digital voice modifier, but a lot of it is Hyadain himself. However, his process has never actually been properly shown because he finds it too embarrassing. Once during a Jounetsu Tairiku interview, they followed him as he was working on a song, but when it came time to record as Hyadaruko, he went in a room and wouldn’t let anyone in, saying “this is the one thing I can’t show you.” In a Washington Post interview, he commented that the key to singing these parts is to forget yourself, and said when he’s Hyadaruko, nobody should look at him.
He also sometimes used Hyadaruko for demos he makes for other artists. He likes to make his demos sound exactly how he wants the vocals and the song to sound, so he can make the best possible impression since he can only show a demo once and also to guide people on exactly what he wants—I’ll tell a story about this later.
The B-side of “Kataomoi” contains “Hyadaruko no Kakakata Kataomoi-F,” a version of the song in the key of F with the vocal parts reversed, as well as versions of the song with just Hyadaruko’s voice and just Hyadain’s voice. He’d also do this on his next single for Nichijou, “Hyadain no Joujou Yuujou.”
“Hyadain No Joujou Yuujou” by Hyadain (2011)
Ryo: It’s more than apparent that Hyadain dedicates a lot in the details of his production, especially the process of character-building. Who else literally becomes the character they are composing for? But while that part of Hyadain makes him a great candidate as an anime-song writer, his composing style also works so well for an anime opening sequence.
The opening title call of Nichijou isolates “Kataomoi-C” into its first 90 seconds—the standard duration of an anime opening—but that short section alone already weaves in so many different movements. Thirty seconds in, the busy marching-band arrangement suddenly slows to a halt into this mellow scat-pop intermission, only for the restless momentum to then abruptly pick back up. The animators riff on the rapid beats, cuing the unexpected switch to a shot of the main character armed with a huge rocket launcher out of nowhere. The pacing practically dispels any need to provide context: because everything is happening so fast, you won’t have time to properly absorb all of the information. It’s the back-and-forth between Momoiro Clover Z in “Ikuze! Kaito Shojo” but cranked up about a dozen levels.
This approach also points to just how his audience on Niconico informed how he arranges his productions. “Everyone gets tired after about two minutes on Nico,” Hyadain told Advertimes last June. “They wouldn’t get bored if I added in a lot of changes, or they would comment more if I changed it up after the 2-minute mark. From that, I learned a lot that what I should add when and where.” His tendency to stuff a song with bells and whistles, and how he shift gears without notice mid-song, makes more sense as a learned method to keep the viewer’s attention.
I think Hyadain has a reputation for not only stuffing sounds but also composing songs that last these great epic lengths, songs that feel like a marathon listening to them—we’ll actually talk about a song that pass the six-minute mark. So it’s nice to see that he thrives even if you give him a limited time frame to work with. In fact, maybe he actually works better trying to cram all his ideas in a 90-second span. The concise ways in which he makes everything work is really a feat.
Crests: This is our only Hyadain solo song on the list, but really, his style is so strong that his musical personality and tastes often show just as much in songs he writes for other artists as for himself. Even the addition of Hyadaruko to his music speaks to an affinity to a cute or not very skilled female voice, something he himself (and many other idol fans) prefer to a more polished singing ability. He’s gone so far as to say he has little interest in the “diva” type of vocalist. This definitely shows in his work, and you’ll hear many songs in this list with vocals that definitely transcend the diva style of singing. As you’ll also see his energetic style of music, fun lyrics and vocal direction, and distinctive melodies can make even an a capella song characteristically Hyadain.