Hyadain Week, Day 4: "Takoyaki in My Heart," "Sing!!!!!" & "Kinpachi Dance Music"
The fourth day crams three tracks in one to elaborate more on his focus on fun and silliness
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.
“TAKOYAKI in my heart” by KanJani8 (2013)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Shogo Onishi
Crests: Following a darker set of songs, we move on to a more light-hearted choice, to the point that Hyadain kept interrupting the recording of his own demo of it by laughing out loud while trying to sing it. “TAKOYAKI in my heart” by Kansai Johnny’s group Kanjani8 is an Osaka-themed self-intro song that not only shows his chops for writing songs pertaining to people but also places. This track quickly gained attention and immediately became a fan favorite as well as a favorite of the group themselves, an emblematic record in their catalog. There’s a lot to be said about the humor and personalized aspects of the song, but first why don’t we first talk about the local aspect?
Ryo: Though it’s very questionable given how he assembles his own outfits, I’ll have to take Hyadain’s word of Osaka being a fashion-forward city. What’s definitely true, and what serves as the main theme of “Takoyaki in My Heart,” is the reputation of Kansai folks being comedic and full of humor. It’s the first, primary point established through Shingo Murakami, who briefly explains how making jokes is such a way of life, it’s a basic part of daily conversation. And that fact of Kansai folks also instructs how the rest of the song should be taken in. “Takoyaki in My Heart” is overall a silly affair because, well, look at the performers behind the song.
The jokey approach also excuses the parts that otherwise wouldn’t properly work in a pop song. Ryo Nishikido’s entire part is him just naming famous Kansai foods; Yuu Yokoyama busts into a tongue-twister round, saying names of places in Osaka three times fast. While he shamelessly shows off his own grasp of pop production, Hyadain slyly flexes his deep trivia knowledge.
Like he has done with the other idol groups we’ve covered already, Hyadain’s familiar with the individual members of Kanjani as much as the deep Kansai fixtures. His willingness to rip apart a pop song in this meta way works in his favor to thoroughly introduce the members. I like Murakami’s part, for example, when the rest of the members start roasting him, calling him “the purple cheapskate with the crooked teeth,” in response to his word to embrace joking as a lifestyle: “hey, those are just plain insults,” Murakami retorts, and he’s seen confiscating everyone’s wallets in the video. You’re much more familiar with Kanjani guys than me, Crests. How do the other members’ parts or interactions fare to help introduce them?
Crests: Hyadain had long wanted to write a song for Kanjani, and this song shows they’re definitely a group worthy of his style of songwriting. Along with each member’s colors cleverly being hidden in their part of the song (something he’s done before in songs such as Momoiro Clover’s “Mirai Bowl”), he gets each member’s character and famous traits perfectly, even Subaru Shibutani’s part where he basically just tells an extremely dirty-sounding story about being in a tourist destination in Osaka with the crude words bleeped out. While it seems crass, it actually couldn’t be closer to his character, someone who has even performed an entire concert with a Tenga on an amp behind him.
Kanjani are a rather rowdy and immature group. Yasuda’s part talks about his stylishness and love of fashion as well as the running joke among other people about his femininity, only to have Yasuda, who has a strong Kansai individuality as well as a firm belief in gender equality and fashion having no gender, humorously strike it down. Ryuhei Maruyama’s part is basically a solo interlude where he just does chaotic gags at full power. Tadayoshi Ohkura, the drummer and a master at Taiko no Tatsujin, plays the taiko drums while listing off the names of various festivals in Osaka. Even the parts you’ve mentioned also serve a purpose to show the members’ characters: Murakami’s stinginess, Nishikido’s love of mayonnaise and sexy idol character, and Yokoyama’s frequent doyagao and tripping up on his words. The song ends with two of the members admitting that despite just singing their love for Osaka, they’re actually from a different city.
Ryo: All of Kanjani are so animated on record. The music sounds so upbeat. The whole affair is inviting as an idol song, fitting for call-and-responses and such, yet I like how “Takoyaki in My Heart” is also somewhat impenetrable to the casual listener.
Hyadain hardly spoonfeeds you material in many of his songs, and he doesn’t make it any easier to digest much in one go here either. “Takoyaki in My Heart” sends out so much information at once, unloading deep Kansai trivia and bits about the members’ personalities but also the many, many musical shifts. It’s nice to have someone like us to provide context on what’s happening here. But Hyadain almost pushes you instead to pick up on things like strange dialects, locals-only knowledge, and inside jokes by diving straight into the thick of things. I’d actually say he wants you to find the whole thing a bit odd and ridiculous as an outsider looking in, like you’re a musical tourist. Diving right in is the best way to get familiar with a new culture anyway, whether it’d be idol fandom or a different city.
“Sing!!!!!” by The Gospellers (2014)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Kenichi Maeyamada
Ryo: We should be by now familiar with Hyadain as a producer in the world of idols or anime, but The Gospellers? His collaboration with the acapella group seems like a curve ball considering the idol-heavy run that we’ve covered so far, but it makes more sense in the context of his work than, say, his stuff with Yuzu. Hyadain is a solid fan of the quintet, and he actually was a part of an acapella group in college, which opens up a lot to understand the layering of voices in his songs as early as his Niconico uploads. How do you make sense of “Sing!!!!!” and Hyadain’s involvement with the Gospellers in the producer’s body of work, Crests?
Crests: It’s hard to say what role he played in his college acapella group, considering some of his early Niconico works were solo acapella tracks (or duet acapella tracks, if you count Hyadaruko). These were all Final Fantasy tracks with songs in English and even a made-up language as well as songs where all the instruments are actually just his own voice.
There are a few others, and I actually think these tracks are some of the most impressive songs in his catalog. He’s also made a track for acapella idol group Little Glee Monster called “JOY” and more vocal-focused songs like Choucho’s “Million of Bravery”; he didn’t shy away from more choir-style singing in songs such as LinQ’s LinQuest ~Yagate Densetsu E~. I feel his experience also comes into play with a more silly enka trio (now duo) called Hayabusa with members of varying voices.
The most striking feature of all of these songs is how they retain a clearly defined “Hyadain-ness” as if his style is so distinct it can defy or enhance any genre. While being a more jazzy or bluesy song, “SING!!!!!” actually sounds like if it were a bit different genre it wouldn’t be weird to hear a group like Momoiro Clover Z or Dempagumi.inc singing it.
Ryo: I remember thinking “this just sounds like a professional version of his Niconico songs” when you first showed this to me, and a lot of that came from his approach to voice. While the back-and-forth of the vocals in “SING!!!!!” is more restrained than Dempagumi songs, each member similarly finishes the others line in quick session. The singing here keep this fast-paced rhythm that’s frequently found in idol songs—a unique rhythm that Hyadain had a heavy hand in establishing. If you shared this song to someone who didn’t know the Gospellers, it wouldn’t surprised me if they thought it’s sung by a male idol group.
More than recording style, though, the overall performance of “SING!!!!!” celebrates this element of fun and silliness like a virtue. Part of that comes from looking to funk and disco as a musical inspiration; the mid-song break takes cues from Chic’s “Le Freak.” But the Gospellers hit a vocal tone that’s a bit out of their usual suit-and-tie professionalism, particularly those Kermit the Frog-like voices, which reminds me of Hyadain getting into the role of a video game character. The focus on fun first makes total sense for a song about keeping the creative spirit alive after two decades in the business, though it also speaks larger to what Hyadain prioritizes no matter who he works with.
“Kinpachi Dance Music” by Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku (2015)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Satuski Ga Tenkomori
Ryo: For Hyadain, nothing seems out of bounds as an appropriate topic for a pop song, though the concept behind “Kinpachi Dance Music” seems rather taboo especially for a corner of pop music so transparently tied to commercialism as an idol group. The premise of the track is this: Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku desperately want to appear on primetime live-music program Music Station, and they’re ready to do whatever it takes to boost their level of fame.
The idols share their image training: “I’m gonna wave while I go down that long staircase,” Kaho Kobayashi sings in reference to the show’s intro with the guests walking down to their seats. But through Ebi Chu, Hyadain also exposes what’s behind the curtains in a sense, revealing the tie-up offers, CM appearances and other hustles that an idol group has to participate in order to rise to the top. The extended breakdown is shameless as the practices it’s illustrating: they rap and rip a guitar solo in hopes of grabbing attention before they literally perform an audition reel for a sausage ad.
“Kinpachi Dance Music” unpacks what pop music fans try to be consciously oblivious to. I think people ask artists to be humble, and they like to not be reminded of the outside powers that influence the success of their favorite music acts. The music alone won’t take them to the top, and Hyadain doesn’t hide that reality in the slightest. What about Hyadain as a producer do you think makes him fit to write a song like this?
Crests: Because he’s raised a lot of idol groups from humble beginnings, I think he has a good understanding of what it takes to make it. Also as an idol fan and someone who can get close to any idol, he has an immense understanding of idols as well. What separates him from other producers who have also witnessed this, though, is his innate ability to talk about any sort of serious topic or ugly truths in a palatable, touching, or even humorous way, such as twisting quarantine due to a pandemic into something positive with Dempagumi.inc’s “Nanto! Sekai Kounin Hikikomori!”; putting an anti-war message in a song about fighting over chocolates like BEYOOOOONDS’ “Kinoko Takenoko Daisenki”; or his arguably most tear-jerking works dealing with the death of a pet dog “Hajimete no Tomodachi” and “Hajimete no Tomodachi ~the answer~.” I think he could write about literally any topic and pull it off well and tastefully.
This was definitely a risky song to make, to the point where he was worried he wouldn’t be able to reference Music Station and even warned the members that these were probably his most absurd lyrics yet and might end up having to go through a lot of changes. Another thing I think that makes him good for this song is that he can easily write a song containing lots of different genres, parts, or ideas without it being disjointed, such as the aforementioned rock opera of “Kinoko Takenoko Daisenki” that even contains a chess match partway through; Sphere’s “Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong!” which was made around a combination of wildly different vocal styles including opera; or the extremely chaotic Tacoyaki Rainbow’s “Dot JP Japan!” and Idol Yokai Kawayushi’s “Kawayushi Arawaru.” He can basically put anything into a song and make it work, being one of the few people out there to put actual tempo changes in his music, according to a friend of mine.
Though he sometimes has someone else do the arrangement for him to make his ideas into reality the best way possible, he’s definitely not afraid to take risks in his music, in fact they’re par for the course (except perhaps making a song without an actual prominent chorus, something he admires Tsunku for being able to do). His ability to take risks both musically and lyrically and pull them off well makes this an impressive song.
Ryo: I also don’t necessarily think Hyadain breaks rules or conventions more so than he works under the notion that anything can be an idol song as long as an idol is singing it. The raw elements of “Kinpachi Dance Music” aren’t entirely innovative: it’s not new for idols to reference their off-record self or break the fourth wall in a track. But it’s how he takes advantage of the freedom allowed by the idol song as a medium and exploits these familiar techniques in daring, obnoxious ways that really elevate the form.
The more accessible version of the ideas behind “Kinpachi Dance Music” would be his collaboration with Negicco, “Kazegusuririkku,” commissioned by cold medicine brand Benza Block. The resulting music video is fully aware of itself as a jingle by design with the whole promise being a meta-commentary of the established cliches generally found in the company’s commercials: “A unnecessarily tightened 3D body,” the idols sing, then immediately appears a shiny human diagram highlighting the sinuses.
“Kazegusuririkku” partly works well as it does because idols by nature are in the business of selling: Negicco, after all, are local idols originally assembled to promote the sales of green onions. But approaching idol songs as a medium fit for meta-commentary is an angle indebted to Hyadain’s re-thinking of the form. While the lyrics of “Kazegusuririkku” aren’t credited to him, Hyadain might as well have written them just like how he wrote a meta-commentary on idols themselves in “Kinpachi Dance Music.”