Hyadain Week, Day 5: "RAINBOW ~Watashi Wa Watashi Yanenkara~” & "Tadekuu Mushi Mo Like It!"
The final day of Hyadain Week explores the producer's core values shown in two recent singles and the positivity he brings outside of music
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.
“RAINBOW ~Watashi Wa Watashi Yanenkara~” by Tacoyaki Rainbow (2017)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by CMJK
(English subtitles available on the video)
Crests: This is a song I personally insisted we have on the list. Though I may always cry to “W.W.D” and “W.W.D II,” another Hyadain song I always cry to and means the most to me for various reasons is “RAINBOW ~Watashi wa Watashi Yanen Kara~.” One of Hyadain’s other core values is diversity, even saying in the song “it’s OK to have a variety of colors / it’s called diversity in English.” This isn’t the only time Hyadain has brought the theme to a song. He also wrote a song with RYUCHELL, aptly named “Diversity Guys!,” challenging the concept of masculinity and femininity with a similar motif of “7 million people super colorful world” to Tacoyaki Rainbow’s “7 million people, RAINBOW!”
Hyadain is definitely a man who cares deeply about growing and educating himself, posting books he’s reading on Twitter about the patriarchy, homelessness and helping and understanding delinquent children. In Hyada-niisan, his Line blog panel that gives advice to school-aged children, he often answers questions while stressing the importance of understanding diversity. He also recently talked with Fuwa-chan on his Youtube series HYADA In My Room about being glad comedians were starting to catch on that a lot of kinds of jokes weren’t OK. This part of his personality I think lends well to being able to make compassionate songs about serious topics.
Ryo: Message songs by Hyadain weren’t new in 2017—look no further than the “W.W.D.” series—but he hadn’t yet written a single touching on a topic this serious for Tacoyaki Rainbow. Being a local idol group from the Kansai region, their early songs were built around their home area like “Naniwa No Haniwa,” which literally translates to haniwa from the Naniwa ward of Osaka. It wasn’t too different from the early days of the group’s peers Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku making shrimp puns because there wasn’t much about them that Hyadain can work with.
A local group went from singing novelty records to now the value of diversity—that’s a big step in growth for Tacoyaki Rainbow, and the members felt the same when they first received the song. “The song began with ‘sore sore sore sore,’ so I thought it was another Taconiji-ish song, but there was such a strong message as the song went on,” Mai Haruna told Vanity Mix in 2017. “You think it’s a hype-up type of song, but the story is serious,” Kurumi Hori then said. “There are also some sad words in there.”
“Naniwa No Haniwa” by Tacoyaki Rainbow (2014)
Ryo: That said, Hyadain still keeps their Kansai spirit intact by writing the lyrics in the regional dialect: “Watashi wa watashide-enokana / Suki wa sukide-enokana,” Hori sings with that Kansai-specific suffix added to her lines like a badge of pride. You can say it’s a carried-on tradition—the group also sang in the dialect in their previous single, “Dot JP Japan!”—but it doubles as another point made about diversity in “Rainbow” with the idols proudly showing off how they were raised. In a society where dialect can establish reputations and draw unfair prejudice, not changing the lyrics for the sake of formality is actually a bold move that sends a message as much as it is a stylistic innovation.
The way Tacoyaki Rainbow speak is only a small detail covered in this song about self-acceptance, though. What else sticks out to you about “Rainbow” in terms of the message, Crests?
Crests: This is an extremely powerful song about diversity and accepting yourself. I think the most powerful part of the song is how it switches from the first chorus of “Is it ok to be myself? Is it ok to like what I like? My life and my body, is it ok to accept them” to the final chorus of “It’s ok to be myself. It’s ok to like what I like. My life and my body, it’s ok to accept them.” But the lyrics of the entire song are really a story and show a succinct picture of personal struggle about being yourself and a gradual painful growth to acceptance—Hyadain really gets it. The line “Just be yourself? Don’t tell me something so irresponsible” really paints a deep picture. It’s an impressive mixture of darkness and positivity that Hyadain is so good at pulling off.
Ryo: We have repeatedly pointed out how Hyadain songs are silly creations that emphasize fun and playfulness as a virtue, but it shouldn’t be mistaken that we consider those same songs as being shallow. Though he’s not always as transparent with what he intends to say as “Rainbow,” he writes in a moral to take away once the record stops. They’re just often nested inside an out-of-the-ordinary narrative and music that frequently breaks away from the expected path.
It’s not hard to deduce how Hyadain might have ended up with the talking points of “Rainbow.” Earlier Tacoyaki Rainbow songs already teased his methods of going off of a selected keyword; just now, he decided to concentrate more on the “rainbow” aspect of the group’s name. I imagine his mind going to all sorts of places once he naturally reached “diversity” as a topic to dwell on during his brainstorming. And as if it’s making up for the ideas he couldn’t fit in the space of a song, the music video helps further expand his discussion on the topic. What do you like about the music video, Crests?
Crests: The PV plays a crucial role in the song, matching up with the lyrics and with the ideas and casting done by Hyadain himself. The first member shown, Saki Kiyoi plays an otaku who clearly enjoys what she likes, but her peers look down on her for it, calling her disgusting and telling her to live in reality. She gets deeply distressed—“just one place, just one person / I wish there was somewhere I can be myself, just myself,” she sings—but she ultimately decides to reach out and find accepting friends, realizing “my life and my body, it’s OK to accept them.”
Mai Haruna and Sakura Ayaki play a LGBT couple with Haruna especially struggling to accept her feelings. They share a happy moment together before being forced apart, and they continue to struggle throughout the song: “Just be yourself? Don’t tell me something irresponsible / Of course I want to live brightly like a rainbow,” they sing. We can see that means exactly what it sounds like when Haruna finally accepts her feelings—“It’s okay to be myself / It’s okay to like what I like”—and the two hold hands and look into each other’s eyes.
Ren Negishi is forced by others to mask her unique style and personality to instead be the same as her peers. While she sings “Why was I born? I used to curse about my situation a little bit / I hid the true emotion that pulses through me,” a drag queen comes to Negishi’s rescue, disposing her peers and showing her that it’s completely OK not to suppress who she is. Lastly, Kurumi Hori wants to be a singer against the wishes of her mother, who’s overly focused on her studies. She’s later doing a street performance with an acoustic guitar, singing “But I don’t wanna blame anyone / We only live once / I wanna shine with my own color.” She’s still bogged down with her studies by the end, but she finds moments to do what she loves: “We don’t know the answers so we struggle / But neither white nor black / Someday we can smile about / The rainbow color world and your rainbow color self,” Hori sings as Negishi and her drag queen friend also dance together showing off their colors.
Political songs aren’t necessarily anything new to idols. In fact, the longest running idol group Seifuku Koujou Iinkai and their subunit Kotobuki-tai exist to be protest idol groups, speaking on various issues. Even AKB48 would dip their toes into this with theatre songs such as Mokugekisha. There’s also many more progressive small groups out there, such as openly gay idol group Nichoume no Sakigake Coming Out. However, more mainstream idol songs, and even other Stardust songs, don’t usually make such an explicit statement on things like sexuality or diversity, elevating the messages of these smaller groups and songs to a more mainstream audience.
This isn’t to say they never talk about these things. Idol songs, however, generally aren’t expected to be anything revolutionary or make a statement. You don’t usually see quite a strong transparent and straightforward statement from an idol about following your gut to be the person you are or want to be even if everyone around you is against it.
“Tadekuu Mushi Mo Like It!” by Angerme (2018)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Shunsuke Suzuki
Ryo: Hyadain’s songwriting approach suits an energetic, strong-willed group like Angerme very well. The compatibility partly owes to influence—we already alluded here and there about his deep respect for Tsunku—but also his strong familiarity of Hello! Project as a fan. “Be proud, like it! / Confidently, like it,” the group sings in the chorus of “Tadekuu Mushi Mo Like It!,” “it’s ‘every man to his taste,’ isn’t it?” It’s yet another idol-pop message by Hyadain of self-acceptance and positive self-esteem—a spiritual kin to Tacoyaki Rainbow and their celebration of diversity from a year prior.
That said, it’s tricky to decipher what exactly from a Hyadain-written Hello! Project song comes from Hyadain himself and not just as a byproduct of him writing to the company’s needs. His songwriting voice can flatten into anonymity when it aligns too much with the company’s tastes, like in the funk pastiche of Juice=Juice’s “Keep On Joushou Shikou!!,” when the better outcome would involve his idiosyncrasies adding a new wrinkle in a Hello! Project song. Why did you choose “Tadekuu Mushi Wo Like It!” out of Hyadain’s other Hello! Project collaborations? And what do you hear from it that’s unmistakably from Hyadain?
Crests: You can tell Hyadain really likes and respects Hello! Project just by listening to the songs he’s written for and about them, like “Hello! History” and “We Are Leaders! ~Leader tte no mo Tsurai Mono~,” that’s full of love and warm familiarity. He also has a specific process writing for Hello! Project, using methods like changing lyrics to words he feels Tsunku would use instead.
In a way, his individuality can’t come out in these songs. He knows he can’t go too hard in the chorus, and he generally doesn’t even try to make the composition sound like a Hello! Project song, saying anything can be turned into one by the production team and their “Hello! Project Magic.” This doesn’t mean, however, that he’s not familiar with all of Hello Project’s idiosyncrasies: Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku’s “Nakameguro no Fuyukaze...NAMIDA” was written when Stardust asked him to write them a Hello! Project-sounding song.
Why I personally chose “Tadekuu Mushi,” and what stands out as Hyadain to me from it, is the theme of individuality: liking what you want as much as you want and living your life how you please. As an otaku himself, he definitely understands the lifestyle of someone who maybe doesn’t like the coolest things. He has even written a similar, poignant yet silly song for Miyata Toshiya of Kis-my-ft2 called “Otaku Dattatte It’s Alright!,” proclaiming to people, “isn't this just about throwing my feelings genuinely into something I love!?”
“Even if I wanted to talk about my favorite games and anime with someone, I was too scared that they would turn me away,” Hyadain told Asahi this year about how he struggled to make friends in school. “I soon became insecure about it, and I would close myself off. So music became a big stress-reliever for me.” But whether it’s getting to do shows about subjects like idols, Sailor Moon or Pokemon, or gaining exposure for his nerdy songs on Niconico, following his passions brought him a lot of opportunities. Honestly, where would he be now if he hadn’t thrown his feelings into all the things he loved, as strange as they might be?
Not being held back by other’s opinions about how you should live and doing what’s right for you is really one of his biggest values. It especially shows up in songs with the theme of being a woman. MAX’s “#SELFIE ~ONNA NOW~,” an anthem transformed from a Chainsmokers song of the same name that’s not so kind to women, says no matter what, a woman is still a woman through such lines as “Marriage? Business? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Happiness is different for everyone.” The Dance for Philosophy’s major-label debut “Don’t Stop The Dance” also tackles various themes such as women being cute for themselves and not men, not having a “best by date,” and not having to be wives or mothers like society expects.
“Don’t Stop the Dance” by The Dance for Philosophy (2020)
Ryo: Out of all the positive human qualities he promotes, I agree with you, Crests, that the embrace of individuality is what defines Hyadain regardless for whom he’s writing for. But to be more specific, he encourages others to embrace even the parts they may deem shameful or flawed from the standards of another.
Going back to Angerme, the group of course has other songs that speak to their own core values. They preach a lot about the practice of self-determination and resilience in order to grow into the best version of themselves, like in a more recent single, “Watashi Wo Tsukuru No Wa Watashi” (It is me who constructs myself). Though “Tadekuu Mushi Mo Like It!” sounds similar in tone, with the idols boasting self-confidence, they let go of their stoicism in favor of a much looser performance; as much as it showcases her vocal abilities, Musubu Funaki’s bellow in the chorus also sounds like one of her goofball, off-record antics. More than the sharp choreography of, say, “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku,” Angerme members seem far more free to act like their playful, human self that I imagine to be more true to who they are.
MAX and The Dance for Philosophy, too, have a great base as a pop group to promote strong self-esteem by example, though I’d argue Hyadain would clarify that this idea of a fierce, confident woman is only one type of figure to aspire to become out of many. From Ayaka Sasaki’s rebel child personality, to Dempagumi’s otaku roots, to Kanjani8 and Tacoyaki Rainbow’s Kansai identity, he didn’t make any of his acts compromise their individuality. He instead flattered each of those unique aspects as a defining part of their music, making the world accept them by their own terms. It so happens to explain how he treats his own work, stubbornly defending his decisions only to prove that his intuition was right all along.
Crests: Though his first work that he did completely by himself (MilkyWay’s “Tan Tan Taan!”) took about 100 revisions to be accepted, he’s definitely become a lot more independent and reliant on his intuition now. There’s even a story that they asked him to rework the lyrics for “Ikuze! Kaito Shoujo” and he submitted some that were even more ridiculous in protest. He definitely doesn’t want anyone else to compromise themselves either and instead find and embrace the weird things that make them unique.
Hyadain is a man with a desire to become a role model to anyone who doesn’t fit in or is having a hard time, and make them understand that they can get through it, enjoy life as they are, and grow up into something great. As a guest on the TV show “Kagai Jugyou Youkoso Senpai!” he made it a goal to help establish and bring out the individual character of every child in a third-grade class by having them write and record lyrics about themselves for a self-intro song about the class. He discussed how to bring out interesting parts from what made them who they are, like a child who loved soccer but revealed later that he did flower-arranging. Hyadain’s absolutely an indispensable part of the Japanese music industry, and I respect that he’s out using the platform he has to promote the many important things he believes in to the world.