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Hyadain Week, Day 2: "Datte Aarin Nandamon" & "Oh My Ghost?"
Continuing the second day of Hyadain Week with two songs that showcase his creative approach to concepts
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.
“Datte Aarin Nandamon☆” by Ayaka Sasaki (2011)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyamada / Arranged by Kenichi Maeyamada
Crests: In a way Hyadain was instrumental in crafting Ayaka Sasaki’s character of Aarin. He didn’t invent her character as she’d already had it (and her iconic “Aarin da yo~” catchphrase that took the Japanese industry by storm, being copied even by several Johnny’s & Associates idols like Arashi and Kinki Kids) before her time in Momoiro Clover Z when she became a regular on Oha Star at 9 years old, but he definitely helped expand it; in fact, I think he used her time on Oha Star partially as inspiration. Aarin did a cover of Iyo Matsumoto’s “Sentimental Journey” during that time on TV, where she changed the original lyric to “Aarin is only 10 years old,” and Hyadain made mentioning her name and age a staple of her solo songs. (She still performs these songs, once considering changing the lyrics to fit her age at the time but deciding it sounded better the way it was, so you’ll see her proudly proclaiming things like she’s 15 and in her rebellious phase even at 24 years old.)
I say he was instrumental in her character first of all because there’s a marked difference between things she does with him and things she does with other people. The things people associate with her most seem to come from Hyadain. For example, her voice is actually lower and less cutesy in other songs. During their recordings, he can be frequently heard asking Aarin to make things “more Aarin,” which she will go along with. When asked why he says that, he said “Aarin’s occupation is ‘Aarin,’ and that’s the amazing thing about Sasaki Pro.” Hyadain loves anyone who can make a high-pitched cutesy voice—even men; he has an affinity for Tsukada Ryoichi from A.B.C-Z because of it—and this along with Aarin’s larger-than-life and idol-ish character made them perfect partners-in-crime musically.
A compilation of her live performance of “Datte Aarin Nandamon” throughout the years
Ryo: "Datte Aarin Nanda Mon” sounds different with hindsight of Aarin as this three-dimensional idol persona with its own separate life in Momo Clo fan culture. A cooking-show segment in the group’s variety show, for example, nods at the fact Aarin’s mother has forbid her from using the stove—a detail established in one of her many solo tracks. The main joke of “Datte” in retrospect seems rather basic compared to the hyper-specific narratives in later Aarin songs. Sasaki riffs on her sweet tooth in “Datte,” going on about eating chocolates and cream puffs. A lot goes on in the music and performance, of course, but that’s really the gist of the song.
That said, both Hyadain and Sasaki took this whole enterprise seriously. Without Hyadain basically as a co-producer of the Aarin character, Sasaki could’ve very well become this one-note punchline as the group’s chubby one—a detail that “Datte…” also loosely pokes fun at. Without him, there definitely would have not been a now-decade-long run of sequels of “Datte” that expanded Aarin. Can you tell me about the others?
Crests: An important part of Hyadain’s lyric-writing process is he’ll often sit down with you, ask you about yourself or find out what’s on your mind and write a song based on that conversation. “Datte” marked the beginning of some of the most personality-filled songs in Hyadain’s repertoire, firmly establishing key parts of Aarin’s character.
“Datte Aarin Nandamon” went more in depth into Aarin’s somewhat chubby character that she was worried about, and he carried on with songs like “Aarin wa Hankouki!” that discuss her exasperation with her overly strict mother and her newfound rebellion. It contains an admission to secretly reading manga and the famous “stop calling Aarin ‘Sasaki’!” line, which Hyadain originally considered making Burg-chan instead of Sasaki because of a joke at the time about her love of hamburg steaks.
There was a period in between “Aarin wa Hankouki!” and “Aarin wa Aarin” where Hyadain and Momo Clo’s management were not working together anymore, and somebody else wrote an Aarin song called “Sweet Eighteen Boogie,” expressing how she’d grown up and changed, even now preferring karaage to cream puffs. However, after coming back, Hyadain somewhat retconned that song and said Aarin is Aarin, Aarin is cute, and nothing has or will change, not even her mother. This song was complete with a bridge containing a boss battle against her mother, where the fans lend her power to defeat her. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of “Datte Aarin Nandamon” and came with the release of her first solo album and a new song called “Happy Sweet Birthday!,” containing many throwbacks and references to the original to show how she’s grown while still being Aarin, such as a segment where she lists different alcohols the way she once listed off cute sweets.
Throughout all this, he maintained a very solid and consistent idea of Aarin as Momo Clo’s idol. There are of course other solo songs he’s written for her, but these are the ones that make up the Aarin narrative.
“Happy Sweet Birthday!” by Ayaka Sasaki (2020)
Crests: By the way, as I mentioned earlier, Hyadain records demos in the voice he wants you to sing them in. This once led to an embarrassing moment while recording this song as he was completely in the character of Aarin while recording the demo, and only once he had finished the demo realized his window had been wide open the whole time.
Ryo: And we know how extremely private he is about him being seen or heard recording his demos in his other voices. Can you just imagine him acting out that intermission where Sasaki seductively lists off her favorite sweets?
If Hyadain didn’t devote so much care and time into building the Aarin character with Sasaki throughout the past decade, the idol scene would’ve been very different. While Sasaki provided the base, she needed a collaborator as obsessively meticulous as Hyadain to develop that personality. The collaborations also fed into Sasaki’s own growth as an idol as she built her own identity while negotiating a relationship with this on-record character. She’s a top idol today with her own ventures outside of Momo Clo partly because of the antics and traits established in Aarin songs.
Crests: Aarin has a phrase she brings up a lot that can justify anything she does, basically along the lines of “it’s Aarin, so it’s okay!” Anything ridiculous can seem normal because she did it. Naming an idol festival after herself called AYAKARNIVAL where she’s the headlining act and the center of each billed group for one song is something she can easily get away with because of both her character and icon status. This kind of freedom is the perfect kind of slate for someone like Hyadain, who has been responsible for a staggering 10 out of 17 of her songs. He recently showed his appreciation working with her for all these years, saying he’s too shy to say it in person so he put it in his lyrics: he’s thankful she was born and she’s made his life brighter.
“Oh My Ghost? ~Watashi Ga Akuryo Ni Nattemo~” by Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku (2011)
Music and lyrics by Kenichi Maeyama / Arranged by Kenichi Maeyamada
Ryo: While Hyadain’s early singles for Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku were all more or less novelty records for whichever season conciding with the release date, he approached these songs from a more quirky, unexpected angle than the typical seasonal releases. For one, there’s “Ume” that added a narrative twist to the sakura single—springtime songs that hit on the topic of life transitions such as graduation. And “Oh My Ghost? ~Watashi Ga Akuryo Ni Nattemo~” was based on a very specific summertime activity of kimodameshi—basically a spook-out among friends through late-night ghost-hunting.
This single came from your batch of Hyadain songs while we were deciding on which song to talk about, but what’s stuck out to you about “Oh My Ghost?”
Crests: Though he says he goes hardest with Dempagumi.inc, I feel like Hyadain has done his most interesting stuff for Ebi Chu and Stardust. Even before becoming a fan, this song has always sort of stuck out to me as sort of the Essence of Hyadain. It’s not as over-the-top as what others might see as his essence, but in a way, it’s also more over-the-top. It has an absolutely perfect tackiness, and there’s not really another song like it. It’s everything you could expect from a Hyadain song but in an interesting and more theatrical way, like it was made specifically with a music video and performance in mind. The song even contains Hyadain himself doing ghost noises in the background throughout.
Ryo: Everyone involved in a Hyadain single is so intensely serious with the craft that you just start to accept them for what they are and just enjoy the ride. Another great example of that commitment to obnoxious entertainment is BEYOOOONDS’s “Kinoko Takenoko Daisenki.” The root reference of this so-called war story is kind of dumb: the feuding titular nations of kinoko (mushroom) and takenoko (bamboo) riff on the chocolate cookies Kinoko No Yama and Takenoko No Sato. But anything is fair game for Hyadain as the foundation of an epic pop opera about how some disputes will never rest.
Hyadain’s eagerness to conceptualize a full-blown universe out of any idea, no matter how shallow or trivial, and his ability to create a catchy song from seemingly any material also came handy for a talent company like Stardust looking to develop a fresh roster of idol groups. Even with Ebi Chu being so new and lacking in concept, he managed to strike up something to use. It’s actually amazing he didn’t go for the schoolgirl idea right away—their name translates to Ebisu Junior High—opting instead to write tracks based on shrimp (ebi) puns and the seasons.
Crests: While some might think of someone like Momoiro Clover Z’s manager Akira Kawakami when asked to think of Stardust’s father figure, I think of Hyadain. With Ebi Chu, and also Momo Clo and Tacoyaki Rainbow, he nurtured them until they went out into the world and did new and bigger things. More than that, he even helped idols in the agency with their homework and collaborated on songs with members, like a duet with Ebi Chu’s Aika Hiroka. In a way, he’s an ojisan some of them like to bully, but he deeply cares for the members, and they have a deep respect for him. They’re comfortable with him, having conversations during recordings about serious things or simply whether or not they chew hard candies.
Hyadain is honestly notably delightful to work with. He once got so carried away talking about Seiko Matsuda with Shoko Nakagawa during their first time recording, other people in the studio got upset with them. He brings absolute enthusiasm to the recording process and gives out high level of praise and encouragement. He even cried with pride watching people perform his songs, like when Momo Clo Z performed “Mouretsu Uchuu Koukyoukyoku Dai Nana Gakushou: Mugen no Ai.” It’s hard to say where Stardust would be right now if they hadn’t brought him on board.