Home > Music > Japan’s aiko Talks New Album & The Appeal of Singing Love Songs : Interview

Japan’s aiko Talks New Album & The Appeal of Singing Love Songs : Interview

aiko recently released her 15th album, Ima no Futari o Otagai ga Miteru. The singer/songwriter from Osaka made her debut in 1998, and her down-to-earth lyrics about romance from a woman’s perspective, together with her songs’ pop melodies, have earned her fans of all ages. Her greatest-hits album, aiko No Uta., released in 2019, took the No. 1 position on Billboard Japan’s all genre Hot Albums album chart.




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In this interview, her first with Billboard Japan, aiko talked about the making of Ima no Futari o Otagai ga Miteru, her relationship with the charts, the recent music scene and more.

You’ve recently released a new album, Ima No Futari O Otagai Ga Miteru. This is your first album since the release of Doushitatte Tsutaerarenaikara two years ago. How did the album production process go?

I began producing my own albums starting with my last album, and this time I had more opportunities to talk with music arrangers. I’ve been able to take care of a lot more in the field this time, like pointing out “I want to use this scale in the guitar solo” or “Let’s try out the outro and the closing of the song in person.” I can see every individual step of the songwriting process, from 0 to 10, in greater detail than before, and I’ve been happy to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of the fact that each song is really the fruit of countless musicians and staff members.

That might also be helping you reflect your own ideas and feelings in your songs even more. I love the title Ima no Futari o Otagai ga Miteru (“The Two Look at Each Other”). There are so many ways to interpret it.

Even my own interpretation changes from time to time (laughs). When the title first came to mind, I was like, “What does that mean?” Normally, I decide on the album title towards the end of the album creation process, but this time the title sprang to mind in the middle of making the album. I told the staff in the recording studio, “I’m thinking of titling the album Ima no Futari o Otagai ga Miteru. What do you think?” Even when two people love each other, “looking at each other” can have so many meanings. Maybe they’re right in front of each other. Maybe they’re far apart, but they’re thinking about each other. Maybe I love someone, but I’m looking at him as he’s talking to another woman. But in every case, it’s always “the two.”

The two are really seeing each other in the midst of their constant change.

I hope so. It’s lonely if you’re looking but they’re not looking back. I hope they’re looking at me the same way. Sometimes I wonder if that kind of miracle is really even possible (laughs). It’s a wonderful thing when you have two hearts that are really seeing each other as they truly are.

Needless to say, the new album is mainly focused on love songs. You’ve always been fascinated by singing about love.

That’s right. Not to change the topic too much, but I think it’s interesting how you can have an automatic, physical reaction to things. There are all kinds of examples, like your hands becoming clammy when you’re nervous or your ears turning red when you’re embarrassed. But when you’re spending precious time with someone you love, you feel this tightness in your chest. It’s like what you see in girls’ comics (laughs), but it happens to me even today. It’s a physical reaction, so never know when it’s going to happen. I don’t experience it as often as when I was younger, but because of that, when I get that tightness in my chest, I’m like “Oh, there it is!” When it happens, I realize that I’m really in love, and I want to sing about that feeling.

Let me ask you a little about the songs on the album. The first song is called “Areta Kuchibiru wa Koi o Nakusu” (“Chapped Lips Lose Love”). It’s an upbeat tune that’s perfect for an album opener.

At first, I was planning to start the album with an upbeat rock tune, but my musical arranger, Masanori Shimada, created a really gorgeous arrangement, and now it’s one of the songs I look forward to singing live. When I thought up the lyrics, my lips were actually chapped (laughs). I woke up in the morning, looked at my slightly chapped lips, and thought “When you’ve got lips like this, even the person your heart is set on will turn their back on you.” When I experience something bad or sad, or I’m not feeling well, I have this tendency to see everything in a negative light. I often reflect that outlook in my lyrics, but in “Areta Kuchibiru Wa Koi O Nakusu” I wanted to convey the idea of accepting yourself and the gradual changes you undergo, along with my own desire to keep on loving nonetheless.

aiko “Areta Kuchibiru wa Koi o Nakusu” music video

In “Saraba!,” the line that goes “When it’s no good, it’s no good” really stands out.

When I was writing the song, it really was no good (laughs). Tomi Yo arranged the song, and I really loved the bridge after the line “I melt into my bed,” so I told Tomi that directly: “I love that arrangement!” The guitar solo really makes an impression, and the whole thing is cool. Like I said at the start, I loved talking in depth with everyone and being able to say “This part is great.” The musicians I worked with perform in all kinds of places, so I don’t know what they were thinking when I told them that I thought some part was great, but when someone praises my own singing, it makes me really happy (laughs). So when I think that someone in the band has done something good or cool, I try to share my feelings with them.

I’d like to ask you about the charts. All of the albums you’ve released since Billboard Japan launched its overall album chart in 2015 have gotten into the top 3. When you put your music on streaming services in 2020, it also created quite a stir. What are your feelings about the charts?

I keep my eyes on the charts. Each time I release something, I talk seriously with the staff (about how it’s doing in the charts). We talk about all kinds of things, covering lots of ground, but I always end up looking inward, thinking, “I need to write great songs.” I made my debut 25 years ago, so a lot of people know my singing voice, but one issue has always been, given that, what kind of songs should I write? My unwavering guiding principle has always been to write songs that are fun to record and fun to sing live — songs that get me amped up. I try my best to share that kind of music with people. I can’t bring myself to ingratiate myself with others. I’ve always loved music and wanted to do something interesting, and since I started making songs back when I was 18 or 19, I’ve found it exciting to create something from nothing. I never lose sight of that feeling, but after I’ve released something, that’s when I get into the serious discussions (laughs).

What are your thoughts on musical trends, fads, and changes in the music scene as a whole?

There are so many artists, appearing so quickly. I’ve been surprised at the sheer speed of that cycle. I realize that that’s the age we’re living in today. The other day, I was watching TV and there was a segment introducing hot new artists. Every week, there’s a whole new selection of artists, so we’re really living in amazing times.

It’s becoming even more common for artists who were recently complete unknowns to suddenly break into the spotlight.

Right. In the past, television and the radio were key, but now there are a lot of people who are out there on social media, and songs that are like 30 seconds long are becoming huge hits. On social media like TikTok, there are all kinds of parody songs and vocal covers, and they spread like wildfire. It’s totally different from how music spread back when I debuted, and to be honest I sometimes find myself at a loss, so I end up deep in thought, but I’m really happy that I’ve been able to enjoy my long career.

This interview by Tomoyuki Mori first appeared on Billboard Japan

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