This officially marks the penultimate post in our Yoko Kanno musician profile. Bear with me, because this is going to be the least impartial Kanno post so far (in terms of being objective and showing you a wide representation of Kanno’s pop work). Today we will be covering her work in pop music and ballads. And by ‘covering’ her pop music, I mean ‘ignoring all of her work with pop idols except for Maaya Sakamoto because I like Maaya Sakamoto the best’. So if you want a full list of her work with japanese idols, free of my Sakamoto-bias, see this list.
Okay lets start this off heavy. Blue is a track from Cowboy Bebop. Once more defying traditional genre tropes, this song could have been included in either the atmospheric or classical categories I covered earlier. I felt it belonged most of all with the ballads, due to its outstanding gradual crescendo, husky female vocals (Mai Yamane) and Queen-esque hyper emotional breakdown. Pairing that with the ethereal chanting of the two soprano vocalists strikes a devastating blow to my not-crying-while-watching-Cowboy-Bebop gland. The soprano vocalists are Soichiro Otsuka and Gabriela Robin (I see you there, Yoko)
Cowboy Bebop OST III (Blue)- Blue
Yoko Kanno is a talented musical imitationist (as most good musicians are). I am hard pressed to find a genre she has not mastered like a native (yodeling perhaps?). Sometimes her inspirations are so specific, they are immediately recognizable. Despite this, she avoids the trappings of being a straight up plagiarist by incorporating something uniquely her. Park Amsterdam is a good example of this. So, have you ever wanted to hear what the Beatles would have sounded like if they had been an adorable young Japanese pop idol? We’ve got that. It starts at 0:40.
Maaya Sakamoto: Shounen Alice- Park Amsterdam
This next Kanno/Sakamoto track is not my usual style, but there is just something so earnest and energetically hopeful about it. It melts my cynicism every time. I picked a live version, partly so you can see Sakamoto in person and read the translated lyrics, but also so that you, too can experience the joy of watching a full grow woman wearing converse sneakers and a paper-mache tutu held up by suspenders sing her heart out and somehow not come out of it looking like an absolute idiot. How is it done? Don’t ask me. It didn’t turn out the same when I did it.
Maaya Sakamoto: Shounen Alice- Hikari Are (Let There Be Light)
This next one is from the Escaflowne Movie. It’s a great example of the trademark ‘made-up-Kanno-language’. It is listed as ‘Old Fanelian‘ which is a reference to the series and movie itself. It is supposedly a hybrid made up of Germanic, Latin, French and Japanese. Strong vocal performance on this one by Shanti Snyder.
Tenkuu no Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaia OST- Sora
Aw hell, you guys, this one is just so much fun. Skip to 1:38 for the COOLEST PIANO BREAKDOWN POP MUSIC HAS EVER SEE N***
Maaya Sakamoto: Lucy- Honey Bunny
***song is not officially recognized as having said coolest breakdown in pop.
Stay tuned for our final Kanno installment. Things are going to get weird.