In many ways I’m supposed to be one of the Asian music gurus around here so I figured I should start proving it. ^_^ Instead of just straight out saying what I like or listen to, because it’s a lot and its diverse, let me actually twist it around a bit and highlight my top 6 favorite versions of non-Japanese songs performed by Japanese artists. What a twist, right? Indeed. Anyways I’ve got videos for each of the songs too so read on and enter the world of bizzaro!
1. hide – “Light My Fire” by The Doors
hide is, and may always be, my favorite solo Japanese artist. His passion, creativity, and sheer energy from his X-Japan days on I’ve found the music he’s made quite stirring. Jim Morrison and The Doors had the same effect on many a generation and I find there’s a strong link between hide and Jim, highlight most strongly by their early deaths. Both geniuses in their own right I feel this song sort of bridges the link between the two and perhaps that’s why I’ve always so appreciated hide’s cover of “Light My Fire”.
2. Miyavi – “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles
Miyavi has a do-no-wrong exuberance about him and a snarky attitude to match but while he’s a great musician this personality wins him just as many fans, and fan girls, as his music does. Back in the day Ray Charles was doing something like that too, in his own fashion of course. Do these artists really have much more in common then that? Maybe not but they both know how to play “Hit the Road Jack” and that’s all I need.
3. Beat Crusaders – “99 Luftballoons” by Nena
Something I’ve always admired and envied about Japan is that while on the whole they share a very collective nationalistic identity they seem willing, more so then most Americans I’d say, to see what else is going on in the world. The Beat Crusaders by there very nature are basically a wannabe American punk/rock group based in Japan. Of course, covering 99 Luftballoons, a song that by it’s very nature is catchy to the point of universal acceptance, isn’t really much of a stretch for even the most set in their ways country, but still it identifies a cross-cultural acceptance that I just love, almost as much as I love this song.
4. His Excellency Demon Kogure – “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
He’s weird and awesome. Queen’s weird and awesome. Ok just watch the video already.
5. Utada Hikaru – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day
So far I’ve highlighted most similarities, but sometimes it’s when too worlds collide that beauty truly appears. City meets country, boy meets girl, and in this case rock meets pop. Sure Green Day left a lot of their more-punkish youth ties behind in the ’90s, but still to have a Green Day song covered by one of Japan’s premier pop stars is a little odd don’t you think? And a little cool…
6. Whisper of the Heart (Anime Film) – “Country Roads” by John Denver
This was originally going to be just a list of 5 songs until I came across this odd little cover. Out of all the songs I’ve listed this is the only one to be translated from its original language into Japanese, yet it certainly doesn’t lose its feeling. Does it help that Studio Ghibli is behind the movie this is from? Certainly not but I’ve always had a soft spot for Denver’s “Country Roads”, and it seems the Japanese have found out a way to recreate that same feeling I get listening to the original.