[Translation] A Song for XX liner notes from beatfreak vol. 132 / Jan '99 - Ayumi Hamasaki Sekai
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Old 22nd September 2008, 05:21 AM
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A Song for XX liner notes from beatfreak vol. 132 / Jan '99

Translated by the amazing evolusean, with the original provided by nmskalmn via this link.

She debuted with “poker face” on April 8th of ‘98. Coming out with a single every two months thereafter and achieving rapid success as an artist, Ayumi Hamasaki released her first album, “A Song for XX” on January 1st of ‘99. Jotted down in this album are the doubts and anxieties she has felt up to now, her thoughts, and also her wishes for the future.

May I first ask about the meaning of the album’s title, “A Song for XX”?
Ayumi Hamasaki (abbreviated below as “A”): The A in “A Song for XX” is for the A in “Ayu” and the A in “album”. I’d like for the listeners to imagine the “XX” as their favorite thing or the name of the person they like, or maybe a number. For me, there’s only one answer that applies to “XX”. But, if I write that out, it would really restrict the image for the listener. And so I decided to make it “XX” so that it would better project the desired form for each person.

When did you start recording?
A: It was around the beginning of September.

But weren’t you busy then with putting the singles together?
A: I was, yeah. By the time the album came around, it was already decided that I would release two singles, “For My Dear…” and “Depend on you”. So we were at work on the album simultaneously.

It’s incredible that, in spite of even that much of a hectic schedule, you made 16 tracks altogether, totaling at around 70 minutes.
A: I would sing “For My Dear…” on a television show, and then sing it again for the album recording, then do the same thing over again with “Depend on you”. I was singing, singing, singing every day. (Laugh) So there are a few songs where my voice was pretty hoarse.

I can see how the vocals would be tough, but wasn’t it tougher writing the lyrics for all the songs?
A: I guess I was just full of things that I wanted to write about. (Laugh)

I see that a very diverse group of writers participated on the album, ranging from Yasuhiko Hoshino (who worked on a many of the singles), to Akio Togashi (who produces acts like m.c.A-T and DA PUMP), as well as Mitsuru Igarashi (from Every Little Thing).
A: With Igarashi-san and Togashi-san, it wasn’t like, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to working with you.” It was more like we had known each other for ages, so it was really easy. But I had such an image them both being so formidable, that I also had a lot of pressure that I had to write lyrics that could meet their standard. So I wouldn’t listen to the accompanying DAT tapes. I was sure that if I listened to them, I would get too stuck on one idea. I’m generally a person who listens to a song like crazy before writing the lyrics. But when it came to Igarashi-san and Togashi-san’s songs, instead of doing that, I would get the gist of them melody, and then write the lyrics later, before the recording, without listening to it.

Compared to when I interviewed you before your debut, I get the impression that you’re full of confidence now. Like you’ve gotten very “sharp” and intense. (Laugh) I can’t help but notice how your growth and change over the past year seem to be coming out in, of course, your expressions and mannerisms, but also in your lyrics and singing.
A: Yeah, you’re right. I think I have changed. Because a year ago, I would never have faith in the people around me. I wasn’t really good with talking to people, so I made “walls” and kept my distance. But that’s not to say that now I’m all, “I believe in you. So please believe in me, too”. But I’ve found both people around me who I can depend on, who I lean on and who lean on me, as well as people with whom it’s more like, “If you’re gonna screw me over, you’re gonna screw me over.” I think it’s those people who have changed me, for sure.

Having said that, a single every two months and an album after that… that’s really fast paced, isn’t it?
A: I flew right into this world, released a single every two months, made the album... always running, running, running. Sometimes it felt like I was being dragged behind. (Laugh) But I feel like the fact that I’ve been able to do that is all thanks to having those people I depend on to support me. It has never been just me working hard alone. Everyone has helped me to work this hard. And I think that’s why we have this album, now.

I bet your producer, Max Matsuura-san gave you lots of advice during recording. Care to share any bits with me?
A: Sometimes he’d fall asleep, though, with his mouth open… (Laugh) I mean, what is that all about, huh??? But it was so much easier to sing just to have him there. He’s someone whose known me for years, and the one who thought I should sing, that I should write lyrics, and that I could sing, that I could write lyrics. The catalyst for all of that is my producer, Max Matsuura-san, cheering me up and saying “Ayu, you can sing,” “Ayu, you can write lyrics,” “You of all people can do this” and making me feel like, “Hey, I can do this”. That was a first for me. Having someone tell me: “You can do it”. Because, up ‘til then (around middle or high school), if you asked me what type of person I was, I was the type who always had the adults around her saying, “You can’t do anything, so don’t even bother”. The fact that I’ve been able to change is because of my producer who encouraged me. When I had him there during recordings, even if he was asleep, even without uttering a single word, I felt like I could do it, and I was confident.

So with someone by your side to confide in, you’ve been able to put out something that really goes beyond your true strength. Were the song selection and song order both decided upon by consulting with your producer?
A: I decided on the songs and their order with my producer. The way it worked was so that he would pick some out from dozens of potential songs, and I would choose from those ones. With the song order, I really wanted to set it according to the lyrical content, so he pretty much left it up to me. It’s becoming a real stream of songs that say, since I was born, I’ve had the present and I’ve had the future. But as a producer, he wouldn’t budge when it came to putting “Present” at the end.

INTERVIEW: Kazuki Okabe


1. “Prologue” (Music/Arrangement: Yasuhiko Hoshino)

2. “A Song for xx” (Music/Arrangement: Yasuhiko Hoshino)
When we were making the album, this was the first track we produced. I always start off with lyrics by coming up with them in my head, and then writing them down after they’re perfectly ready. But with this song, even though I had the lyrics in my head, I couldn’t write. When I put them into words, it just became too real, and it took a long time for me to finally make that step.
I wrote the lyrics looking back on my childhood, and so their theme is the doubts and anxieties I had, and the things I felt. Because it’s about something so long ago, I could have hidden things if I wanted to, or I could have made myself into a more loveable child, or I could have made it a more beautiful story. But I don’t want to write lies, and I think that if I did those things I probably wouldn’t have been able to have made this album.

3. “Hana” (Music/Arrangement: Yasuhiko Hoshino)
I wrote these lyrics looking at a flower in my house. Rather than just spelling out what I was thinking, I faced the flower and just went at it with a list of questions. Up until now, I always hated dependent-types, like flowers that needed you to give them water or else they’d wilt, and that needed people to help them to live. I always thought, “Try doing something for yourself; you’re such a little weakling.”
But after seeing a flower that started as a bud bloom into something beautiful, it made me wonder which it was: “Is the flower able to bloom beautifully because it knows that it will one day wilt?” or “Is the flower blooming beautifully because it doesn’t know that it will wilt soon?” And I think I’m able to bloom beautifully now because I know for sure that I will wilt. If that’s the case, then this little flower has gotta be pretty weak. Because, if I was a flower, anyway, I wouldn’t want to turn all black and wither away within a week or so, for sure. But even though I knows that I despise it, the flower still blooms beautifully. When I looked at the flower like that, I suddenly felt very small for stressing over something so silly. Those are the sort of thoughts written in the song.

4. “FRIEND” (Music: Yasuhiko Hoshino; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma)

This is the coupling song for my debut song, “poker face”. Oh, my god, it’s so embarrassing I can’t (Laugh) contain myself (Laugh). When you listen to the album from the beginning, you can tell how different my voice is on this track. But I didn’t want to re-sing it for the album. I mean, we recorded this song even before “poker face”, so it literally was my first time doing any of this, and I really tried so hard to sing that I was nearly bursting the blood vessels in my throat. So every time I listen to this track, I remember myself back then and get all choked up and nostalgic and go “Ohh, so cute!”

5. “FRIEND II” (Music/Arrangement: Mitsuru Igarashi)
Igarashi-san from Every Little Thing did the music and arrangement on this song. With track number four we have “FRIEND”, and next is “FRIEND II”. It’s not really a “sequel”, though. I think the ideas I had of the world of “FRIEND” before my debut and the ideas of I have of “FRIEND” now are different. ‘Cause in the past year, I’ve met more people than I have in my entire life, and lots of different things have happened with lots of different people. So rather than a sequel, it’s more like this is an additional “FRIEND”, “FRIEND (Age 19 to Age 20)”. (Laugh)
But I didn’t set out to make it that way from the start. What happened was, after I wrote the song and everything was all set and I gave it a listen, I thought, “Wow, this has a really similar view of the world to “FRIEND”. This would have probably been what I would have written if I wrote “FRIEND” right now.”

6. “poker face” (Music: Yasuhiko Hoshino; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma)
Debut Single, released 4/8/98
TBS’s “CDTV” opening theme song for the month of March
At the time I wrote “poker face”, I’d say things like “You can cry whenever you’d like, but even if everyone else is crying, I want to laugh for them.” But I might have been crying the most out of anybody. (Laugh) I think I was incredibly lonely then, for sure. And I think maybe that’s why I put things like “I want to show you how strong I am” and “I want to be strong” in my lyrics.
When I listen to this track and the second single “YOU”, I think of clear glass. Glass is used in the most important places in a house, it protects against the wind, it’s thick and sturdy, it feels like something that really, really protects you. But when it breaks it makes a lot of noise and shatters to bits all over the place, doesn’t it? Those two songs give off an image of that kind of delicate, fragile strength.

7. “Wishing” (Music: Hideaki Kuwahara; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma) 
I’m not the type of person who can easily open to other people, and I’m not very good at making friends, and it takes me a long time before I can be someone’s friend. But I guess maybe it was around the time I was singing “YOU”… yeah, it was around then that I met this person and we became friends. The lyrics I wrote for her became ”Wishing”.
I think everyone has one person they can call their best friend. They can’t live without that friend. I have someone, and I think everyone else does too. But the thing is, friends and best friends can’t spend the rest of their lives together forever. I guess maybe if they were lovers, they could get married and be together forever… In terms of friends, though, it’s not “I’ll be happy if I’m with you”, so much as “I wish you all the happiness with your most special person”, and “That’s what will make me happy”. I put that into words with this piece.

8. “YOU” (Music: Yasuhiko Hoshino; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma)
2nd Single, released 6/10/98
Focus 2 Week Lenses commercial song
Tokyo TV’s “ASAYAN” ending theme song
This song was prepared around the same time as my debut song, “poker face”, and, for me, is the piece that made me realize: “I sing. I’m gonna be a singer.” With “poker face” and “YOU” I’d think how I wanted to heal someone, but now that I think about it, the truth is that I probably wanted to be healed. It comes out in the lyrics, that kind of troubled part of me. During the recording, my health was deteriorating and it was really rough getting the vocals.

9. “As if…” (Music: Kazuhito Kikuchi; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma)
This is a Kazu-bou song; he also did the music for “Depend on you”. Before I had ever even met Kazu-bou, I had him pegged as this big, fat, old guy with a fuzzy beard. Just by his name, I imagined him as that sort of guy. (Laugh) And even when I was writing the lyrics, I was picturing this guy with the fuzzy beard having written the music. So when I saw the real deal, it was like “no way!” (Laugh) He was completely different than what I had imagined. And he was a year older than me… And so after that he has let me “respectfully” call him Kazu-bou. (Laugh)
As for his songs, on the album there are only “Depend on you” and this one, “As if…”, but I love them both so much. They poke me right in the “love you cells”! He really knows my soft spots, that Kazu-bou.

10. “POWDER SNOW” (Music: Hideki Kuwahara; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma)
I made this song as an attempt to break down the image of me that has seeped into this world of ours. I hear it all the time: “Your songs are always positive, invigorating, and cheerfully upbeat”, or “You’re such an important singer of encouragement and positive messages.” Of course I’m extremely glad that there are people who find courage like that in my songs, I think that’s so wonderful. But that’s not all I am. There are times when I get really depressed, and times when I stress out all alone. I’m not always living it up, and I’m not always laughing it up.
What I wanted to express with “POWDER SNOW” was that I never feel that it’s uncool or a bad thing to be negative, and that it’s better to be positive. I think we all need to think and stress out on our own from time to time.
The song opens quietly, and toward the chorus grows steadily more intense into a dramatic ballad. As far as participating in the tracking goes, this was only my first album, but I still gave a lot of my opinions and ideas on this piece, like how many bars the very last guitar solo should go on for, and requesting to have the sound of bells put in the track.

11. “Trust” (Music: Takashi Kimura; Arrangement: Takashi Kimura/Akimitsu Honma)
3rd Single, released 8/5/98
Kaou Sofina Aube Rouge Feelia commercial image song
Around the end of May, I was writing lyrics in my hotel room in Los Angeles, but I was quickly falling into a slump and couldn’t write anymore. So I said to my producer and staff “Let’s all go out”, and we got in the car and drove around and around the same places for about four hours while I wrote “Trust”. I think I was able to write these lyrics because of the warm atmosphere of my staff who sat in a car for four hours for me, staying absolutely silent, not saying a word. And I didn’t feel terrible for writing. Although I bet everyone was really thinking, “Is she seriously still going at it?”... (Laugh)
And when the lyrics were all set, I discovered that I had used the word “believe” twice in the very last chorus. I thought, “I wonder if I have changed with this song,” “I guess I have found something that I can believe in.” I was surprised at myself for using the word “believe” twice, but I was incredibly happy.
With this music video we went with a style that emphasized a plot more than the previous two videos. And the producer requested that, “Before now your videos have been relatively expressionless, so I want you to give me lots of expression”. So I cried and I laughed and I got angry... you can see me with lots of different expressions.

12. “Depend on you” (Music: Kazuhito Kikuchi; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma/Takashi Morio)
5th Single, released 12/9/98
Atlus Playstation video game “Thousand Arms” theme song
TBS’s “CDTV” ending theme song for the month of December
“Depend on you” is the first piece among my singles where I used a question mark, like “What do I do?” and “Have you noticed?”
With “poker face” and “YOU” there was “the me who shows off how strong she is”, and with “Trust” I was able to use the word “believe”, and with “For My Dear…” I pondered “the meaning of singing”. And then with the next one, “Depend on you”, set to close out ’98, I thought: “What will it be this time?” I thought “What changed most about me this year?” and felt like it was definitely the ability to depend on people. And when I thought of it like that, it felt kind of like I had become able to believe in myself. I mean, if you can’t believe in yourself, you can’t have faith in other people, right? So when I felt I was able to love myself and believe in myself, I felt stronger than I ever had before.
It talks about how I wonder if I am able to catch someone now. And when I say “catch someone”, I don’t mean anything like protecting someone who is really weak because I’ll take care of everything for them. I mean that it’s okay for them to come to me and cry or get angry when they’re tripping on things, getting lost, or feeling stuck. ‘Cause you can do whatever you like, but in the end it’s only you who can find the answer. But it also says that, in times like that, I’ll do anything to help you. I wrote “Depend on you” wondering if I had taken on a little of that kind of strength.

13. “SIGNAL” (Music: Hideaki Kuwabara; Arrangement: Akimitsu Honma)
“SIGNAL” came to me one time while driving, and I was just staring in a daze at the traffic light waiting for it to change. Just like that. (Laugh)
Our memories are always so beautiful, and we romanticize them so quickly. People never remember anything but the good, and they conveniently forget the bad. And like, old men are always saying “Those were the days,” aren’t they? But I’m sure if they actually went back to those times, there would be things they didn’t like and things that made them want to just close their eyes.
When you do this kind of work, if there’s someone who says you’re good, there’s also gonna be someone who gives you a big, fat X, and you get judged a lot. When those who give me a big X start to get to me, there are times when even I think, “Those were the days.” But, if I really think about it, there have been lots of things I didn’t like, and there are lots of times in my past that I want to forget. And that’s why I’m going to live to the fullest not the past, not the future, but the present. There’s a message from that Ayu in this song.

14. “from your letter” (Music/Arrangement: Akio Togashi)
I love letters. I love writing them, I love getting them. If somebody says something to you out loud, you figure, “Well, I’ll forget about it by tomorrow,” or maybe “They just got carried away.” But it’s different with letters. When you get a letter, you can guess that that person who wrote it looked it over after writing it, and that if there was anything that didn’t go along with how they were feeling at the time, they would have re-written it. And so it’s like, this letter is the real thing. And since you’ll always have the physical letter afterwards, it’s not like they can just write a bad letter. Letters are really important to me.
Around the time that I was thinking of writing this song, I just happened to be getting a whole bunch of letters from different people, and it made me think of how much I like letters again. I’d look over the spots where they had re-written something, and I’d think: “Oh, this was wrong, they really meant this”. This song came about because I wanted to write a letter while reading all of those letters. But if you use words like “watashi” or “anata”, it feels too much like a love letter, doesn’t it? Rather than that, I wanted to make it more of a light-hearted letter, so I tried out the word “boku” for the first time.

15. “For My Dear…” (Music/Arrangement: Yasuhiko Hoshino)
4th Single, released 10/7/98
Morinaga Meringue Chocolat commercial song
Around the time I had to write this song, people really got into my previous single, “Trust”, way more than I had imagined. I was so shocked, I couldn’t handle it. And there I was, terrified, unable to really be happy. Of course I was glad, but I was freaking out, thinking: “What am I doing?” “Why am I singing? It’s not like I’ve wanted and prepared to be a singer my whole life, or anything…”
Ever since I was little, I’ve been terrible at expressing things by talking. I’m incredibly shy around people, and I was always the kind of girl who would immediately turn bright red and look down. So I felt so frustrated with being unable to really say the things I want to say, and wondered what it would take for people to get what I was thinking, or what I had to do to explain my existence.
When looking back on my childhood like that got to me, I thought: “Hey, that’s right… I found singing”. I write lyrics, and I sing them. I realized that I had come upon that, and that I was becoming more able to express the things I wanted to say to different people little by little. I wrote “For My Dear…” thinking that I should express that feeling.

16. “Present” (Music/Arrangement: Yasuhiko Hoshino)
There had been talks of making the track list for “A Song For xx” include only the first 15 songs, and using “Present” as a secret track. The people who genuinely wanted to listen would listen to the album from start to finish and discover that there was a 16th track. But the people who only wanted to hear one song would only listen to that song, and wouldn’t discover the secret track. I thought about making it a song that only the people who were nice enough to listen to the album all the way through would be able to find, but that might have been a little mean. (Laugh)
The album was turning into a stream of songs that said that ever since I was born I have had a present and a future. But when I wondered how I should close it out at the very end, the faces of my producer and my staff came to mind. I was able to make it this far, I was able to put out an album because I had those people, because I had their love. So in response, I wrote “Present”, thinking about how much I wanted to put into lyrics my feelings of thanks for their having supported me.


[Japanese-English translation: Sean Reilly also known as evolusean]

Yay, discussion can resume now.

Last edited by truehappiness; 22nd September 2008 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 01:41 PM
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We can reply now! Yay~
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Old 22nd September 2008, 01:53 PM
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Awesome interview and linernotes. It's really interesting to read about ayu's thoughts behind her songs. And it makes one truely realize how she has changed since "A Song for XX".

Thanks for sharing. And thanks for the translation, evolusean.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 01:55 PM
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And it makes one truly realize how she has changed since "A Song for XX".
Personally, I don't think it shows that she's changed all that much seeing as how her thoughts are very similar now.. (kind of.)
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Old 22nd September 2008, 01:56 PM
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OMG!This is so cool!Thank you so much!
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Old 22nd September 2008, 02:40 PM
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Amazing!! Thank you so much, evolusean. : )
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Old 22nd September 2008, 03:01 PM
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Personally, I don't think it shows that she's changed all that much seeing as how her thoughts are very similar now.. (kind of.)
That's true. But ayu isn't so insecure anymore. (Like, some of her lyrics have become very in-your-face over time. For example, "1 LOVE" and "(don't) Leave me alone".) Also, some things she wrote about ("I found singing"), now, she probably wouldn't write it like this. Because now ayu has singing. This kind of development. (Don't know how to describe it. But it's like the "music is my life" statement. ayu began singing, because she had nothing else to do, but over time music became part of her life. Music=Life) I'm not saying she changed completely, because her view on certain aspects hasn't changed at all ("But I don’t want to write lies").
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Old 22nd September 2008, 03:56 PM
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Well, reading this interview, and the one for Secret, I could really see just how much Ayu has progressed. From that little girl who didn't know if singing was really her thing, and making walls around people because she didn't trust them, to writing songs that tell us that singing is her life and that "if there's a wall, we can break it" ala INSPIRE...

Are there translations of such for her other albums? Omg, LOVEppears, I would love to read the linear notes for that album!
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Old 22nd September 2008, 04:08 PM
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I'd love for her to write a song reflecting on this period of her life. It's just so interesting, beautiful, sweet, etc...
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Old 22nd September 2008, 04:42 PM
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I had no idea Ayu was the one who requested they put the sound of bells in "POWDER SNOW"! Awesome decision.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 04:43 PM
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Wow coolio! Thx alot!
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Old 22nd September 2008, 04:56 PM
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reading this made a big lump in my throat (especially when i read how she came to write "wishing") i totally could identify with her. i feel so awkward in this world and have an inability to express my emotions... yet i want to be healed. her music/lyrics are inspirational. thanks for this translation! i really appreciate it!
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Old 22nd September 2008, 05:25 PM
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Wow, this is a great interview! It's nice to read about her earlier songs.
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Old 22nd September 2008, 05:45 PM
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thank you
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Old 22nd September 2008, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by truehappiness View Post
Personally, I don't think it shows that she's changed all that much seeing as how her thoughts are very similar now.. (kind of.)
Oh I think it's a huge change. Ayu even said it herself when she was talking about recording who recently. I took that as saying that she had difficulty rerecording Who because she felt totally different now than she did then.
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  #16  
Old 22nd September 2008, 08:13 PM
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ayuayu798 ayuayu798 is offline
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thank you!!
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This amazing set is all thanks ,to the wonderful AGASHI_ QIAO
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  #17  
Old 22nd September 2008, 08:36 PM
Jwiz Jwiz is offline
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Personally i think Prologue is certainly one of the better interludes, and back in the past ayu sure had alot of things to write about. I hope experiences gained from at08 will help ayu in the writing of new creative lyrics for her future songs.
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  #18  
Old 22nd September 2008, 08:50 PM
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Larisa-chan Larisa-chan is offline
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Thank you so much for this translation. It's nice seeing how Ayu was nearly 10 years ago, especially since I didn't even know who she was back then. It was interesting to see how she's changed over the years. She definitely has grown in that she has found people she can place her trust in (staff especially). And she has definitely become more confident. But there are still things about Ayu back then that are the same about her today.
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  #19  
Old 22nd September 2008, 11:40 PM
LittleDebbie LittleDebbie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by truehappiness View Post
Translated by the amazing evolusean, with the original provided by nmskalmn via this link
Ah, all the BeatFreaks are in there! It has one for every album up to Memorial Address! Maybe the other ones will be translated??
Ohhh i really wanna know what they say...
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  #20  
Old 23rd September 2008, 12:04 AM
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truehappiness truehappiness is offline
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There will be more liner notes in the future, so just wait. evolusean's a busy busy boy with a job that takes up almost every day of his week~

I'm just the helper. Love the guy though for being so selfless!
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a song for xx, ayumi hamasaki, beatfreak, liner notes, translation

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