You know how when you wake up in the morning and those first few precious moments are when your mind is at its freshest and the world connects up in a way it only does in Limitless (2011) right after Bradley Cooper’s character pops those magical pills? Those are the exact moments I’m squandering right now on this post… argh.
I thought I’d wake up with some Miyavi from his 2014 self-titled album, namely the tracks “Guard You”:
And “The Others” because I needed to wake up and continue writing my final paper:
And there’s just something about the way the lyrics are arranged that give away the fact that they’ve been written by a non-English speaker. I don’t say this to knock his ability as a lyricist or anything. Just pointing out that the percussive use of language (so much like his guitar slapping style), might be part of a lack of awareness and comfort with vowel length in the language, probably in part because Japanese is also a language that lends itself really well to music with a greater focus on beat and rhythm (rap/hip-hop) what with the highly regular alternation of consonant and vowel sounds in the language.
But when it comes to English, some words just take more time to say and can’t fit within certain beats yet in Miyavi’s English song’s they’re sort of jammed packed and squeezed right in there? I think I was just struck by the fact that I could hear this unusual use of language in a slow number like “Guard You”.
Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:
“Leave you lying in your bed/ Black rain is in my head”
And then as I was looking at the lyrics a little closer to look for examples to substantiate my claims I noticed something else… There are just certain arrangements of words people want to avoid because they’re hard to articulate within a fixed number of beats and in the song he gives himself too few beats to clear the following line and that has an impact on the clarity of his articulation:
“we can‘t stay to see this war”
The other thing I noticed is the use of the word ‘Sakura’ in the song? I mean I’ve always been of the opinion that Miyavi is an amazing guitarist, he writes really strong melodies and rifts for his songs and he’s really strong as a lyricist too, it’s just that his voice doesn’t really hold up? Just to plug some other artists I really love: Hyde’s amazing range and crystalline delivery from L’Arc en Ciel and Gackt’s amazing vibrato and timbre come to mind…
So anyway, what becomes more apparent to me now that he’s singing in English and has to contend with all the difficulties that come with a language crossover from Japanese to English where they struggle with the ‘R’s and ‘L’s – so much so that I often get a little embarrassed about sharing Miyavi’s more recent songs because I’m afraid he’ll get judged for his mediocre voice and poor pronunciation (and by extension I will too) before people get a chance to appreciate that he’s really a pretty solid musician…
Dammit, Sonia! Stop digressing with these asides and run-on sentences! But, back to what I was saying, that’s when I was struck by how we always judge these Asians or foreigners for mispronouncing English words but what about these westerners who mispronounce Japanese words and other borrowed terms in the English language? The criticism ought to go both ways. So I just wanted to point out that there’s a rolling naturalness to the way Myv says ‘Sakura’ in the song that just stands out because it’s pronounced the way it’s meant to be pronounced… and the one stanza in Japanese was all the more effective because he sounds like he is in his element.
Which leads me to my final point on poiesis and poetics. The imagery in the lyrics is very vivid, a little lost because of his struggle with pronunciation, but phrases like ‘black rain in my head’ and ‘sakura is falling down’ have a distinctly haiku quality to them with the strong visual imagery that functions as metaphor for abstract ideas like loss and rendering a specific texture to that loss.
another realization that struck me was how some of these phrases could come across as cheesy and kinda mediocre if like a former student of mine wrote something like that for a creative writing assignment but here it seems oddly effective because in my mind, what comes to bear apart from the words, is the entire history of the person – Miyavi being Japanese and an accomplished musician.
Omg… so biased. Now I just feel bad for all the students I critiqued for submitting similar things in their creative writing assignments -_-“