*Written by Funn Lim
The following is an opinion written by Funn Lim. Please take note this review contains a whole lot of youtube videos and may take some time to load. It was originally posted in http://www.point2e.com/2009/10/zankyo-by-fukuyama-masaharu-r.html
"Assuming Koufukuron does mean Theory Of Happiness, I am not sure what is Masha's "Koufukuron" is but my "Koufukuron" right now is listening to this album."
Read it means Echo or Reverberation
Yukawa sensei himself, Fukuyama Masaharu. A funny typo error, I typed in 1st draft Fukuyama Musuhara. Kinda reminded me of the joke Huruhara-san. Much apologies to Masha-san. And that is not a typo error.
10th album. 20 years and only 10 albums. In HK, by the 5th year, the singer would have 10 albums. But of course we are not talking quality.
Japanese through and through (with a dash of English here and there)
1. Gunjou ~ultramarine~
3. Ashita no SHOW
6. 18 ~eighteen~
8. Sou ~new love new world~
11. Konya, Kimi wo Daite
13. Tokyo ni mo Attanda
15. 99 (Instrumental) (Bonus Track)
As this is Masha's first album in a number of years, it is only fitting I write my first review of an album in a number of years. I haven't written one for so long and since I wouldn't buy a record or own one that I do not like, this review is naturally favourable.
I am first to confess I know very little of Japanese entertainment scene for the obvious reason that I can't understand Japanese at all. Well maybe 5 in all but not enough to survive if stranded in Tokyo. I haven't been to Tokyo, no interest to go to Tokyo and my entire knowledge of the singers/actors/entertainers in Japan can be summed up to the endless horror movies, 3 TV stars and a handful of Japanese series. Fukuyama Masaharu happens to be one of the 3 TV stars and so happens to star in some of the handful of series I know and have seen. So therefore it is naturally I did not know he is first and foremost a singer/songwriter. I thought all Japanese stars are actors who are singers who are boy bands. Of course now I realise they're boy bands who are singers who so happen to act to raise their public profile. Some are serious actors but this particular guy, that is Masha himself is a singer/songwriter first and last. Which is shocking to me since I didn't even know he sings. And he even composes his own songs, so that was a double shock. I only knew all these in the last 1 month or so, after getting hooked on Suspect X and then Galileo. Truth is I have mentioned in both reviews, his name has not entered my radar for some time and the last image of him that I remember was from the good old days of Under Same Roof and that was like decades ago. He is now 40, I was a schoolgirl then, now a working adult and in between I did re-watch Under Same Roof and that's that. So you can imagine how long ago it was. And yet when his face popped up and his deep baritone voice uttered the lines, all the good memories came back. I always thought with a voice like that he should have been a singer. Irony is, he is, and he is also a DJ so basically his voice is his tool of trade, his looks a bonus of course. Having seen his childhood pictures, I am glad to say if he had anything done to his face, it is perhaps the barest minimum, unlike most of his contemporaries or younger. Still a youthful looking man at 40, I realise the less I know about him, the more I could enjoy his performances. And yet as a singer, there is always the problem of over exposure. As a singer you offer your body, mind and soul to your fans. As an actor you have to keep some of that for the mysterious factor. That's the differences between an actor and a singer. So how does he balance it? I don't know how in Japan but in my case, it is totally by the simple ignorance on my part as to what he does, who he was, who he is, his background, etc. Having hunted down some wonderfully English translated articles about him at Masha Heart, I begin to form a picture of the man himself, with his rather honest anecdote on his absent irresponsible father (read between the lines and you get to see what sort of a man his father was and I suppose how he steer clear from being one), his admirable mother, his much loved grandmother, his very respected brother, etc etc. The more I read the more clearer the picture I formed but that is not a good thing. Knowing too much is really too much. For example, I stopped at the line when he revealed his choice of undergarments during his hectic concerts (from what I read, his choice was not wearing any!), his likes of swimming nude, etc. I don't want to know all that frankly. If you don't know and must know, from the looks of it he is far too busy to get a girlfriend, more so married. I suppose when you're totally consumed by your passion that is music and spent most of your adult life alone, not getting married but yet having the desire to do so is absolutely normal.
So now to his music.
My knowledge of Japanese music is they're original. Because almost all Chinese songs can be traced back to them. Their fashion is original, because those who wants trendy would look to them. Even TV series, can be traced back to their TV series, books or mangas. So when it comes to Japanese entertainment, you know you get the real deal. The problem is most that I hear can't sing a tune. They look good, mostly with fake tans and cosmetic surgeries to look as anime as possible but always their hair are totally fabulous. Haven't seen a bald Japanese man on TV except for those ancient series which I suppose they call them taiga? Not sure. But they can't carry a tune. Most of the time it's the language. There is something not quite poetic with Japanese language, I find them harsh even when spoken softly but I suppose that is a matter of accent, something I learned that exist after watching Galileo. I am now tuned to the language and how they're spoken. All the boy/girl bands didn't help. They're either so very young (and their career ends even before we graduate from universities) or they're very old (and often singing those yodelling type of songs). To me there was never the middle. But boy, can they write great melodies. Those Alan Tam songs I was told were from Japan, there was a time it was popular to rip popular tunes and if that is true, I am first to admit, the songwriters can write great melodies.
So imagine my surprise when we have a 40 year old guy, in the business for 20 years and still very famous, writing his own songs and singing them not just competently in the albums, but sounds even better in concert (as in singing live). If you told me that a year ago, I wouldn't believe it. 1 year later well, I have matured in my perspective. So this is my review, from my perspective and it may be a bit biased (since I like him) but like a good story however told is still deep down a good story, a good melody however played is still deep down a good melody. Since I do not know what he is singing about, this review is solely based on gut feeling on what he may be singing. You will be surprised, because mostly your gut feeling may be right when you do read the translations by fans.
My first hearing of the entire album is I like it. By the 2nd and 3rd and now in auto-replay on my computer, I love it. There are only a few albums I love, some by Robbie Williams, some by Mika, Jason Mraz and the likes, so you can guess my taste in music. Others I like bits and pieces. Masha's album Zankyo is the type that I like them all. His album has a little to offer to every genre of music, it was as if he may have wanted to offer all of whatever he has got at that creative moment and not confine himself to say rock, pop rock or whatever you call them. There is also some surprisingly unheard of sort of tune that normally I do not associate with a Japanese singer/songwriter/artiste which ended up as my favourite.
Some songs sound like they're destined as themesongs for series, some suitable for travelling and one in particular is destined for a long running grand anime series. There are some standalones that you can enjoy without fitting into any specific genre and most of all, all of them has parts you will absolutely love. I say that with confidence because it is very rare for me to listen to an album that has the songwriter so confidently offer such a wide genre of music. If done terribly, the critics may slam it as confusing, artistically everywhere so it is nowhere. Done well, it offers the fans a chance to hear the many sides of the songwriter as he is obviously experimenting for a new direction and yet not taking his loyal listeners for a ride by offering half baked experiments. This album is I believe the culminating success of such experiments and if there is an album that you want that is listenable and yet could hear something new, something different, this is it. Of course if you're a fan or have bought his album since day 1, you may find something awfully and perhaps boringly familiar. But for someone as myself, it is like a breath of fresh air. The only major stumbling block is I have no way in appreciating the lyrics which I was told is Masha's forte; his lyrical prose, poetic, sometime sexual, sometime desperate, sometime hopeful, sometime playful, all lost on me because I do not know Japanese. I can only hope someone might suggest to Masha that perhaps he might consider a full English album. He seems to be able to handle English when singing and I can handle the accent. It could be an international album. The problem is Japan in itself is a big market that others want to break in, and so I suppose he is happy and comfortable when a lifetime of a successful and enriching career can be achieved just in that country itself. But I hope somehow he might consider an international album so to speak, for his fans and a concert out of Japan.
And boy can he sing. No doubt about that. He has melody. He sings with feelings, and not some flatline tone. And there is tone. Of course his weakness is baritone but his normal singing voice has such a rich rhythm to it. Fantastic singer that much I must admit.
As for specifically how I feel about each song, let me do a long rundown (hey, my reviews don't come short ok?). Some I could find the full version, some got videos, some fan made video, some sample videos. Like Masha I am too old for girly adulation as in myself giving the adulation but you know sometimes, just let that inner teenager in you out for a breather...
1. Gunjou ~ultramarine~
I didn't like this at first but the more I listen to it the more I like the melody. The start of it is very grand feeling to it. I can imagine a series with this as a themesong. And I particularly love his singing in this.
Hated the tacky video but the song itself is akin to I suppose you call them hard rock? Didn't like his hair but I must admit he oozes style and the song itself is style. The guitar playing in the beginning, the singing, the end, all would sound fantastic life. Definitely a mood lifter and a little something for those rock chicks/guys put there. The translated lyrics is a bit adult, but well rock is about giving love and being rebellious so why not?
3. Ashita no SHOW
Read that this is dedicated to the friends he left behind? Anyway it does sound like some memory trip sort of song and whilst it is not my favourite, it is an enjoyable tune. Again the melody wins. And again I can imagine a TV series being attached to this.
A slow number that I didn't quite fancy at first. But the first few lines as he sang, remind so much of one western singer that I can't name right now. The more I listen the more I like. There's something rather nostalgic about the feel of this song. And his singing is impeccable.
In English I read it is called The Theory Of Happiness. Everybody says it is Jason Mraz-ish. But Jason Mraz did not invent that upbeat guitar tune. This is perhaps my favourite song in the album. Not only does it sound happy, hopeful and playful, he sang it with such ease and perhaps even with a smile on his face, it made me smile everytime I hear it. I find this his best singing in the album.I hope this gets
released with a video with it because I am confident such a song will and should get the number 1 spot in Japan's billboard charts. I suppose it can even be translated into English and will get a the no. 1 spot in US billboard charts!
6. 18 ~eighteen~
Apparently about him leaving his young love behind as he went to Tokyo. I suppose he must have loved her very much to have I believe 2 songs about his experience with her back then. This is I think where the lyrics is more meaningful than the music. I like it but not loving it.
The themesong for Suspect X, originally sung by Shibasaki Kou, his co-star in Galileo and Suspect X. She sang it beautifully, with a feminine touch to it and Masha surprisingly sang it with gentleness as well. A beautiful song but frankly best suited for a female voice.
8. Sou ~new love new world~
I like this one. Fast paced but not as frantic as Keshin. Something that you can relaxed to. His singing is not quite up to par with the rest. And the video sucks.
The more I listen the more I love this one. This is the anime grand feel song that I wrote about. The melody as in instrumental music itself sounds rather complicated but grand and his singing sounds rather deeper, not a lighthearted song. It does sound heavy and a very long song, because half of it is just guitar. Everytime I hear this I imagine an anime series. Not Pikachu of course.
Not fast, not slow from my memory. I do not have much memory of this, so I suppose it isn't that memorable in my opinion. One of the weaker ones but even the weaker ones have very catchy tunes.
11. Konya, Kimi wo Daite
His worst singing and worst song perhaps. Seriously whenever he goes falsetto I kinda cringe. This is the only one I didn't like at all.
Now this one is one of my firm favourites. The beginning melody/rhythm and the end reminds me of a road trip song, as I am driving a car. It gives me that feeling and the singing is wonderful as well. But again the melody is hands down addictive, especially the first 10 seconds or so.
13. Tokyo ni mo Attanda
Not much memory of this. Slow song.
A song dedicated to his grandmother's loving hands from what I read. The melody is fantastic. Slow but steady. Even without knowing the lyrics, the way he sang it made it sound like some going down memory lane type of song, a dedication to someone he loves. It's a bit traditional sounding, obviously trillion of miles apart from Keshin but yet very memorable, very enjoyable, something rather touching. Only after reading the translated lyrics did I understand why I got misty eyed listening to this. The feeling is just right.
15. 99 (Instrumental) (Bonus Track)
Another firm favourite of mind. Probably second favourite. This is the background music you will hear when Yukawa is experimenting in the beginning of Suspect X. I remember watching that scene, not paying much attention to the music but thought the rock-ish song was so suitable for that scene and definitely lifted the mood of that scene to stylish stratosphere. Like what Yukawa was doing was pure style. This is the scene where I said to myself give it to the Japanese to make any scene filled with iconic style. I love the first 10 seconds, love everything in between, love the end. He played the guitar obviously and what a stylishly composed track. Imagine you walk to this music, I think even your walk will become a strut. Why is it called 99 I have no idea. Not many like this from what I read, some called it repetetive which is generally true but then Beatles' I Wanna Hold Your Hand is repetetive too but now it is a classic. Overall a fantastic showcase of Masha as a guitarist. With
style. Lots of it.
Overall every single piece of music in here is about 4 and half minutes long, some longer and they all give me a feeling they're longer than the usual songs I often here but no less boring. The melody rarely repeats itself, and from what I read, the lyrics did not repeat itself either. What a pity I do not understand the words but amazingly I understood the mood and the feel of the music. Music is universal and even if you do not know Japanese, the melody, the arrangement, the music, his beautiful voice will surely somehow make it sound as if you are capable of understanding what he is singing about.
And about his singing, I agree his singing is better than his acting but then I am those who feels his acting is smashingly great, a term I used in my Galileo review. However there are some songs that he didn't sound flat, but rather in the danger of singing off key as he went falsetto. But because he is a gifted songwriter, some missteps are ok. Bob Dylan can't carry a tune but he is recognised as a poet-singer. So who cares really when this is someone who can compose such catchy tunes that aren't cheesy but sticks in the memory for all the right reasons?
Well put together, well produced, well sung, well written, well composed, well played, well everything... this is an album with a little something for everyone. The cover looks terrible though, that is because I don't like his hair. Some videos thus far are either unimaginative or tacky. But whatever within the control of this man itself, it is simply excellent. It is not a messy sort of album, but a deliberate wide ranging album. I look forward to his next one but right now I am just happy listening to this. Assuming Koufukuron does mean Theory Of Happiness, I am not sure what is Masha's "Koufukuron" is but my "Koufukuron" right now is listening to this album. What a smashingly great album!
He may have been out of limelight for sometime, but not out of memory. Then came Galileo and he became hot property again. Hotter than before. He once took a 3 year sabbatical at the height of his fame, which means this is someone that simply doesn't care about what others think, he must rest and so he must rest to give his best later. I am afraid after next year he may disappear for another 3 years. I hope not! But I wonder, will his "hotness" be affected by the fact that if he marries? I mean the fact that he is unmarried makes him eligible bachelor creates an illusion every woman has a chance. You know what I mean? If he marries will his popularity go down? Unless he marries a popular actress and well loved one. I suppose it depends what sort of a fan you are right? For me, he is 40. Not an old age, in Japan maybe but everywhere else this is the great age to be for a man. Career wise stable, aim wise settled. I would like to see him married with kids. Someone as beautiful as he is must have kids. Pure and simple.
Bu Bu Jing Xinstarring Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Kevin Cheng, Nicky Wu, Yuan Hong
The New Adventure Of Chor Lau Heung (DVD, English subs)starring Miu Kiu Wai, Barbara Yung