Essay on the differences between the writing style of English songs and the writing style of Japanese songs

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Submitted: February 07, 2015

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Submitted: February 07, 2015

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Between Japan and America, the language system really differs and it is a hard task, sometimes, to even translate accurately what is said from a language to another. However, this feature is shared even when the matter is about songs. One can remark how different songs in Japanese are and how those are different from the songs in English. Through this analysis, a comparison between the two systems will be done.

 

Nowadays, songs are not really focused on lyrics anymore, in the English countries and the latest music industry. Whenever we hear a song, it is most likely to find lyrics that fit the musicality (the instrumental beat), rather than lyrics that will really want to mean something.

Ex 1: In Katy Perry’s song, the exact number for the first verse’s syllable are 5. ‘Do-you-e-ver-feel’. As said, English songs in general are really musical. Is has to fit in a certain melody, whereas the sentence could be said to anyone in the street: Do you ever feel like a plastic bag - drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?”

And yet, it was not the case, back to the 90s, where people were making music with their first thought focused on the lyrics. Although writing a song is a whole process, it seems that musicians of today tend to imagine the music, and the sonorities they would like to hear first, and then adding the most musical lyrics. It does not matter that much, if they don’t really make sense, as long as it is something that is danceable, and that can make a hit.

 

Many people know how to make hits, but not good songs. Today, it is unlikely to find songs which both combine “meaningful lyrics” and “extremely pleasant sonorities” in English. Since English language allows you to designate who you are speaking to (You, we, they) and recognize the narrator instantly “I, He, She, It, They, You, We”, you can organize your story (inside the song) so as to identify who is talked about, and who is the one telling the story with the help of pronouns.

Ex 3: In Pink”s song “True Love”, as in many other songs, the pronouns show you who is speaking, the focalization is the singular first person, the “I” pronoun, and the narrator is addressing to a second person with the “You pronoun”. "Why I'm still here, oh where could I go? You're the only love I've ever known. But I hate you, I really hate you. So much I think it must be true love.”

If the sentence “But I hate” was translated in Japanese, it would impossible to differentiate the who hates from the one who is hated, by saying “Kirai desu” (I hate you, you hate me, he hates her, etc.) if you don’t have any reliable context.

In Japanese, things are wholly different. The item that comes first, in order to write a song, is the lyrics. More often than not, lyrics can be assimilated to poetry and the music is made around the words. Here, words are more important.

Ex 3: Anna Tsuchiya, who is a Rusian-Japanese woman born in Japan (the father is Russian but lived in American and her mother is Japanese only) used to speak English but no longer does. It is important to mention this because the example has been chosen to show the romanticism in the tone of her lyrics. It is not something common to speak about such things as the feeling that occurs in one own’s self. But the bicultural exchange, being half Russian-American and half Japanese, gives her another style of writing these lyrics. It is a modern way of writing. The original way of writing, even in the old days, in Japan, were the same as in Gackt’s song (Primrose).

 Japanese people are really focused on the meaning of a song, because of the function of catharsis effect. Many people in Japan believe that songs are powerful and change the mood of people. Japanese language is based on a perceptive kind of communication. They use senses a lot, because it is the most efficient way to get a message across, for what is about their lyrics.

Ex 2:“The blossoms scatter as soon as the flower opens” is a cultural image of a very popular image called the Sakura Nagashi(s), (the blossoming of cherry trees, and very often, Japanese singers are inspired by this image to create songs. Words in Japanese seem to be used in a very particular manner, so as to never add something that is not need to be added. As short stories constructed, there are no superfluous details.

 In Japanese, however, you do not have pronouns such as “I, you, he, she, it, you, we, and they”. The one who talks can only be identified by the context (Notice “Holding up [your] hand”, the brackets means this is a possibility of translation, it could have been “Holding up my hand”, with the exact sentence!). It is the same for the one who is talked about. You can never be sure who the narrator really is and who the narrator is addressing to because “I like” can also mean “You like”, “He likes”, etc! It can be very confusing for the people who are not used to it, and even so, since it is strictly impossible to identify who is talked.

Ex 3: You can never find “In the sunlight filtering through the trees” (See “Sakurasou – Primrose by GACKT) in an English song, since this image is very perceptual and most likely to appear in either poems in English, or any other narratives, but not in songs.

Rhymes are also extremely important in English, whereas in Japanese songs, there never are rhymes. (Or hardly ever!) but still, things are said in a very poetical manner, so one can still be amazed by the story of a Japanese song.

______

????? (Sakurasou- Primrose) by GACKT

??????????????????????
Komorebi ni te wo kagashi, furimuite sotto hohoemu
Holding up [your] hand in the sunlight filtering through the trees, [you] turn around and gently smile.
????????????????
Shizuka na kaze no naka de, omowazu dakishimeta
Within the quiet wind, I held you close without thinking.

???????????????????
Terenagara me wo tojite, yasashiku kisu wo shita
You opened your eyes although you were shy, and I gently kissed you.
???????????????
Anata wa nani yori mo kirei na hana deshita
You were the most lovely flower above all else.

?????????
Anata ga suki deshita
I loved you.

????????…
Zutto suki deshita…
All along, I loved you… 


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