Japanese original published on OKMusic, 7 October 2020. Original title: “[Interview with Kanako Takatsuki] A solo debut at this timing is destiny.” Interviewer: Fumiaki Kurebayashi.
Kanako Takatsuki, also active as a member of Aqours from “Love Live! Sunshine!!” is doing her long awaited solo debut with the single “Anti world”! She wrote the lyrics to every song herself and with the coupling track, she also tried her hand at composition for the first time. Among other things, we got to hear what producing this single sparkling with her creativity was like.
Writing lyrics with an experience of closing off your heart in common with the main character
After 10 years, your dream of becoming an anison singer finally came true!
From when I was in elementary school, I had a vague idea about “wanting to be a star.” When I was 17, I started aiming to be an anison [anime song] singer, and after I moved up to Tokyo at 20, I’ve been doing fairly fine… Because the five years I’ve been active as a member of Aqours have been so intense, it feels like I’ve already been at it for 10 years (laughs). Seeing as I’ve been able to properly learn new things and step ahead at a steady pace for these past 10 years, a solo debut at this timing feels like it’s destiny.
Your debut song “Anti world,” being the opening theme to the TV anime “I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives,” has a cool sense to it, like a tough fight where you have your back to the wall.
That’s right. I picked it out of around 20 candidate compositions, and when I heard this song, written by Shuhei Mutsuki, I immediately decided, “it’s definitely this!” We were going to request the lyrics from a lyricist, but when I read the manga the anime is based on, I came up with my own image of what it could be like, so I submitted the lyrics myself.
What in this song drew you to it?
I liked how even while it’s rock and the beat is intense, the chorus has only few syllables, making it simple and blunt. There are also duet-style parts, so I considered how I might perform it solo at a live concert and thought it would be cool live.
How did you go about writing the lyrics?
It was a method where I read the original, jotted down notes on what I felt right away, then picked out words I could use from that and gradually adjusted it all to fit the melody in such a way that singing it would feel good for me.
When did you start writing lyrics in the first place?
Writing lyrics is something I’ve done since I started pursuing my dream around 10 years ago. I figured that since I’ll be an artist one day, I should also practice writing lyrics, so I wrote down various things I felt. I generally wrote stuff when I had had painful or sad experiences and was feeling sick, but reading them again now I’m thinking, “these are surprisingly good things I’m writing” (laughs). I mostly write in the middle of the night, and I end up absorbed in thought and unable to sleep, so I just stay lying on the bed and type things into my phone.
I see. So the original manga is good, too.
It’s really, really good! I felt lots of things that I wanted to say, so I weaved together the main character’s feelings and my own feelings while writing.
What kind of things did you have in common?
The main character, Yusuke Yotsuya-kun, comes to the big city from the countryside and ends up closing off his heart from others, but after being reborn in another world he slowly builds up bonds with his party. As for myself, I have a similar experience of moving from the city into the countryside when I was in middle school and closing off my heart, so I was able to understand Yotsuya-kun’s feelings and wanted to convey it to everyone in my words. When you’re in middle or high school, you don’t know the world outside of your own little sphere, the school world and your home area are your everything, so I believe that’s why your situation or your state of mind can easily swing to extremes. I hope I was able to approach such feelings of adolescence here.
What prompted you to open up your heart?
It was anime for me. I started going to see 2.5D musicals of anime I liked, and the vague dream of “wanting to be a star” that I had harbored back in elementary school was revived. Besides, I wasn’t only watching anime, I started thinking things like “if it were me, I would express it like this,” and then “if this is how it is, I should try getting onto the other side of the screen!” I applied for an acting school by myself and started attending that, and it was like I was rapidly regaining my emotions. So, the foremost thing that prompted that was being bold and taking action.
It’s important to find what you want to do and broadening your perspective.
That’s right. I’d be happy if people were able to broaden their perspective by listening to this song. I think everyone ought to have something to relate to in the anime as well, so please find out what it is for you. In any case, it’s a good anime, so I hope you can enjoy this song, too, as a part of that world.
What kind of an image were you going for with the title “Anti world”?
I put the phrase “Anti world” into the chorus based on the feel and general air of that word… that’s where it started. “Anti” has a meaning of contrast, and I felt it was fitting due to the various contrasts you can see, between the other world and the real world, between the big city and the countryside, and so on.
There’s a lot of English in the lyrics. Is that your forte?
Not at all (laughs). I can manage pronunciation, but I can’t talk or write at all. I made liberal use of Google Translate and pulled through!
You looked cool in the music video, singing with all you can.
Thank you. There’s a scene where I was filmed on vinyl, surrounded by triangles. I went all out at that, completely live performance style, dripping with sweat. The director was rotating the camera for me, so it felt like a jam session with the director. There’s a little story in the video, and please look out for the scene where I climb on top of debris and perform some acting routines.
Since it’s a single carrying my name, I’m revealing darker sides as well
For the second song, “I wanna be a STAR,” you were responsible for both lyrics and composition. Was composition humming?
Yes. While I was writing the lyrics to “I wanna be a STAR,” I heard it in my mind, thinking “this kind of a melody would be nice…” and hummed that into a Voice Memo. I sent it to my staff and talked about wanting to give it a club-like sound, and they made a nice arrangement for me. As for the lyrics, my goal for this year was “becoming a star,” so I wanted to write about that.
However, that “star” is left vague. What does it mean for you?
It’s something like someone who can give a person energy in an instant. I guess that to me, a star is someone who can make a person who’s exhausted or feeling down think, “seeing Kanako-chan’s face, hearing her singing makes me feel like my heart is healed.” Additionally, there’s also the simple meaning of “I want to be popular!” (laughs).
That’s an important element as well (laughs). Furthermore, in the lyrics, there’s also overlap with “star” in the sense of a star in the sky.*
Because I can’t shine on people that brightly, I think I’m not a sun kind of person. So, since the moon isn’t quite like it either, I was thinking I could be a star. Like how I discussed earlier that I write lyrics when I’m feeling sick, there are quite a few darker sides to me. I felt that since it’s a single carrying my name this time, it might be good to let that out as well, so I’m laying that bare.
The third song, “Aishiteru wa ♡ gram?” is a jazzy pop number with a brass band, and the approach taken in the lyrics is interesting. With a chorus like “la la la…”, it seems like everyone could sing this one together.
When we were discussing what to do with the third song and I said I’d like a fun song with poppy lyrics about love that I could sing together with everyone at a concert, Makoto Miyazaki-san made one for me. It became a song that could indeed be sung, danced and enjoyed together with everyone. The title is read “Aishiteru wa nan-gram?” [How many grams is “I love you”?]. The thought of “Are there experts or researchers who can quantify and measure love?” suddenly popped into my head once. I had that written down as a memo, and when I received this song, I thought, “that one memo might really suit this!?” and wrote based on it.
If love was quantified and the volume of the other person’s love for you was small, that would be a shock, wouldn’t it?
Indeed (laughs). Still, when talking about love, people use words like “heavy” or “light” a lot, you know? I was thinking, “what’s the deal with measuring love in terms of weight?” I like writing lyrics like this the most, writing out such delicate feelings. It’s fun to come up with wordplay, and it’s also fun to write the type of stuff that makes your heart skip a beat.
The lyrics mention “PIZZA×COKE.” Do you eat a lot of that?
Although I like “pizza×coke” too, to be honest I’m more of a “chicken skewers×beer” person (laughs). This summer was hot, so beer tasted really good! And in the end, chicken skewers belong together with beer, right? (laughs)
Now that you say it (laughs). This single is diverse, with rock, club-style beats, and pop, so your various points of appeal came across in it. What genre of music do you normally listen to?
I’m omnivorous, so what genre of music I’m currently into varies a lot. Sometimes I get into bands, sometimes idols, and there are also times when I listen to just Western music. I have a playlist where I add music I like regardless of the genre, and if you were to listen to it on shuffle, you’d probably have no idea what’s going on (laugh). You could think you were listening to musicals, but next it’s anime music and K-pop playing, that’s what it’s like. Recently I was really into Nizi Project.
Correct! I listened to songs they were practicing on Nizi Project a lot. I was really, really moved by J.Y. Park-san’s words, and because I wasn’t able to sing and dance during the stay-at-home period, I thought “I want to sing again soon!”, “I want to go to rehearsals soon!” When rehearsals started, I decided to do them as if J.Y. Park-san were watching me, so at that time, I was really conscious of myself (laughs).
Auditions like that really leave an impression, don’t they?
Partially because our fields of work are close, it really hits home. Like, “if such young girls are working hard to hone their skills, we have to work harder too!” However, since I’m the type that loses interest when something gets popular, although I recommend something to others like, “this is great,” by the time it gets popular with them I’m already looking for the next thing.
Finally, please tell us about what you want to do after this as a solo artist and what your goals are.
Because doing what you want to do is most important, besides writing lyrics and composing, I want to put in visual ideas and produce various things myself. Then, because I think music you hear live resounds the most in your heart, I want to give people live music once the situation calms down. In that sense, standing on the stage in Tokyo Dome as a solo artist is also something like that… However, instead of suddenly going for arenas or big stages, I want to start from live houses first and steadily build up a foundation. After all, I’ve only just debuted as a solo artist.
*The original Japanese said “star in the sense of hoshi,” using the Japanese word for that celestial body.