I’m a fan of Phil Ochs’ single, Outside a Small Circle of Friends, which has a catchy, upbeat tune, while at the same time being fairy harsh criticism of the current state of social apathy in the United States. Worth a listen for those who have never heard it before, see below:
So you can imagine my delight when I came across something similar in Japanese, in this case a (band? singer?) called あべりょう or Abe-ryou if written in English. You can check out a list of their music for download on iTunes, here, or see their official website, although I personally found the official site clunky and hard to use due to it being a Flash site (damn you Flash websites). Therefore, I’d recommend heading straight to iTunes for further information.
There are also quite a few music videos for their songs available on Youtube, so let’s examine one of my favorites. This song is called 「ナパーム弾」which means “Napalm Bomb.” First, watch the video:
If you don’t know any Japanese, I imagine the video probably seems pretty weird. And if you do know Japanese, you might be thinking, “damn, that’s some harsh stuff.” Let’s go through the lyrics and try to come up with a translation. Luckily, the Japanese lyrics are on the official site, so that makes the translation job much easier.
低所得だっていいじゃない 非正規雇用でいいじゃない 年収三百万円すごいじゃない
Being low income [poor] is ok! Being a temp worker is ok! Making 300,000 yen [30,000 dollars] a year is amazing!
社会のゴミなんかじゃない 道の端っこでいいじゃない 生きているだけとてもすごいじゃない
You’re not society’s trash. Sitting on the edge of the street is fine. Just being able to survive is totally awesome!
ナイスファイト 税金払わない ドンマイ 公共サービスタダ乗りの 邪魔な国民だなんて思わない
Nice work [literally: fight] not paying taxes. No worries, don’t think of yourself as some useless citizen who leeches off of public services.
無料のクーポン 無料のサンプル お試し体験で 一箇所に集めてナパーム弾
[people who use] Free coupons, free samples, and free trials. Gather them up in one place and… Napalm bomb! [blow them up]
無料のゲームに有料アイテム コンプでガチャられて 一箇所に集めてナパーム弾
[people who play] Free cell phone games but then purchase all the in-app items, gather them in one place and… Napalm bomb!
あなたの時給すごいじゃない 男のニーズ満たすじゃない 大阪市長も認めてしまうじゃない
You’ve got such a high income [being a prostitute]. You’re fulling men’s needs, right? The mayor of Osaka thinks it’s fine, too!
カンパイ お酒を飲むだけ バンザイ 夜な夜な体を売るだけの 安い存在だなんて思わない
Cheers! You’re just drinking alcohol. Hooray! You certainly don’t lead a cheap existence selling your body every night.
Who gives a shit about women’s rights? Go ahead and pick one out [a woman from a list of prostitutes in a brothel]. As for any whining grannies… [blow them up with a] Napalm Bomb!
Who gives a shit about workplace discrimination; hurry up and cum! As for any panting geezers… Napalm Bomb!
Comfort women and soldiers too… Napalm Bomb!
I can’t say that the lyrics are especially…deep, but they’re certainly edgy and not like what I have ever heard before in a “regular” Japanese song. I linked a few Wikipedia articles in the lyrics of the song in order to provide some additional background info on the political/culturally-specific references, but overall the song is fairly straightforward.
Other あべりょう songs I find interesting include:
- 東京太陽系SHOW (Tokyo Solar System Show) [lyrics] — About prostitution in Tokyo
- 右を向け (Face Right) [lyrics] — About the useless masses and them being manipulated
- 日本の子供が嫌い (I hate Japanese Kids) [lyrics] — About kids job searching in Japan
- 物体SEX (Sex with objects) [lyrics] — About having sex with objects (duh)
There are a lot more than just those, too, so if this kind of stuff catches your fancy, there’s much more on YouTube. Personally, I find some of these songs really hilarious, so if you have a twisted sense of humor, this should be right down your alley. As a warning, however, I mentioned at one point I liked あべりょう to one of my Japanese friends, and after showing him the lyrics, he told me that while it’s fine to mention the songs among guy friends, (typical Japanese) women might not find the songs as funny because the language in many of them is rather discriminatory and beyond the boundary of what is socially acceptable.
Considering that much of American humor revolves around politics and sex, the lyrics in these songs might not be surprising to a western/American audience, but politics and sex are the two topics that typically don’t get covered in Japanese humor (that gets aired anywhere public at least), so proceed with caution before telling any Japanese people—especially girls—that you “know this cool band called あべりょう”. As another Japanese guy mentions on his blog, Nanokamo, regarding the lyrics in Napalm Bomb, 「街中で口ずさんだら白い目で見られること間違いなし」, or “if you walk down the street singing these lyrics, you’re definitely going to attract some nasty looks.”
One final thing I want to mention about あべりょう is that the band seems to be generally disliked by the Japanese net population. I assume this is similar to being dislike by 4chan in the US—so not necessarily mainstream dislike—but first see the following ranking list on Niconico, a Japanese video streaming site.
On both the “monthly” and “total” rankings list, there are four あべりょう songs with the following names:
- マッチ売りの美少女はSM嬢 (The Little Match Girl is into S&M)
- 長生きするのやめてね (Give up trying to live a long time)
- 東京ベクレライ (Tokyo Becquerel-lie)
- 神がかりっしゅ (Fanaticism~)
While the bottom two are the real names of the songs, the first two are not, instead having fake titles likely used to draw attention to the videos. Furthermore, the videos are ranked highly, but this is because on Niconico you can purchase advertising for your video to push it higher in the rankings, even if the video is not popular. In あべりょう’s case, a significant amount of advertising money seems to have been spent, but the music videos still have comparatively few views and favorites, and most comments are negative.
An online thread about あべりょう also reveals that most people are not happy with the group, calling the songs “terrible”, “going too far”, and “having no meaning.” Much of the negativity, however, seems to stem from the excessive advertising and use of misleading titles and tags on Niconico, causing the videos show up in searches unexpectedly and fill up the top rankings list. A lot of the posters are also confused at how あべりょう has so much money to spend on advertising, with some believing the singer to be someone rich and highly connected in politics.
But putting aside the negative forum banter and conspiracy theories for now, あべりょう is certainly an interesting find, and perhaps being non-Japanese I actually like the songs better than a typical Japanese person, despite the fact the lyrics are very much aimed at a Japanese audience. Or perhaps I just have a twisted sense of humor in general.