It's taking me forever to review this album, because it is a daunting task. I feel like my words might fail to do it justice.
(Written on October 31, 2009)
When I watched the Japanese film Sakuran, Anna Tsuchiya who played as a Geisha wearing colorful kimono appeared with powerful and beautiful music, which is composed and sang by Shena Ringo. And the impressive original soundtrack attracted me well for its unbelievable music style which merged Japanese traditional notes and modern electronic music perfectly. This is the first time I met Shena Ringo and her outstanding music, reminding me of P.J. Harvey and Bjork who are talented female rock singer-songwriters. However, Shena Ringo’s music could be identified easily by her unforgettable voice and charming Japanese elements, making her famous among Asia.
Muzai Moratoriamu is the first album of Shena Ringo, one of my favorite musicians, representing her unique music style combined of different genres such as Japanese pop, rock and roll, grunge and jazz. She composed all the songs and wrote the lyrics using Kenji and English, thus creating a special experience for her audience.
Awesome doesn't even begin to describe this brilliant masterpiece. Every track on the CD is amazing, and there are no fillers whatsoever. Let me put it this way--"American Idiot", the title song and the first single of the album, is probably the weakest link, yet it's still exceedingly good. Go figure.
About Shena Ringo
Shena Ringo, born on November 25th1978, quit from her senior high school and devoted herself to music career. Although her parents did hope her to dance rather than to sing, she insisted to join band and decided to be a singer. At her seventeen, she wrote a song named seventeen (collected in her single罪と罰) to express her determination by singing “I see same face in school and they say I am different / I think it is an honor / I say it is an honor to be different / I can’t go their way.” It is true that she goes an absolute different way. Her particular powerful melodies, her unforgettable husky voice, and her striking visuals in her music video and concert helped her become a successful musician. She ranked as 36 in top 100 Japanese Pop artists. (HMV)
Shena Ringo created her magical music by endless efforts including learning composing, playing several instruments such as guitar, piano, bass and drum, and even making music in studio. From her debut till now, ten years have passed by but she is still the girl who loves music singing “I can’t go their way” and tries her best to pursue her dream.
Again, every song is amazing, but I do have some favorites.
Muzai Moratorium, almost composed during Ringo’s teen before her debut, was released on February 24, 1999 by Toshiba EMI. The album debuted at #1 and has sold over 919,000 copies (Wikipedia). Her first album is successful in that it shows her genius on composing, displays her strong and distinctive voice, and presents her abundant imaginations on music. Shena Ringo collected inspirations from not merely her own life but also her observation to Japanese society.
In the first song named Tadashii Machi (Correct City) of the album, she described her inner thoughts when she had to leave her boyfriend to another city to develop her music career. Although this song reflected the sad mood of leaving her love, Shena Ringo used continuous driving drum and bass to deliver her faith and believe about love and hope to her audience. She knew what she wanted to do and what she had to give up, though with regrets to her boyfriend. When I listened to this song, I understand her sorrow that she had to face the destiny of separation and her determination that she must be strong to pursue her dream, because I had to leave my families in China to U.S. for study accounting. In my opinion, this song could provide courage and strength to many people who have the same situation in lives.
In the second song named Kabukichō no Jo-ō (Queen of Kabuki-cho), Shena Ringo told a story from a teenager girl’s perspective that she would become the Queen of Kabuki-cho to sell herself to man. In fact, this song is based on Shena Ringo’s own experience that she once met a pimp from a SM club and was asked to become Queen for the club. In the music video, young Ringo played her guitar, dressing like a cool punker, with disdain appearance on her face. The music style of this song is rock and grunge with forceful electric guitar and strong rhyme. The genre could express her mood perfectly because it is a song about teenager. Like the famous song of Smells like Teen Spirit from Nirvana, this song of Shena Ringo also selected grunge, a fierce rock style, to reflect the confusion and desperation about youth. In many Japanese films, youth is cruel and rock is the best way to annotate by its special direct power.
Besides the above fast songs, Shena Ringo wrote some slow songs to express her desire about true love. In the first album, she composed Akane-sasu Kiro Terasaredo (The crimson-gleaming sun still shines on my way back, but) and Onaji Yoru (Ordinary Night), two slow touching songs, different from her fierce fast songs.
The prior one describes a beautiful but a little bit gloomy scene. The lyric was sad: “I put my headphones on my ears /An Irish girl is singing /As dusk falls, is it too painful to have my tears coaxed out of me?” At the end of the song, she sang in English: “I place the headphones on my ears and listen / Someone sings a song / I feel so blue / Now darlin’ promise me / Please tell me something words to soothe / I don’t wanna cry” (Nostalgic-lavender). It is a common phenomenon that Japanese singers use English in their songs to express some direct words which they would feel shy to speak in Japanese, their first language. Shena Ringo made this song full with eastern artistic conception as lust is always associated with sorrow of separation in Japan and China. As Shena Ringo has excellent accomplishment in literature, she wrote her lyrics in Kenji, providing people more enjoyments besides fantastic music.
The song named Onaji Yoru trans (The same night) selected guitar and violin to show grief mood. Although she used the elegant classic instrument violin, Shena Ringo made the violin sound trembling to reflect her different individual style. Especially at the end of the song, she used a piece of violin solo that sounds nervous made this soft slow song have an unexpected effect. Shena Ringo sang “The same wind is blowing on both of us / We go through the same nights / How I love you, oh darling... / Don't you hear me calling / I'm searching for a person that I can't meet a second time / Everyone can hear the song I'm singing / I still don't want anything / My answer is only the sound of rain” (Videouncovered) , with sentimental and soft voice which rarely appear in her music. The tune of the song is more peaceful than any other songs in this album and the lyric with the mournful music reminds people of their own memories about love, and touches their heart by the same thoughts about waiting and eagerness.
Another interesting song of the album is Sid to Hakuruumu, which related to one of Shena Ringo’s favorite singers, Sid Vicious who killed his girl friend and died in his twenty one. This singer is the bassist of the puck rock group Sex Pistols. Shena Ringo liked to use her favorite singers in her lyrics, such as Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and his wife Love Courtney. From these songs, we can learn that Shena Ringo is affected by western rock bands deeply. And that is why she can combine western music style and traditional Japanese music type without any difficulties.
Besides these songs, other songs in the album are also impressive, especially the song named Koufukuron (A view of happiness) which was her first single. The lyric “You’re there living your life and just knowing this simple little fact makes me so happy” (Jpopasia) became popular after released. Shena Ringo organized the whole album from fast songs to slow songs, letting people know her from her shining appearance as her fast songs with passions to colorful inner emotions as her slow songs with tenderness.
"Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming" are two rock operas each containing five separate songs. Both are almost 10 minutes long, and both make 10 minutes seem like 10 seconds.
Compared Shena Ringo to other female rock stars in the world such as Bjork, P.J.Harvey and Tori Amos, they share something in common that mark them as rock queens. All of them have powerful voices, strong composing ability and independent attitude. From their music, people can gain courage and strength of love and live, and they can appreciate another aspect of woman rather than traditional obedience and soft image. However, Shena Ringo who comes from Japan tried more genres and various look and added more subtle and delicate eastern elements into her music. In her music video, she played as high school student wearing “kawaii (cute)” uniform, nurse heating the glasses and kissing female patient, and even Geisha playing guitar, telling people she has unlimited potentials in her world and music. This attitude to life is one of the most charming parts of her because no one knows what the next surprise from Shena Ringo would be
Although as the first album of Shena Ringo, Muzai Moratorium showed her great ability and potential in composing and singing, as well as revealed her fascinating personality and thoughts. By merging eastern and western music successfully, Shena Ringo with her own bold style in music, conquered audience and became one of the most famous Japanese female singers. The album also becomes her representative work, full of imagination and her own experiences, providing people pleasant with its touching notes and vivid lyrics.
"Holiday" has such a strong message. I was moved to tears when I first heard it. Seriously. It made me cry.
Top 100 Japanese Pop Artists, HMW
http://www.hmv.co.jp/news/newsDetail.asp?newsnum=309260027 (Accessed on October 31,2009)
Koufukuron Shena Ringo lyrics, Jpopasia
http://www.jpopasia.com/lyrics/11544/ringo-shiina/koufukuron.html (Accessed on October 31, 2009)
Lyrics and Translation of Shiina Ringo, Nostalgic
http://www.nostalgic-lavender.net/ringo/akanesasu.html (Accessed on October 31, 2009)
Lyrics of chuchumura, Videouncovered
http://www.videouncovered.com/lyrics/20982/chachamaru/grieve.html (Accessed on October 31, 2009)
Muzai_Moratorium, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzai_Moratorium (Accessed on October 31, 2009)
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is pop perfection. Perfect melody, perfect lyrics, perfect feel. I usually don't care for songs that get way overplayed on radio, but this one is a major exception.
"Give Me Novacaine" is extremely soothing. It was featured in an ER episode last season when two lead characters were making love. Need I say more?
"Letterbomb" is, well, full of swear words like the title suggests. I consider profanities a big turn-off, but I've got to hand it to Green Day. They make "bastards" and "fucking" sound nice. No kidding.
"Wake Me Up When September Ends" is the 11th track of the CD. September. 11th. Coincidence? I don't think so. And the music video perfectly illustrates the point. I dare you to watch it and not feel a thing!