For many decades now, international artists have often felt the need to put pen to paper and write some lyrics about their Japanese experience, particularly visiting Tokyo. Most of the songs are far from being their greatest work but for Japanophiles they can offer an interesting insight into a culture which used to be a mystery to many people in the western world. Without further ado, here is the Tokyo Fox top ten……songs about Japan from the 2000s…
10. Harajuku Girls – Gwen Stefani (2004) – People have often accused the singer of cultural appropriation by using the Harajuku subculture as a marketing strategy but I like to believe it pays homage to the fashion with the best of intentions. This was the 7th track on Stefani’s first album as a solo artist after No Doubt went on a hiatus. I like some of her work but can’t say I like this song at all. It qualifies for the top 10 due to a lack of songs about Japan in this decade!
9. Nothing But A Blur From A Bullet Train – Lambchop (2004) – The 6th track from ‘Aw Cmon‘ by this Nashville band blends melodic piano with the softness and warmth of frontman Kurt Wagner’s voice. It’s a gentle, soothing tune with limited Japanese references until the end when the title is mentioned.
8. Anarchy In Tokyo – 30 Seconds To Mars (2002) – As a very regular buyer of CDs in the 90s and early 2000s I was always keen to get my hands on the Japanese version of albums as they usually had a bonus track or two to tempt the locals to purchase it instead of the cheaper import. This is a fine example of that from the American alternative rock band who combine progressive metal and space rock with influences and elements from electronica.
7. Left Hand Suzuki Method – Gorillaz (2001) – A b-side on the single ‘19-2000‘ and then later on the ‘G-Sides‘ compilation album. Little did I know that the Suzuki method is an internationally known music curriculum and teaching philosophy dating from the mid-20th century, created by a Japanese violinist. The track contains a violin sample but it’s not quite as sophisticated as it may sound given some of the drug references throughout!
6. Japan Is An Island – The Spinto Band (2005) – A catchy song with some Atari video game sounds which provide nostalgia for people of a certain age. I’m not really sure what it’s all about. Maybe to do with a guy using games as escapism to such an extent that it ruins his life and relationship.
5. Bullet Train To Osaka – The Smashing Pumpkins (2005) – A slightly different lo-fi sound for this instrumental track from the Chicago-based alternative rock band’s ‘Rarities and B-Sides‘ album. It starts with train sounds and a station announcement saying (in Japanese) that the train to Osaka is departing now.
4. Cherry Blossom Girl/Alone In Kyoto – Air (2003) – A bit of a cheat here as this is two tunes from the ‘Lost In Translation‘ soundtrack but as they’re both from Air I will combine them into one entry on this list. The former is my personal favourite but the latter is perhaps more symbolic of the situation shown on screen in the movie.
3. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 – The Flaming Lips (2002) – A deeper song than you might think just from the title! The song (title) comes to mind every time I teach someone called Yoshimi but I always refrain from mentioning this track and rhyming her name with karate as is done in this emotionally charged song about a girl dying of cancer and fighting against evil robots.
2. Lovers In Japan – Coldplay (2008) – Something of an underrated song from one of the UK’s most successful bands, this was the fifth track from the 2008 album ‘Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends‘ although it was the Osaka Sun Mix which got radio play where it was released in the USA. The song is perhaps typical of the Coldplay sound with its joyous chorus, rock riffs and the beautiful tack piano sound.
1. Left My Heart In Tokyo – Mini Viva (2009) – A fairly cheesy but uplifting and catchy dance pop tune from these one-hit wonders who had never actually been to Japan when this song was released. It got to number 7 in the UK chart.
That’s the ten songs I’ve chosen but are there any others which you think should be included? Let me know about them in the comments below or just tell me what your favourites (2000s only for now please!) are.
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Songs About Japan From The 1990s’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Songs About Japan From The 1980s’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Songs About Japan From The 1960s and 1970s’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Music Videos Filmed In Japan’
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