One morning in the subway, I almost cried.
It was the song playing on my mp3 player – a Japanese song called ‘Motherland’ by a half-Korean half-African American singer, Crystal Kay. I’ve had this song on my playlist for more than 5 years, but I’ve never paid any attention to it. I always thought that it was just a good song by a good singer – beautiful melody, and strong vocals.
This is a perfect example of how I judge songs; I only listen to the melody. It seems that I’ve grown to ignore lyrics. It’s probably because I’m too jaded from American music; the lyrics are always about sex, drugs, rock and roll. You know, I really don’t need to profess my sex life to the whole world with a Billboards Top 100 hit. So, I don’t see why they need to. And no, I don’t know and don’t want to know what it’s like to have a cocaine addiction or jam in a band.
So, I turned my attention to Korean and Japanese music in 1999. The same great melody, and I have absolutely no idea what they’re singing about. Perfect. But after a decade later, I learned Korean, and watched enough Japanese animes to understand some of the lyrics anyway. The irony.
After the 5 years of leaving Crystal Kay’s Motherland to collect virtual dust, I finally understood its lyrics. What beautiful lyrics that explain my life and my fears! The sorrow of leaving a place, friends and family. The need to know that I have a place to return. The need to feel connected. The patriotism I have never felt. All expressed is very simple Japanese – simple enough for someone like me who’s never learned Japanese ever to understand.
That is why I couldn’t hold back my tears.
In the end, I took our my glasses and silently teared behind the safety of the lens.
So what do you listen to when you listen to music? The lyrics or the melody? Has any song ever touched you?
Crystal Kay – Motherland
This is also the ending song for popular Japanese anime Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi). Enjoy!