Kenshi Yonezu/Hachi - KICK BACK Gold Award, November 2nd, 2023 (Original Article)

On the Occasion of KICK BACK's Monumental Gold Certification by an American Record Association

Kenshi Yonezu's KICK BACK received a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This marks the first Japanese-language song in history to be given their gold certification.

KICK BACK was written as the opening theme for the TV anime Chainsaw Man, with Kenshi Yonezu being responsible for the lyrics and composition. It drew attention for inviting Daiki Tsuneta (King Gnu, millennium parade) on as a co-arranger, as well as its sampling of Morning Musume's "Sou da! We're ALIVE." Additionally, the music video, directed by photographer and film director Yoshiyuki Okuyama, stars Yonezu alongside Tsuneta. The impact of seeing the two of them working out together, and the shocking twists that unfold one after another, were also significant in its spread.

We decided to again speak with Kenshi Yonezu about this song, which has crossed national borders to achieve record-breaking reach.

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Gold Certification
A certification awarded to songs that achieve 500,000 "units" domestically. 1 unit represents 1 digital single, or 150 streams via on-demand video.

— First of all, simply put, what feelings did you have when you learned about the gold certification?

I was glad. I simply believe I owe it to Chainsaw Man. It doesn't feel especially real to me, but at any rate, I was glad.

— Given this is an achievement you've made in the American market, what sorts of feelings do you have about the music scene or listeners in America?

I've listened to American pop music frequently since I was a child, so I think it's truly joyous that I've been accepted there. I'd like to ask face-to-face what kinds of people are taking a liking to me. I've still never been to America, but I am thinking that it might be nice to go there for a concert or something someday.

— KICK BACK was written as the opening for the TV anime Chainsaw Man. You told us you already had an attachment to the original manga, but how do you feel about the work these days?

Chainsaw Man's serialization is still ongoing as we speak, so I'm reading it every week without fail. It's always entertaining, and I truly think it's a rare breed of manga. As a creator of pop songs, it's an incredible honor to be involved with such a fantastic work, and I think I'm feeling that even more day by day.

— Let me ask once more about your experiences back when you made the song. Looking back, what idea did you have in your head for what you wanted to make?

First off, I remember this feeling of "I can't make something half-hearted - the manga's a truly incredible work, so I don't want my involvement to just spoil it." And personally, I feel like I got to have a blast with it. It was a job, but at the same time, particularly including my exchanges with King Gnu's Daiki Tsuneta who worked on the arrangement with me, it felt like playing around with friends. I think back on it fondly now as a really fun time. My time making KICK BACK was brimming with a mood of goofing off, or like, thinking "let's just go hog-wild." I'm getting a strong desire now to do this sort of thing again.

— KICK BACK received the RIAA's first gold recognition of a song with Japanese lyrics. How do you feel about a Japanese song crossing national borders to spread overseas?

I've lived 32 years as a Japanese person, earnestly surrendering my identity to the Japanese language. So when I'm making music, too, the methodology in my head, the things I want to do, my joy when singing and performing, I sense that all of them are deeply tied to Japanese. That's what works best for me. Or to take it further, my superpowers can't take effect with anything else. So I've always believed it's best to be confronting myself in that way. Yet the fact that it's somehow reaching people overseas - in this case, people in America... honestly, I don't really get it at all. Which is why I'd like to meet people who like this song and talk with them directly.

— I believe music carries feelings and energies that come through even if you don't understand the words. What do you think about that, in regards to this song?

Myself, I often listen to songs where I can't understand what they're saying but think "this is kinda good." Lately I've had a strong desire to value that sort of feeling. When I look at social media, I fear that if the attitude of finding a singular value or meaning in something becomes normalized, people might lose sight of those fundamental aspects. So if there are people who don't know Japanese listening to this song and thinking "this is kinda good," I believe it was worth making. I'm grateful if it's being viewed in that way.

— There are many overseas comments on the music video as well. It's a pretty impactful video; what do you think, looking back on its filming?

I think it's truly blessed that Director (Yoshiyuki) Okuyama-san was able to realize such a wonderful music video. For about two or three years, I'd been in a mode where I'd put humor and funny bits in my songs and videos, and in doing so get an objective view of myself to change my creative direction, but after making the KICK BACK video, I felt there was no beating that. It was that sort of epoch-making event. I felt like I'd done the most I could.

— How do you think you would describe KICK BACK's place in your career?

Like I said, it's a song that put an end to one of my "modes," and a song that stirred up my own objective image of myself. Making this song also reconfirmed many things for me. It struck me that this was the sort of work everyone had been hoping for, and that I was a person who liked this kind of stuff. Taking everything together, it ended up being a really important song.

— What are you thinking about your future prospects?

Just recently, I went on a vacation abroad and had a really good experience. Not in the sense of "for my career" or anything, but like, the experience of being in a city built by people who speak a different language and grew up in a completely different culture. I have a real interest in that, I guess, or just... I dunno what it is. I just want to make good things. If I can do that, then that's great. If my feelings aren't changing bit by bit like that from how they were before, I get the feeling I won't be able to make good things anymore either. I think I should have fun doing something. And if there are things that need doing to achieve that, then I want to knock them out right away.

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