Kenshi Yonezu/Hachi - Every Day, May 28th, 2024 (Original Article)

How to Live With a "Brutally Frank Reality"? A Work Song About Living Through the Days With False Bravado

On May 27th, Kenshi Yonezu released his new song, Every Day, for streaming.

Every Day was written for a new Coca Cola Japan "Georgia" commercial. Starting with the striking line "Every day, every day, every day, every day, I've just been doing the best I can, and yet," this song deeply reflects Yonezu's own "everyday" - what his present way of life is like.

What feelings was Yonezu having in the course of completing this song? interviewed Yonezu to have him speak on the behind-the-scenes of the creation process.

— I feel that Every Day is a song that carries a sense of both excitement and urgency. The song is used for a new Georgia commercial, but did you write it after being contacted about doing a collaboration?

Yes. I took on a request to do a song for a commercial, continuing on from last year, and started making it because of that. That said, the tagline for the commercials remained the same: "The everyday can be quite dramatic." I remember thinking it was tricky to write a different song for the same theme.

— Last year, you released LADY as a song for a Georgia commercial. That commercial was aired for a long time; in writing a new song, were you thinking about how to differentiate it from LADY?

That I was. I didn't want to just make a song that was like "LADY 2." And yet doing all sorts of things, trying out songs with fundamentally the same mood, it kept becoming "LADY 2." Thinking "this isn't quite it," I wrote and scrapped, wrote and scrapped, over and over again. This was at a time when my workload was pretty intense too, so I was like "what am I even doing...?" In a sort of desperation, I spent every day groaning in front of a desk and not taking a single step away from it. It was like, "What am I doing day after day? I mean, I feel like I'm working pretty hard..." That's when I thought, "I can just make this into the song."

— I see. The song begins with the line "Every day, every day, every day, every day, I've just been doing the best I can, and yet" - so this was an honest shout from your own heart.

That's right. It had an energy like my soul screaming out.

At the time of LADY, you told us that "malaise" was a keyword, yet this song has more of an uplifting mood in comparison. How did it come to be that sort of song?

I've entered my thirties, and my thoughts and feelings have been changing in various ways. Upon turning 30, it felt like the chairman for The Game of Life came down and was like "This is what your 30 years of life have been like. Well then, please carry on." Like I suddenly got shown a bunch of stats. I've been doing the best I can, but while some of that has resulted in success, some of it's resulted in failure. Some aspects of me have grown up greatly, while others haven't grown in the least. Looking back at the life I've lived, I felt a sense of resignation that however much I struggled, however hard I worked, I would only be myself. To put it in a good way, I accepted it; to put it in a bad way, I became defiant. Part of me was purified by it, yet that said, it's not like it's made me able to do things I couldn't, so there are still difficulties before me. That being the case, more and more I started to feel "there's no time to be gloomy about it."

— I see. You can only be you.

Lately, I feel there are more people becoming conscious of such things. A while ago, there was the phrase "parental lottery" going around, with even people like Michael Sandel talking about it. The environment you were born into, your genetics, the funds your parents have - your aptitudes and abilities are to an extent defined by these things. But I think "even so, there's nothing to really be done about it, right?" Things like my talents, capabilities, and personality are partly decided by luck, and even if I experience some difficulty in life, there's no taking anything back at this point. Even if we're able to revise society in the future, nothing can be done for us who are alive right now. I believe that's a truly alarming thing, but if you ask me "what should we do, then?", I can only give a brutally honest response: you just have to recklessly give it your all. Even if your capability to work hard may itself be a talent, you still just have to do it. Whether it's school, or sports, or whatever, repeat it every day until your hands are numb. If it's soccer, keep kicking the ball, if it's studies, keep writing notes. If you have no social skills, go to a social place. Repeat the tedious simple things day after day. Even if they had no meaning, repeat them. Do the best you're able to do. If we're calling that "effort," then only effort can save you from hell. It really is a blunt statement, but my answer to how to live in that brutally frank reality is "just do it anyway."

— So a kind of defiance served as the motif for this song.

That's right. Every day is largely the same things on repeat, yet all I can do is defiantly say "but this is my life." An end-of-your-rope defiance, a desperate bravado. It's that sort of feeling.

— Was this partly motivated by the commercial's tagline of "The everyday can be quite dramatic"?

I wasn't all that conscious of it. Though indeed, the title is "Every Day," and the song starts with "every day, every day." I thought about what the title should be after finishing the song, and all I could think to say was "Every Day." So I wasn't consciously aware of it, but maybe there was an influence there.

— Let me ask about the song's tone. The mood carries a sense of EDM; what ideas did you have about the sound and the structure of the song?

I wasn't very conscious of any EDM-ness, myself. I did the arrangement this time with Yaffle, and actually, the demo track I made was a little more organic. As I was making it, Yaffle came back with something more like this. "Ahh, that's what we're going with, gotcha, OK," I said, and over time it happened to end up like this. Even the inclusion of the "every day" line at the start and end just came about naturally as I made things in order from the start. It wasn't like it was something I purposefully made to be that way, but rather was the result of taking things in order.

— Making the song, were there any parts that gave you lots of trouble, or where the appearance of a phrase felt like it opened a way forward?

The first line, for sure. "Every day, every day, every day, every day, I've just been doing the best I can, and yet..." I wrote that part in desperation. From there, I was almost like an automatic secretary, smoothly tracing out the rest. I thought I'd push through by brute force, and make it that kind of song. The chords also basically follow a single looped pattern; I didn't spend ages fussing over things, instead letting momentum carry me forward at a good tempo, then coming back.

— The second verse starts with the phrase "I look steadily at my hands." I imagine this is quoting Takuboku Ishikawa's "A Handful of Sand": "I toil on and on, work on and on in earnest, yet my livelihood can never be easier. I look steadily at my hands." Bye Now, See You Someday! also had a lyric quoting Santoka Taneda's "Drizzling, into drizzling mountains, I enter"; what was the intent behind this instance?

I didn't have any intentions, but maybe doing a quotation at the start of the second verse is a thing I'm into right now. Though compared to Bye Now, See You Someday!, quoting "I toil on and on, work on and on in earnest" in a song about a repetitive life of working every day felt like less of a leap, and more like an almost too perfect fit. Still, that sort of frankness seemed to fit the song.

— Did you have it in your mind that you were making this song as a kind of "work song"?

That's true, I was thinking about that. I don't think I've written songs about working much in the past. Maybe it's because I've become more of an adult, and my senses and awareness have been changing. My teens and twenties were largely having fun, an extension of the music I made for fun since childhood, so it had a bit of a dreamy feel to it. I don't think that's a bad thing, but maybe with there being more things I need to clear as an adult, or them changing form, part of me has become more conscious as I age about - though it's not fulfilling a responsibility or anything - "confronting a thing as a job."

— To make a work song for our era, I imagine you have to tie into the topic discussed earlier, where it's become a widespread feeling that luck and the circumstances of your birth partly decide what your capabilities are. People have diverse ways of being, and you can see the cards that everyone got dealt. Yet I believe what rises to the surface in this song is the feeling that "but you can't just mope about it; to be blunt, you just have to keep doing your best."

That's true. It really is a blunt truth... In my teens and twenties, I was fine just frantically getting to work on the things in front of me I should be doing. Though maybe it only feels that way because I have a fortunate life. While I was doing that, the chairman for The Game of Life told me "This is what your twenties were like." Since then, the parts of myself I can't do anything about have become more clearly visible in front of me.

— What parts would those be?

There are all kinds. I think they're things anyone has, like their personality, or natures they're born with, but when there's something you can't oppose as much as you try, it increasingly trails behind you the more you try to change it. In my teens and twenties, I'd been thinking "if I just do it, I'll make it work," but now I've come to an answer of "this is ultimately what I'm like," and I feel like I just have to consider how to live atop that foundation. I just have to get along with the guy trailing behind me.

— Let me ask about "how this song is to be listened to." With Bye Now, See You Someday!, you said you were conscious of how it would be listened to as the theme song for a morning drama, and with LADY, you went for something refreshing and light. So with Every Day, were you also conscious of making it a song that would fit into people's daily lives?

Hmm, no, I didn't consider it much this time.

— To put it another way, putting that first in your mind just got you stuck?

I said at the start I didn't want to make "LADY 2," but thinking back, because it was the song that would come next after Bye Now, See You Someday!, I had a notion of "don't do another morning-y song." Maybe that's why I kept coming up with an abundance of songs that were like "this sure ain't morning." As I turned down all of them with "this isn't it," "this isn't morning," "this isn't morning either," I went "forget it, there's no point thinking about it anymore." I wanted to produce a desperate false bravado - "bravado as a lethal weapon." That might be what it is. It may be "false," but cheerfulness is cheerfulness; when someone's as bright as the sun beaming down, perhaps it's only surface-level, but it's still there, I feel like. So maybe that's why it feels like there's no choice but to put on a smile.

— I think Every Day gives an entirely different impression if you only listen to the chorus compared to listening to it in full. People who only hear the chorus might take it as a song about breezy days, but listening to all of it, there's an incredible sense of urgency. Like the intro with the ambient train noises, ending with a vocal-only "These days - can I still love them, I wonder?"... I find the two "faces" of this song to be very meticulously constructed.

With that last "can I still love them, I wonder?", I actually thought about ending it in a slightly more obviously hopeful way. There was the option of ending it not with the uncertain "can I still love them, I wonder?", but with a definitive "I can still love them." But that felt incredibly fake to me. This is how my mind is currently, so it felt like I couldn't separate it from that. In the first place, I've lived my life repeatedly wondering whether I can love myself. I've thought a lot about what I can do to somehow change parts of me that can't be helped, but sure enough, there's indeed nothing to be done. Can I love myself or not? I'm repeatedly asking that over and over and going "today I can," "today I can't."

— I see.

Sometimes I think of my life like a long row of lightbulbs. The lightbulbs are all connected in series, and I have a switch in my hand. The lightbulbs are essentially my daily work, the things I've cultivated and built up in my life. And the switch in my hand, depending on my will or condition that day, might be on or might be off. Since they're in series, when it's off, they all go out. I'm not loving myself, so even the things I've cultivated, the lightbulbs I've hooked up, just appear spiteful to me. Meanwhile, if on a whim I flip the switch on, they all shine bright at once, and I can think "what a wonderful life I've had." It all depends on the switch in my hand. The repeated confirmation of whether I love myself or not has meant a lot to my life. "Can I love them, I wonder?" is an expression of something that's very much a day-to-day occurrence for me, and it does carry a hopeful nuance. That's sort of how it feels.

— Incidentally, you drew the cover art again. What was the idea behind this illustration?

I very often make songs picturing a scene, and that gives me something to go off of when drawing the cover, but this time I had nothing, so I was at a loss when told "please draw the cover." But there had been a staff member who remarked "this song's kinda like "Stepped on a Cat" (Der Flohwalzer)." I didn't really get what they meant, but the memory of being told "it's kinda cattish" stuck in my head, so I was like "well, guess I just have to draw a cat." It feels like that's its own kind of defiance, but that's my right as a person who draws his own covers for his songs. Even if it's something totally unrelated, I can just draw it and it's done. It really is nothing but simple defiance. But yes, that's why I drew a cat.

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