Welcome to another installment of “It’s Not An A-Side”! This series underwent a hiatus for some time but hopefully you’ll be seeing a return of regular segments. This is an article where we will be featuring songs that weren’t released as an A-side. It’ll feature B-sides, album songs, theater songs, etc. Keep reading to see what song was featured this time!
Taking a step back from the driving beats that have engulfed AKS for the past couple of months, I want to focus on one of their more relaxed songs that holds a special place in my heart. This song is none other than “Ningyo no Vacance”, an album track on “Koko ni Ita Koto”.
When I was first exploring and probing into J-Pop and idol fandom, trying to find out more about the music and the girls, I decided to type into Google Search; “Who is the most popular group in Japan?” The overwhelming majority said AKB48. Looking at their discography, I was intimidated by the large number of singles (numbering 21 at that time) and went back to searching in hopes of finding a compilation album. Lo and behold, “Koko ni Ita Koto” had been released almost a month and a half before. I figured this was a good place to start.
Without going into too much detail about the other songs, this album was what really kicked my fandom into action. While it features powerhouse singles across the board, one of the songs that made the biggest impression on me was “Ningyo no Vacance”; featuring Takajo Aki, Nito Moeno, Yokoyama Yui, Kasai Tomomi, Kitahara Rie, Sato Amina, Masuda Yuka and a Tsunku male background wannabe.
Super chill, this song is strongly reminiscent of calm beaches, grass huts, mojitos and for some reason Takajo Aki doing the hula in a grass skirt and coconuts. Yum.
Fantasizing aside, this song stuck with me for so long for several reasons. For one, this song was so different from any other J-Pop song I had ever heard in terms of style. It was a welcome break in between the standard idol songs on the rest of the album, allowing you to take a break and relax. Also, although idols’ voices are never the best or particularly strong, they somehow work perfectly in this song. It’s as if the lack of strength blends in with the ‘chill factor’ this song keeps promoting. The Tsunku clone also adds body to the sound without having to grunt, making the vocals silky smooth.
My favorite part of ‘Ningyo no Vacance’ though would have to be the lyrics. I normally don’t pick apart lyrics just because it’s normally too tedious in a language I don’t fully understand, but these lyrics seem to evoke a certain desire that can be related to by any overworked idol or even any normal person.
Excerpted Lyrics (courtesy of stage48):
“Lulled by a hammock in the shade of palms
I can hear the pleasant guitar of the waves”
“Snacking on a strawberry
And yawning as I read paperback novels
A mermaid’s vacance
Sometimes I swim
To kill time
I want to spend a little time
Forgotten by everyone”
“Even the paparazzi chasing me every time
Won’t come here”
“Even if there’s a lot of unpleasant things
I’ll leave all of them and come here
I will definitely come back
When I’ve spent
Some time relaxing
My hurt body and soul
Should slowly get better”
“When my head becomes full
I will escape to here, paradise”
Chill lyrics to go with a chill song. I really like the lyrics in ‘Ningyo’ because they’re so relatable. The members are singing about their ultimate daydream, escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spending time in their own private tropical paradise. They have unusually demanding lives as idols, and I’m sure every single member from Senbatsu to Kenkyuusei would be able to connect with the desires expressed here.
Besides applying to idol lives, I feel as though everyone takes a bit away with them if they understand what the lyrics mean. Most everyone lives at least a mildly stressful life unless you’re a pampered kid living in the lap of luxury without a care, in which case, count yourself very lucky. We all want to relax and escape the rigors of earning a living or attending school and just fall into our own wonderland where no one can bother us, completely isolated from reality. For me, that’s what this song is all about, and if you have a stressful life, this song is probably for you too. I feel like I’m freaking trying to sell Oxy-Clean to idol fans.
To sum it all up, when you get tired of your exhausting schedule or sick of hearing a driving bass kick in your head, come retire to AKB’s island paradise; don your man-thong (or borrow Anthony’s), sink into a hammock, grab a strawberry daiquiri and relax with the quiet melody of ‘Ningyo no Vacance’ playing all around you.
That sums up all the great things about the song that I wanted to talk about. Check back next time for another installment of “It’s Not An A-Side”!