Last time in J-Rock 101, we were treated to the mellow tones of Hyde and Gackt. I think you all are ready for someone a little bit more challenging (just a little bit, though---I'm not sure we're ready for the screamo artists yet, like Kyo from Dir en grey).
Kiyoharu's voice can be a bit of an acquired taste. Whereas in western music, any vocalist who sings with such a pronounced nasal tone and quirky vibrato would find it hard to find a recording contract, that sound's not uncommon among Japanese rock singers (Hakuei is another one with the same sound – they're hard to tell apart sometimes). And yet Kiyoharu's wildly popular in Japan both as lead vocalist for the bands Kuroyume and SADS and as a solo artist (yeah, he's older than he looks - he's 42).
I've avoided any of his rock-y songs in favor of this ballad that starts out more like something by Gordon Lightfoot or Jeffrey Foucault. The more I listened, understanding none of the lyrics but hearing that intensity, the more I was sure that this song wasn't some simple boy-meets-girl tale. So I poked around and found out my impression was right. According to Kiyoharu, his father was diagnosed in the final stages of pancreatic cancer so while he worked on this album (Forever Love), he often returned home to take care of him. He stated, "Because my father was the only one who approved of me becoming a musician, this is a work packed with my thanks, and I'll never forget it." I found the translated lyrics by Cayce on NotGreatestSite.net, and I have to say that after I read them, I was so moved by Kiyoharu's grief for his dying father that I cried.
I read the notebook that chronicled our days together,
I’ll break away from the grey sky, ah,
Your hand was weak holding mine,
You left me, saying “I’ll come again”… bye bye.
“The end was faster than we are,
Was it just that I wanted more time?”
I said, “I think I just gave up a little,”
I wanted to stop it, but it didn’t change.
complete lyrics here
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