Billboard’s sister organization Billboard Japan announced its 2018 mid-year charts (tracking weeks Nov. 27, 2017 through May 27, 2018) and Kenshi Yonezu’s long-running hit “Lemon” seized the No.1 spot on the Hot 100. To celebrate the hitmaker's Hot 100 success--he landed a whopping 7 songs on the mid-year charts including a joint track with DAOKO “Uchiage Hanabi” which he produced--Billboard Japan spoke to Yonezu about his thoughts on “Lemon”, music charts and what a hit means to him.
“Lemon” is the No.1 song on Billboard Japan's 2018 mid-year Hot 100 chart.
Kenshi Yonezu: I wrote it hoping that it would reach as many people as possible so I’m overwhelmed to think that I’m now in a position to make that a reality. I’m very grateful.
2018 has been a great year for you so far, with your latest album “BOOTLEG” released last year, spending 28 consecutive weeks on Billboard Japan's Hot Albums chart as well as “Uchiage Hanabi” which you produced, logging 40 consecutive weeks on the Hot 100 since August 2017. Do you get the sense that your songs have started to penetrate society? If so, was there a specific moment you felt this way?
Yonezu: I don’t really know how my music has been streaming around town since I rarely walk around anywhere busy. The number of views on YouTube may be the place where I actually feel my song’s popularity the most.
“Lemon” went viral on Twitter when it was first announced it would serve as a theme song for an upcoming TV drama series and still continues to ride high on the Japan Hot 100 mainly on the downloads and video view matrix. What do you think the role of a music video is, in terms of conveying music?
Yonezu: I think music videos are an important tool that complement a song. They help add elements that may not necessarily come through in the music itself and is crucial in taking on the role of delivering a new side to the song.
In order to accurately measure the popularity of a song, the Billboard Japan Hot 100 combines physical and digital sales, downloads, streaming counts, Twitter mentions and video views on YouTube and GYAO!. How do you listen to music on a daily basis?
Yonezu: Lately, I mainly listen to music via watching videos on YouTube. I hardly listen to music while I'm walking around the city.
Any songs that piqued your interest recently?
Yonezu: My recent favorite is Dirty Projectors’ “Break-Thru”. Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” also impressed me. I like Drake’s “Nice For What” too.
Do you keep track of any music charts?
Yonezu: I don't mean this in a negative way but since I live in an environment where I hear about the charts just by going about my day, I see them even if I don't want to. I do consciously try to keep my distance when it wears me out though.
What do you think of Billboard Japan’s music charts, which combines several data matrixes?
Yonezu: Diversifying viewpoints is a great thing. In regards to my own career, I do want it to gradually change from it being "how do I shift CD sales"?
Do you think that music charts are necessary?
Yonezu: The world would be a boring place if they became everything but I do think an intelligible index such as a chart is necessary. I believe it could be an opportunity to delve deeper into music.
When you are making music, do you think about if the song will be a hit?
Yonezu: As long as you are an artist signed to a major record company or management, it would be unwise to make music ignoring whether it will be a hit or not. Though, it's different for every release, the thought is always there. I like pop songs to begin with. In order to make a hit, I work with my team and pave a way for it to be heard--they are both a part of my music career.
What does a hit mean to you?
Yonezu: I think it's a phenomenon that is born when the vibe of that era and timing aligns perfectly. Even though “Lemon” became a hit, I feel like it's just a coincidence of different factors coming together and that feeling grows with each passing day after its release.
To whom would you like to deliver your music to in the future?
Yonezu: As always, the people who have supported my music of course, but also to those who have not had a chance to discover it yet. I want my music to be open to everyone.
"Lemon" Music Video: