Communication breeds connection. Often, you feel like you don’t know someone if you can’t speak their language but there are times when no language barrier can shatter a genuine connection. Speaking to Japanese pop sensation Gen Hoshino appears on Skype video call alongside his translator (Jin Otabe) about his English debut EP, the message of his music and his inspirations, there was never a lull in conversation.
With a constant smile and genuine investment in the questions he was being asked, Gen begins the interview by talking about the inspiration behind the EP. He explains “The inspiration of Same Thing is society – or the world – itself. I’m not only talking about Japan but also the whole world. I think everybody in the world is stressed out. Everybody is suffocating and also feeling anger.
“Of course, there is love, and some people know how to be kind to each other in this cruel world, but most of them are just building up the stress. I wanted to release and, most importantly, share those rage and pain with music. And I wanted to sing those feelings together happily with love.”
This message of love and happiness is one the world needs right now; as Gen hopes his music reminds people they are not alone. Delving deeper into what he wants listeners to take away from his work, he says “ Music is like magic. It can express something you cannot tell by the words or feelings you cannot explain. Each person has a different experience, even though they listen to the same song. I want to make a song in which each person reminds their own different circumstances, faces, or feelings.
“I truly hope my songs will be part of someone’s life. I want people to feel better about themselves. I want people to feel that they want to meet somebody. I want people to listen to my music while you are with someone you like or love. When someone listens to my music when they are alone, I want them to feel that they are not alone after all, or it’s not too bad to be lonesome. Yeah, so like I said, I want to be part of various people’s different lives.”
“I have always felt an exciting uncertainty in my whole career but that I thrive on that unpredictability”
Moving on from what he wants people to feel from his music, to his own feelings about it Gen- who is also an actor- reveals that he started the job he loves so much when he was only 13 years old. Whether his collaboration with Superorganism on the title track of the EP or his co-headline show at Yokohama Arena with Mark Ronson at the end of last year, he explains “I have always felt an exciting uncertainty in my whole career but that I thrive on that unpredictability.”
This ability to take and enjoy risks explains his foray into singing in a foreign language. Explaining the process he says,“ I think the way of singing or vocalizing in Japanese and in English is an entirely different process. It is difficult to put meaning on one sound in Japanese. You need several notes to make sense of when you are singing in Japanese. However, in English, you can sing a word in one note. For example, “Thing,” “Song,” or “Love,” and so on. Of course, those differences effects on content or message of the song. I had never tried to write or sing a song in English before, so I really wanted to try out something new.”
While he seems to have had fun with it – revealing how he felt the experience broadened his range of music – he is also not shy about admitting the challenges faced. He explains, “People tend to think that you can translate exact same meaning of the words into other languages, but I think that is not entirely true. Each language has its own unique feelings and image that you cannot understand when its translated in other languages.”
Over the past few years, the global appeal of the Asian music industry – be it K-pop/hip-hop, J-pop or Chinese pop music- has increased, spreading far and wide. But a trend that’s quite common is the expectation of these artists – and their management- that fans worldwide will make the effort to learn their language. Gen, however, is refreshing in his genuine attempts to communicate with his fans in a language they understand.
Fascinated by the open-minded themes and messages of foreign music, film and art, Gen reveals his desire to bring the modern reality of the world to the conservative Japanese culture. He says, “I’ve often noticed that one of the central themes of foreign films and dramas is “new family.” Some are not blood-related, some are not traditional, but they are all family. In Japan, we don’t see those motifs and themes very often. I think it should be illustrated more in music and other arts in Japan.”
“I want to be rooted in reality, and remind people that a love song doesn’t have to define a relationship between boys and girls. Heterosexual relationships aren’t the only ones to exist – these past few years, I have been writing my songs in this context.”
In today’s world where almost everyone is generally aware and accepting, this statement may not come across particularly unique. But for someone like Gen, whose upbringing in a relatively narrow-minded culture could easily explain away – if not excuse – any potential lack of understanding when it comes to topics like LGBTQ+, he is incredibly awe-inspiring with his accepting nature.
With so much love to give, it’s no surprise at all that there are many people around the world – as proven by the warm reception he mentions he received at his Shangai concert -who love him in return.
Gen ends an hour-long conversation full of deep observations and light-hearted laughter, by expressing his heart-warming wish,” to communicate with a lot of people from all over the world through my music.”
An absolute pleasure to listen to, chat with and understand,despite the fact we don’t speak a single sentence in each other’s language, Gen finishes off – leaving you want more time with him- by sending a young fangirl heart fluttering with joy when he exclaims that his final wish for the future aside from all the popstar goals, “ I want to meet you!”.