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Liner Notes: Team Surprise “Dessan”

These are the translated liner notes to the new AKB48 Team Surprise song “Dessan [Rough Sketch]”. The original source is here [LINER NOTE | デッサン公式サイト]

(I’m not sure about the name of the writer or a little bit of the musical explanation, however, it shouldn’t be too far off the mark)


It’s a song about getting into a fight over an insignificant thing,
with “I [boku]” being the one to step up and compromise.

Listening to this song, the first thing I thought was, “Ah, it’s 6/8”. “6/8” being a song in 6/8 time. “Let me see, are there any other AKB48 songs in this time signature?” but I couldn’t think of any offhand. Slow ballads in soul and country often use 6/8 time, but it’s an unusual rhythm for an idol pop song, because it can’t really be said that it’s suited for group dances.

Of the famous songs in 6/8 time, I soon thought of the following three. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, called “Futari no kizuna [Our Bond]” in Japanese. The version by Simply Red is famous. The original song is by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. This sweet ballad in 6/8 time is the example of examples. Next is “The End of the World”, titled in Japanese, “Kono yo no hate made [To the end of this world]”. The version by Brenda Lee is famous, but the original song is by Skeeter Davis. Skeeter’s version might just be one of the greatest masterpieces of idol pop ever. One more song, “When I Need You”, titled in Japanese “Haruka naru omoi [Distant Feelings]” is of course a ballad by Leo Sayer. There are also many covers of this song. Being that there are so many sweet, sweet love songs written in 6/8 time, it’s interesting that each of these has a complete Japanese translation.

When it comes to 6/8 in Japan, it has to be this song… RC Succession’s “Slow Ballad”, I suppose. Please try singing it at karaoke. The 6/8 in the A-melody of this song is the real deal.

Now then, in regards to our own AKB48 and songs in 6/8 time, hmm. There are 5 songs I can think of. The one song I can say firmly “This is in 6/8!” about is “Classmate”. From the intro, there’s a full sense that it’s a ballad in 6/8. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll explain little by little. When I say “6/8”, it means it has a rhythm where “within one bar of music, there are 6 8th notes”. “Don ta taa tsu ta taa” is what the rhythm is like. However, you shouldn’t think that you can reduce it to 3/4 time. “3/4 time” is, in a word, a “waltz”. There are 3 beats. However, since “6/8 time” is comprised of “two measures of 3 notes”, we can go as far as to say that these are two different time signatures.
It’s a totally different, unusual rhythm, but one that is just right for ballads.

The other four songs are “Haru ga kuru made”, “Mushi no ballad”, “Yokaze no shiwaza”, and “Noel no yoru”. The feeling that it’s in 6/8 time isn’t quite as strong, but it’s there when you count it off. As suspected, they’re all ballads.

This preface has become rather long. Let’s get into introducing “Dessan”. It’s got that “don ta taa tsu ta taa” rhythm from the intro. An instrument that sounds like an electric sitar goes “piyooon”. Takahashi Minami begins singing. After half of the A-melody, Sashihara Rino starts singing. It’s easy to recognize both of their voices, so you’ll know instantly who’s singing which part.

The song’s structure is simple. “A melody, B melody, chorus” are repeated twice, and after the second time around the D-melody (grand chorus) starts. And then a repeat of the chorus. The singing keeps going without interlude. What’s this? This arrangement is a little more elaborate. Earlier, with a self-satisfied expression (although I didn’t actually have one) I said that “6/8 time and 3/4 time have different rhythms”, but what about the arrangement of this duet?? Certainly, it progresses in 6/8 time through the A-melody and B-melody, but the chorus feels different. No matter how you look at it, the chorus takes a “3 beat waltz” rhythm. “Zun cha chaa zun cha chaa” is a waltz. Doesn’t your body just want to sway with the tempo of this song’s chorus, which appears to be a slightly quick tempo waltz?

I’ve got it now. It’s the “downbeat”. Though the tempo hasn’t changed, the way the bass is played has changed. When we enter the chorus, the bass doubles (1 bar is played twice). According to that, the beginning of the verse becomes “zun”, and it starts to feel like a waltz. It’s certainly an arrangement that takes fearsome skill. If this was a quiz, that was a trick question I was on the verge of getting stuck on. By the way, I can’t think of any waltzes in AKB48’s repertoire besides “Honehone waltz”, but I wonder if there are any.

The characters in the lyrics are “I [boku]” and “you [kimi]”, a couple. It’s a song about getting into a fight over an insignificant thing, with “I [boku]” being the one to step up and compromise. “You [kimi]” seems to be dancing in a ballet classroom. Because “you” gave “me” a giggle, it seems the two were able to reconcile peacefully.

The MV has some considerably complex creations. The models and constructions on the set must have been planned out in advance, and even though it’s a duet between Takahashi and Sashihara, it matches each of their separate movements, rotating with them, so the two of them can’t ever meet. The world created in the lyrics also tries to show the listener a picture of this feeling of passing each other by, making it a very ambitious production. Even the costumes – Takahashi Minami in white, Sashihara Rino in black – help create a contrast. When this song, “Dessan”, is performed live, I would like to see the return of the revolving set, if possible. I want to see it live.

-Ishigami Gen


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