TOKION SONG BOOK #6:Japanese Breakfast “Savage Good Boy” symbolizes the dividing The States society

Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast has proved her ability in two Japan tours and attracts attention with each release.Also it’s big news that her memoir, an American Korean, debuted as No. 2 on the New York Times’ Hardcover Nonfiction Best Seller.She is a multi-talented person who directs music videos herself, and her songs have a complicated world, and one of the attractions is the fun of reading them one by one.

When explaining this series to someone, I use the word English “popular song”. This expression can be given the old-fashioned impression.The reason I’ve chosen this words is that when I started the series, I wondered if I could read the popular new songs of Western music in my own way and convey the everyday life and society that I feel in the States. And, unlike talking about the composition of the song itself, singing, playing, and their careers, I was wondering if I could write something that involved the “flow” of the times.(One of the reasons is that I am not a critic or writer specializing in music, so I lack knowledge of music theory and musical instruments).

Michelle Zauner, Unleash her potential as a writer

Listening to “Savage Good Boy” from Michelle Zauner’s project Japanese Breakfast new album “Jubilee”, it makes us feel like the States is finally at a turning point for a new era.Zauner, who has a Korean mother and a Jewish-American father, not only plays music, but also writes. She wrote her autobiography, “Crying in H-Mart,” part of which was published in The New Yorker and published by the major literary publisher Knopf. And she was recently on the New York Times bestseller list. Such a great sense of Zauner and her writing ability can be found in this song.

For example, in the middle of the song, the lyrics “They’re the stakes in the race to win” appear. This “race” indicates a fierce competition for survival. On the other hand, As the lyrics of “They’re the stakes in a race to live”, this race has meaning of “human species”. These lyrics show us her outstanding skill in the choice of words.More striking point than nifty expressions is deep insight into the subject. From the derisive song title “Savage Good Boy”, I guessed the song’s subject dealing with misogyny, but the listeners appeal to the deeper part by reading the lyrics.

I want to be your savage good boy
I want to take care of you
When everybody’s gone
Want you to be the one that I come home to
The one that’s up waiting
I want to make the money ’til there’s no more to be made
And we will be so wealthy, I’m absolved from questioning
That all my bad behavior was just a necessary strain
They’re the stakes in the race to win
I’ve got a five year plan
I’ve got a pension and six condos
A billion dollar bunker for two
And when the city’s underwater
I will wine and dine you in the hollows
On a surplus of freeze dried food
I want to make the money ’til there’s no more to be made
And as the last ones standing, we’ll be tasked to repopulate
And as you rear our children, know it’s the necessary strain
They’re the stakes in a race to live

(Lyrics from Japanese Breakfast “Savage Good Boy”)

Instead of respecting the other person’s will, without confirming it, the lyric narrator says, “I’ll take care of you, so just follow me without saying anything.”This claim is selfish and even emotional dependence. What caught my eye was “A billion dollar bunker for two”.The George Floyd case, in which a white policeman killed a black man in Minnesota in the central United States during a corona pandemic last year, has evolved into protests across the United States and has been reported even in Japan.The capital D.C.was no exception to the anger of the people that ignited in the wake of the incident.It was “bunker” that was mentioned when media reports that former President Donald Trump had temporarily evacuated to “protect his safety” during a large-scale and fierce protest.

The former president was criticized for his selfish attitude and behavior, neither facing the demonstrators nor listening to their claims. It seems to be ridiculing it with these words, along with the childish chorus of the introductory part. If you’re on my side, spare no expense, and give you luxury life. Such an arrogant attitude and misogyny certainly overlap with the general perception of Trump.

Division that swirls throughout modern society

However, the setting of an apocalyptic world, which is reminiscent of a dystopian novel and shows only interest in the protection of oneself and one’s family, expresses the “division” that swirls throughout modern society rather than criticism of a specific person.In other words, if you are obedient to either side of the opposition, you are promised to distribute wealth, but if you disagree or take a rebellious attitude, you do not even guarantee life. Here you can see the social trend that fuels such polarization.If it was last year, this social trend might have been received differently even if it was the same song. It’s just my imagination, but I think she felt unfocused when the division that was happening in the real world was struck in the world of music.

Of course, even now, the division in the States continues. In particular, political conflicts have become a norm, but it seems to me that the people of this country are exhausted by their hostility and even hatred.The large-scale infection of the new coronavirus has hit many fields from medical care to the economy. And early this year Trump supporters demolished the statehouse, putting it at risk of undermining democracy.

To resolve this situation requires the cooperation of as many people as possible, including the expansion of vaccination.From her song, it can be said that the United States is beginning to realize that even if there are disagreements, it will not be possible to get out of the stagnation of society if deep-seated divisions continue.This song, which has the theme of division, seems to be asked how to get out of this situation that continues even now, rather than a feeling of despair or blockage.Based on recent experience, the image of that the States come to me, which is welcoming a new trend of the times, will build a milestone to build the future.

Illustration Masatoo Hirano
Edit Sumire Taya


Sumire Taya

Born in 1985. With a focus on female musicians, artists, and actresses, she has been translating, editing and writing, and working on the "Girlside" project at dischunion, drawing on her experience running the record and clothing store "Violet And Claire".She has supervised the translation of Alexa Chan's “It” and “Rookie Yearbook” series. She is the author of "Female Complex", "Indy Pop Lessons" and "New Kyoto".