• Music

20th Century is back with a dreamy track

Tonisen has recently been back in the studio. The pop group comprising Masayuki Sakamoto, Hiroshi Nagano and Yoshihiko Inohara, officially called 20th Century, released its new song “Yumenoshima Serenade” (Dream island serenade) on streaming platforms. The track features a calm sound, as though expressing the group’s essence.

The trio’s nickname, Tonisen, derives from the Japanese pronunciation of the English phrase “20th century.” The group was formed by three older members of the popular six-person idol group V6, which disbanded after 26 years on Nov. 1.

The three were also active as members of Tonisen during their time with V6.

In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, the three discussed their new song and their plans, musical and otherwise, for the future.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Can you explain how you created “Yumenoshima Serenade”?

Sakamoto: It wasn’t like we were determined to make a fresh start. We talked about the future of our work with Tonisen and just agreed to go on at our own pace and not to get ahead of ourselves. We did so because we have both experience and skills from working in this field for a long time. And then we kind of agreed to sing after all. It was a bit of a slow start.

Inohara: Then we were asked to do the theme song for the TV police drama “Tokuso 9,” in which I appeared. Since the drama was broadcast at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, which is evenings in the middle of the working week for the average working person, we thought it would be nice to have an ending song with which people could sort out everything that has happened to them that week and prepare for the rest of the week going toward the weekend. We looked at a variety of songs, hoping for something that would make even people who are feeling depressed think about hanging in there and working on Thursday.

Nagano: It’s been a while since we last released a single. With the latest single, I think we were able to show who the three of us are now. With this song it wasn’t like, “We’re making a new start!” We thought it would be good to have lyrics that show who we are. And so we just chose something that sounded right to us.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: The song was written and composed by Keiichi Sokabe of the band Sunny Day Service. It’s a soft, folk song-like piece with positive lyrics that say, “Live today, love someone, you can’t give up,” for example.

Nagano: When I listened to a demo version of the song, I thought it would be better to have more harmonizing parts. So I worked on the song with that idea in mind. I find it easy to sing, even though there are some difficult elements.

Sakamoto: It’s not the type of song that you belt out, but rather a song where you slowly murmur your thoughts. The song is unobtrusive, and the lyrics are gentle. I think it is a song that listeners can be intimate with.

Inohara: It is the kind of song we could make only because of who we are now. It’s the kind of song you would sing in the middle of your life. If it were three years ago, I don’t think this song would have come our way.

An exciting place

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Has there been any changes since you started working as a trio?

Inohara: Although we did a variety of things over such a long period, there are still things that we have not done. There is something different between when we were in the group of six and now.

Sakamoto: I don’t feel that there has been any drastic change since we became a trio.

Nagano: I don’t think so either. There’s nothing I want to change, either. But we talk more about what we are going to do at what pace, for example. I think there will be more of this kind of discussion. When there were six of us, every time we worked on something, we thought about a lot of different things. There may be more such opportunities for us in the future as a group of three.

Sakamoto: Yes, we certainly have more opportunities to talk, don’t we? We talk about the future of Tonisen, or what we can do going forward based on our experiences.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: You have been taking on new challenges, and one of them is “Tonisen Road: Toriaezu Ittemiyo” (Tonisen road: Let’s go see), a program being broadcast on the streaming service Spoox. It is also aired on CS Fuji TV TWO. What do you envision for Tonisen in the future?

Inohara: I am thinking of ways for Tonisen to shine in a good way. I would like to communicate closely with the staff around us so that we can have their honest opinions. When you have worked in this field for a long time, you can be treated as a kind of authority. I would like to incorporate the opinions of younger people, too.

Nagano: I want to aim for “activities that we can continue to work on” without forcing things. I hope that Tonisen will be a place where the three of us can create and offer a lot of things together.

Sakamoto: I always feel that we are an exciting group. I felt so when we were in the group of six, too. We can go all out for both cool and silly things. We have a lot of opinions, but strangely enough, we come together as one and end up doing things that others haven’t done. I hope that Tonisen will become an exciting place where we can get together with the passion to create something great.