Outside of an entire troupe of Korean idol imports, it’s quite possible that MAA may have been the hottest debut to hit the Japanese pop scene in 2010. This is not to say that her sales were particularly shocking (although #158 isn’t horrible), that her music met with an extraordinarily favorable reception from the general Japanese public, or even that she was my personal favorite of the year’s new artists, as NIKIIE, of course, remains my queen. But there’s no denying that half-American MAA is getting some serious love from outside the country, a phenomenon that may best be represented through the singer’s Twitter, of all things, where she’s been replying non-stop to Western fan tweets. When you consider that her Japanese tweets are largely directed at friends, it’s a pretty strange situation that leaves me wondering just where exactly her Japanese fanbase lies.

But that’s a topic for another time, I suppose.

Let’s just say that in the beginning, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t like her look — I’ve only recently been gradually growing accustomed to it — and her music, while admittedly perfectly good and irresistibly catchy dance-pop, had me on the fence. Did I really need one more of these chicks in my life? I couldn’t see the difference between her and the likes of mini or Ikio Ayaka, two artists I’ve never understood the appeal of, so I made the decision to let her go. Still, with just a single listen, I’d basically given her follow-up single “Ballerina Brain System” complete permission to worm its way into my heart. I knew that song was dangerous, and I knew that when I finally got the chance to hear the full thing, I’d most likely have to take back my words.

You’re reading this blog post, so you already know I was right.

In the interest of making a long story short, “Ballerina Brain System” was the song that I listened to for hours, trawling Google for days for any hint of the official lyrics having leaked, obsessing over the delicate, intricate details of her vocal delivery and, finally, loving on Last.fm (I don’t do this all the time!). It makes my world a better place. And, despite how much I grew to love her debut mini-album Monkey Kingdom as a whole, it is the song that defines MAA in my eyes. Part of that, I think, goes back to those same lyrics I mentioned before: they’re strikingly unique and unexpected for embodying, ultimately, the standard club theme of just letting go, forgetting everything and dancing. Simply put, little of what she has to say is revolutionary. But it’s the way she says it, with all of her ghosts and ballerinas and pony-PhDs, that makes it uniquely her own and therefore worth noting.

That’s where I found myself entering into the picture.

I chose to translate “Ballerina Brain System” because it lured me into MAA’s fabulous, carefree world of replaceable brains that make you into a ballerina and cause you to forget all of your troubles, and that, to me, was a vision that seriously had to be shared. I chose to finish it mostly because someone asked me to. The above video, which I wish I could’ve made, was then posted to YouTube unbeknownst to me after I’d shared the lyrics elsewhere.

Translating itself is something I’m learning about as I go. The first song I ever attempted was DJ KAORI‘s “S.A.Y.O.N.A.R.A” on a cold, lonely night in 2009 when I made a vocabulary list from the words in the song and suddenly realized that I could actually understand them as a cohesive story. What I consider to be my first so-called real translation, despite the fact that I also think of it as the worst thing I’ve ever done, was Saori@destiny‘s “Play” in early 2010 when I found the lyrics on a Japanese blog and realized, again, that I understood what was written there. Both incredibly exciting and thrilling discoveries at the time, naturally, but that time I got up the courage to share my work because I very earnestly believed that everyone should know exactly when the theme of enjo kosai had entered Saori’s discography. To this day, I stare at those lyrics and think, “What part of this can I change?” Unfortunately, the answer has always been nothing, because there’s nothing truly wrong with the translation I wrote. I just made it into something sterile and lifeless by so desperately trying to avoid exactly that: what could’ve made it wrong.

So when I sat down to translate “Ballerina Brain System” after eleven months of tenuous practice, I knew it couldn’t be completely serious and I knew it had to be fun. And fun was definitely what I had with it. Maybe there were parts that weren’t 100% accurate, maybe there were things I couldn’t see not being able to look at the original song with MAA’s own eyes, but I’m so glad I could read this silly story about a girl and a guy named Dr. Pony and play with inflections and just enjoy everything MAA put into this perfect song. And when I saw her responding to tweets from fans, I decided to go for it.

“I ♥ Ballerina Brain System!” I typed, conserving valuable character space with cute hearts as opposed to actual words. Hey, MAA was using them, so it couldn’t hurt. “I really like the lyrics so I tried to translate them. I hope you like it~”

I pasted in the YouTube URL, shortened appropriately to fit, and sat there.

I considered what she’d think, what she’d say to me, or if she’d even reply.

And then I sent it. A little while later, I got this back:

“wow!!! awesome!! I luv it…thx(^^)”

It made everything just a little bit more worth it.

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