Japanese song

Japanese song unpredictably became a huge hit among TikTokers – and their parents

@ arisa.teo / TikTok

In November 1979, 19-year-old Japanese singer Miki Matsubara released her debut single “Mayonaka no Door – Stay With Me” – a song that came to define the city’s pop genre in Japan. Now, over 40 years later, her song has resurfaced and become a huge hit – all thanks to TikTok.

So how did an obscure song from Japan become such a huge international hit? According to Billboard’s Ryohei Matsunaga, it’s thanks to Indonesian YouTuber Rainych Ran. The cover singer, who has more than 1.35 million subscribers on the video-sharing platform, first released her rendition of Matsubara’s song on October 29, 2020.

“For me personally, every time I listen to it or sing it, I have the impression of traveling in a very old period, an experience of which I can only imagine its beauty in all its complexity”, a Ran writes in a long description of his cover. “To be honest, when I first started working on the cover art, I felt nervous about whether I could deliver the song while making sure to maintain its emotion and energy.”

But Ran’s concerns turned out to be unfounded – her coverage has since received more than 1.26 million views. This, in turn, sparked intense interest in the original version in Indonesia, Matsunaga points out. From there, the song’s popularity spread to countries outside of Indonesia (most notably the United States, where the song’s streams on Apple Music and Spotify increased significantly).

Around the same time, a number of TikTok users shared Matsubara’s hit song. While it’s not clear who actually shared the single first, the song appeared to peak in popularity on the social media platform on December 10, 2020, when user @ arisa.teo shared the her mother’s reaction to an excerpt from the song.

“They said 80s Japanese women knew this song,” the text overlay reads.

The user then walks over to his mother, asking if she recognizes him. Nostalgic, the mother nods without hesitation before entering in chorus.

The TikTok, which has been viewed over 23 million times and liked over 6 million times, sparked similar videos in which other users tested their mother’s familiarity with the song.

Who is Miki Matsubara?

Matsubara was a Japanese composer and musician from Osaka who rose to fame after the release of “Mayonaka no Door – Stay With Me”. As Matsunaga notes, the song was written by Tokuko Miura and the music was composed by Tetsuji Hayashi.

At the time of the song’s debut, Matsubara’s entry into music marked the next generation of singers who would shape urban pop. The genre draws inspiration from Western influences and embodies what Matsunaga describes as the “cosmopolitan lifestyle” to which many young Japanese adults aspire.

Matsubara’s song peaked at No. 28 on the music charts when it was released. The artist will then release other hits, including “Neat na Gogo 3 ji” and “THE WINNER”. None, however, have reached the level of success that Matsubara’s debut did – for years the song has been a DJ’s favorite.

Sadly, Matsubara passed away in October 2004 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Why is Matsubara’s song so popular among non-Japanese people?

In an interview with Matsunaga, Yohei Hasegawa, a DJ, attributed the popularity of the song in the West to the one and only phrase in English: “Stay with me”.

“The English phrase ‘stay with me’ falls into the chorus,” he told Matsunaga. “To capture the interest of non-Japanese listeners, it’s always necessary to have a straightforward English phrase in a place where you want people to focus on a song. That, plus the song’s underlying homage to western music begins to connect like a puzzle and there’s some sort of vast drama out there that uplifts people everywhere, even if they don’t understand the meaning. Japanese lyrics.

For a full translation of Miki Matsubara’s hit single, click here.

If you liked this story, check out this article on the artist behind another TikTok hit, “If I Back It Up.”

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