Kenshi Yonezu (米津玄師) who began his musical career under the name “Hachi” (ハチ) has over the years released an incredible amount of hit songs, appearing in commercials, drama series, anime, and much more. Regardless of where you first discovered his music—whether it was during his earlier years in the band Late Rabbit Edda, his Vocaloid career, or simply as “Kenshi Yonezu”—there is one particular song that stands out, the bitter “Lemon“.
The music video Lemon has as of today hit 500 million views, making this Kenshi Yonezu’s most viewed video on YouTube and is way ahead of his currently second most popular video Eine Kleine, with “only” 235 million views.
Achievements and recognition
The hit song Lemon ranked at number one on Billboard’s Japan Hot 100 Year-End two years in a row—2018 and 2019—which is a list combining radio airplay and sales figures. However, YouTube views will play a significant role soon as next year on January 3. 2020, Billboard will start including YouTube views to its album chart.
Lemon was uploaded on February 26, 2018, and has earned more than 1.78 million likes and a mere 90 thousand dislikes (~5%), accompanied by 171,000 comments. It was released as a single on March 14, 2018, coupled with the B-side songs Cranberry to Pancake, and Paper Flower. Now sitting at 4.59 million subscribers, the YouTube channel has more than doubled its size since last year around the same time.
- 3,500,000 sales, both physical and digital combined.
- Fastest certified 3 million downloads in Japan.
- 85 consecutive weeks at number one on the Oricon karaoke ranking.
- Crowned number one in 18 charts during 2019.
The story behind Lemon
The seeds of Lemon were planted when Kenshi Yonezu received the offer to write the theme song for the show Unnatural, a forensic drama series involving deaths in unnatural circumstances. According to the interview conducted by Crunchyroll, the song was to take on the direction of “something that tenderly wraps around people who are hurt” but ended up simply being a song expressing “I am sad that you are gone”. The main reason for that was because Kenshi Yonezu’s grandfather passed away while he was working on the song.
Slipping into this unpleasant state, he didn’t have the capability to bestow people a “tenderly wrap” anymore when he himself was drowned in sadness, causing the song to shift towards a more personal direction.
It totally offset my previous perception on death, and therefore I had to build the concept all over again. And before I knew it, it turned out to be a very personal song.
Perhaps it is why his vocals are so genuine when expressing the grief and melancholy of his lyrics, resonating with his listeners and allowing them to become surprisingly attached to it.
It is also interesting that the song initially received the working title Memento before the phrase “a bitter flavor of lemon lingers on in my heart” flashed through his mind while working on the lyrics. From there, the metaphor of “a bitter lemon” representing sorrow and death gradually manifested itself. This also served as a less fulsome way to delve into the heavy topic by making lemon “an icon of death”. With the same reasoning, the working title Memento was naturally phased out.
Lemon is without a doubt an expressive and interesting song, we were however positively surprised to see how incredibly far this song has been able to travel, something we never expected!
From first gaining success with Vocaloid to branching out to the mainstream media, Kenshi Yonezu’s potential seems almost limitless! Even the creator of Hatsune Miku, Hiroyuki Itoh, acknowledged his success during our interview last year. We can’t wait to see what other dents he will bring to the music industry.
Were you expecting such a meaningful story behind the song Lemon when you first heard it? Let us know what you think in the comment section!