LiSA’s “Gurenge” is the No. 1 song on Billboard Japan’s year-end Hot Animation of the Year 2020 chart.
The theme of the animated series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, which has become something of a social phenomenon in Japan, was released in July 2019. The dynamic rock number ended that year at No. 3 on the Hot Animation list, and its popularity shot the veteran anime songstress into the J-pop mainstream.
“Gurenge” gained momentum after her first-ever appearance on the prestigious Kohaku Utagassen year-end live music extravaganza last year, and went on to become a long-running favorite that topped the weekly Animation list 38 times during the tallying period for the 2020 year-end chart (Nov. 25, 2019 to Nov. 22, 2020).
LiSA reacted to the news over e-mail exclusively to Billboard Japan, sharing her thoughts on her massive chart-topper, writing songs specifically for anime works, goals for 2021 and more.
“Gurenge” led Billboard Japan’s Hot Animation of the Year chart and landed at No. 3 on the year-end Japan Hot 100 list. How do you feel about these results?
LiSA: It makes me happy that so many people are enjoying my songs along with the works of anime.
You wrote this track as the opening theme for the TV anime series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. How did the narrative inspire you when you created the song?
I tried placing myself in the shoes of the protagonists, who keep forging ahead despite their tragic pasts.
Your follow-up track, “Homura,” which serves as the theme of the movie version of the series (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train), broke the weekly streaming record on Billboard Japan’s streaming chart this year and is already ranking at No. 9 on the year-end Japan Hot 100. How do you interpret the expansion of your connection with the now-ubiquitous series?
I’ve been involved in numerous anime works, and “Homura” was another song that I wrote by putting a lot of thought into the work it would accompany, just like every other track that I’ve released. That it happened to show me a future that went beyond my expectations makes me feel as though it has given me and my past self a huge boost in self-confidence. I’m truly grateful.
Could you share some of the things you think are particular to writing songs for anime, such as what you expect from these tie-ins, elements you pay particular attention to, specific difficulties you might face, and so on?
Like I said, I always try to tackle the anime in a sincere way and put a lot of thought into it, and sing what I feel is genuine in an uncompromising way. The opening visuals are usually created after my song is done, so the difficulty and appeal of the process lie in the part where I interpret the original manga or whatever to compose the music based on what I imagine from it. It feels like the completed visuals are a collaboration with the anime and the people involved in creating it.
Tell us a bit about your latest album, Leo-Nine.
It includes “Gurenge” and is an album released in a year that’s unlike any other. It’s packed with songs about the valor of facing up to adversity as well as the courage of coming to terms with your circumstances, and the strength of staying true to yourself in life.
“Homura” hit the top 10 on Billboard’s new global charts: the Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. What are your thoughts on delivering your music to an international audience? Since you sing mostly in Japanese, what are some of the things listeners outside of Japan would enjoy from your music?
I’ve performed numerous times outside of Japan, and each time I’ve felt that the local audiences love my music along with the anime it accompanies despite our differences in languages and nationalities. I was strongly reminded of this when “Homura” hit the Billboard global charts. Even if they can’t understand the words, I hope my audiences enjoy the beauty of the melody, the exhilarating beat and vocal sounds, and the emotions that reflect and enhance the world of the anime the music is linked to.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the music industry in a major way. In what ways were you personally affected by it, and how did it make you feel?
I had acoustic concerts and arena and dome engagements lined up for 2020 that all had to be postponed. I had to make deliberate decisions each time while being sensitive about the current state of things throughout the year.
This year renewed my appreciation of the value of being able to go see the people you want to see. Did you take up anything new during your period of self-isolation?
At-home yoga, cooking, video games, and dancing.
Congratulations on your second consecutive appearance on [Japanese New Year’s Eve television special] Kohaku Utagassen. How do you feel about this year’s upcoming show?
I appreciate being chosen for the second straight year. With my heart lit in a shade of red, I intend to do what I can to deliver a live performance that is uniquely mine. Please look forward to it.
What were your personal top hits from this year?
Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain On Me” was personally my No. 1 hit. No. 2 is Blackpink’s “How You Like That” — ever since I danced to this during lessons, it’s the song I listened to the most this year. Finally, Doja Cat’s “Boss B–ch” and Halsey “Experiment On Me” — I listened to the soundtrack before I saw Birds of Prey and these songs really stuck with me. I blew off a lot of steam by listening to this soundtrack.
Could you share what hit charts mean to you?
They’re a visualization of an amazing future that the people who support me allow me to see.
What kind of year would you like 2021 to be?
Next year is my tenth anniversary, so I hope I can have lots of fun at live shows with the people and music I love.