SMT-V: The Society for Music Theory Videocast Journal
SMT-V is the open-access, peer-reviewed video journal of the Society for Music Theory. Founded in 2014, SMT-V publishes video essays that showcase research in music theory in a dynamic, audiovisual format, presented so as to have the potential to engage both specialists within the field as well as interested viewers outside the music theory community. The journal features a supportive and collaborative production process, and publishes several videos each year. Read more about SMT-V here.
Latest Issue: 8.1 (January 2022)
Abe Road: Kuwata Keisuke’s Beatles Parody
Noriko Manabe (Temple University)
In May 2009, when the Japanese LDP government was in a weakened position, Kuwata Keisuke, lead singer of popular rock band Southern All Stars, performed a parody of the Beatles’ Abbey Road on his weekly television show. Backed by a band performing an uncanny cover of the album, he rewrote the lyrics into commentary on corruption in Japanese politics, fiscal problems, the death penalty, and other political issues.
This performance was highly unusual: Japanese recording artists rarely engage in politics. The recording and broadcast industries disallow lyrics on controversial topics, and management discourages artists from engaging in politics. Kuwata staged his rebellious gesture as a “mishearing” of a well-known album.
Kuwata transformed Abbey Road into political parody through linguistic sleight of hand. Kuwata chose Japanese lyrics with similar vowels and consonants (as demonstrated by their proximities on the International Phonetic Alphabet) to make them sound like the original English lyrics. By presenting his acrid commentary as a parody of this much-loved album and thus framing it as humorous entertainment, Kuwata was able to publicly criticize Japanese politicians.
Keywords: Parody, cover, Beatles, Abbey Road, Japan, linguistics, rock, Kuwata Keisuke, music and politics