Gackt’s “Mizérable”: a quick retrospective

Anybody who knows me moderately well also knows that my favorite artist/musician of all time is the Japanese rock/pop star Gackt (yes, whose name sounds a lot like my cat Patches when she’s struggling with a hairball. )

The usual praise for any major artist certainly apply with this guy: he’s talented, charismatic, and entertainment-biz gold. I enjoy following what he’s up to, be it a TV appearance or a new album, and his antics are usually pretty entertaining. Many people at some point in life latch on to some sort of writer or band to fawn over—for some reason, during my formative years in Ex-urbia, Massachusetts, I found this Japanese rock star.

Now, for the meat of this post: A good friend recently introduced me to IMEEM, a service that allows you to upload music files so you can share and listen to them (streaming!) via a flash player later, kind of like a YouTube for mp3s. IMEEM also allows you to embed the flash player in your blog (again, like YouTube), so it’s made sharing music with friends by blog post really easy.

Just for kicks over lunch today, I looked up one of my favorite songs of Gackt’s, his first from when he went solo in 1999, called “Mizérable.”

In 1999, the band Gackt had just left was a gothic-rock style band called “Malice Mizer,” so I believe the purposeful misspelling of “miserable” is a thumb of his nose at the old band. (In the end, they floundered and broke up while his career continues to flourish, ouch.) So, to me, “Mizérable” is a song about ambition, regret, anticipation, hope, longing—all that lovely melodramatic stuff.

It’s still considered one of Gackt’s best tunes simply because it perfectly encapsulates that feeling of finally striking out on your own, all that anxiety and defiance.

Here’s the original recording of Mizérable, from his very first mini-album, released in 1999.

If you’ve never heard Japanese rock or pop music, this may sound very strange to you, so just listen for 2 minutes if that’s all you can take, haha.

In the summer 2004, five years after Gackt went solo, he released two retrospective albums, playing his classics either acoustically or entirely re-recorded and even re-scored. (Gackt releases at least one album a year with several singles, so even just five years into his career he had a large repertoire to choose from for a “best of” set.) “Mizérable” was one of the songs on the hard rock album called “The Sixth Day.”In this 2004 version, his voice is more mature, the sound is fuller and more polished, the composition more complex:

It’d be deceptive to say that the sophistication of this version is the result of making it big, as Gackt and Malice Mizer were already somewhat “big” when Gackt went solo. But certainly it is worth wondering about what’s lost when an artist goes from big to huge in their music and then re-records some of their old hits.

(And no, I’m not one of those fans who thinks an artist loses “cred” or soul when they go big or sign a major label. Artists need to eat, and nobody joins a band aiming for mediocrity.)

The newly re-recorded “Mizérable” has higher production values and sounds more sophisticated than the original. But if the original “Mizérable” has the spark of defiance in it, what does that defiance become five years into a wildly successful solo career? Gloating? Melancholy?

I’m curious to hear what you think. Does the motivation behind a song matter if it is performed well? Or am I just completely over-thinking this?

Categories : Japanese, Music