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Have To Talk About Timing: Maia Hirasawa’s “Fragile”


This one requires context. Maia Hirasawa, the Swedish singer who also spends extended periods of time in Japan, has become pretty darn popular in this country. Her single “It Doesn’t Stop” pops up on all sorts of radio stations…indie-approved and the sort of easy-listening stuff middle-aged people love to listen to during car pools…and in commercials. Her new album gets prime real estate at local music stores and I see plenty of other blogs talking about her too. She’s attained legitimate popularity here, becoming a sorta-Feist or Regina Spektor for the Japanese audience.

Now for the other vital piece of information – recent events in Japan. Though it seems simple enough to shoehorn the disasters in Japan into a discussion of a song called “Fragile” to make it seem more significant than it might actually be, Hirasawa’s back story actually demands it. She lived in Sendai for an extended period of time and even mentions this fact in “It Doesn’t Stop.” Now over the past few days she’s had to watch as the lovely city she lived in has turned into YouTube disaster-porn. I imagine it’s harrowing stuff. So here she is performing a song called “Fragile” in black and white in a video recorded on March 14 in Tokyo.

The song itself comes from her previously mentioned album so this isn’t a response to recent seismic disasters. Yet it’s a number that feels eerily linked to these events, opening with the stomach-punch line “I just got a call/from the hospital.” Things cheer up a bit following that lead-in, a few broken bones being the diagnosis, but “Fragile” turns into a rumination on, well, how fragile everything really is. (Not to mention, a line like “I just got a text/from the hospital” works wonderfully in a time where cell phone mails and status updates reach people faster than telephone calls.) The video adds an extra oomph, Hirasawa looking weary as she sits behind a piano and mic before pouring herself into the song. At the end of the clip a message reveals this is in fact dedicated to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. And Hirasawa looks down, eyes shut.