By Kiki Arochas, Staff Writer
Content Warning: This article contains themes of suicide and depression that may be upsetting for some readers.
I’ve always been fascinated by the process that leads to the making of a song. What happened in the artist’s life to write their lyrics in the way they did? Why did they choose this melody? What moment of inspiration made them realize “this has to be a song?” These questions follow me each time I hear a new song. Many times though, at their face value, songs can be very simple. Songs like a breakup or love song, for example, leave very little to the imagination. But what happens when there’s a song that is more obscure? What happens when a song seems very straightforward, but in reality touches on an incredibly sensitive and deep subject? Most songs do not prompt such questions. “Into the Night” certainly does.
“Into the Night” is a song that has dominated my Spotify since the moment I first heard it, roughly three months ago. The insatiable beat and tune had me hooked in ways I hadn’t felt in years. More remarkable than the tune, though, is the story behind its making. Upon discovering that the Japanese song was not what it seemed at the surface, I did some digging- and found deeply disturbing, yet profound origins for the song I had come to love.
The artist YOASOBI is, in the words of their Spotify bio, the “band that creates music from novels.” The duo hit the international stage with the 2019 debut release of our song in question, “Into the Night.” Earning over 700 million streams in December 2021, and a top spot on Japan’s billboard “HOT 100,” the song quickly found its way into mainstream media, which is how I came to listen to it: I was watching a meme compilation on YouTube (classic 3 a.m. watching material) that made a joke about the track. I was immediately obsessed, but also really confused. The short showed a guy bawling with the caption “people who know what the lyrics mean” and then cut to a crowd dancing captioned “people who don’t.” My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to look into it. What I found was a truly dark and deeply disturbing story.
YOASOBI based the song off of the short story Thanatos no Yūwaku by Mayo Hoshino, literally translated to An Invitation from Thanatos (thanks Wikipedia). In this world, explains the narrator, there are two types of people: those who are “inclined toward life, governed by Eros,” and those “inclined toward death, governed by Thanatos.” The narrator is dating a girl who is governed by Thanatos. Each night, the girl goes to a rooftop, wishing to jump, as she sees a specter of death calling her to join him. This, the narrator explains, is a rare symptom among those governed by Thanatos. Importantly though, each time she goes to the rooftop, she calls the narrator there first, apparently to stop her from jumping. All of this comes to a head when one night he comes to rescue her. They argue until she finally gets him to say “I want to die too!” She smiles, and the narrator finally understands. She kept calling him to the rooftop not to stop her, but to join her. He was the one who was governed by Thanatos. He had that rare symptom, as the girl was his specter, calling him to join her into death. With this realization, the two clasp hands and, together, leap out into the night.
That twist blew my mind to smithereens. It’s difficult to describe the exact emotions I felt in the moment after I finished the story. I was moved, to be sure- the concept within such a short story was brilliant in design and scope. Yet, I also felt deeply uncomfortable due to the intense subject matter. The Youtube clip now made perfect sense: YOASOBI had crafted the lyrics, weaving them seamlessly into quite a misleading upbeat tune. Naturally this led to the amusing situation of clueless Americans like me vibing to it, having no idea how deep and gnawing the words must be.
After reading the story, I desperately sought an English translation of the song so I could get a real appreciation for the words, and found that YOASOBI had actually released an English version. The words fully tackle the mental states of the two characters, with riveting descriptions of their depression and desire to “leave it all behind”. Looking at the lyrics after reading the story that inspired them added countless layers to the song. Once I saw what each line was in reference to, it became clear how perfectly the song told the story. Now, with each listen, I can envision the narrative Thanatos no Yūwaku brings to life: the pain, the characters, the twist, and the world. It made all that research worth it in the end. I can’t say that you should do the same, but what I can say for sure is this: definitely check out the song and the story. I hope it has as much of an impact on you as it did me.
“Sawagashi Hibi Ni Waraenai Kimi Ni, Omoit Suku Kagiri Mabushii Asuo…”
“Saw what you got seen hid beneath, and louder nights keep beating, I’m going to you and giving brighter shiny tomorrows…”