review by Cat Dinh (福島県)

a2923131450_10Home:Word was produced in 2010, and was re-released in 2011 as a Deluxe Edition, as well as a Japan Edition. It features a collaboration of songs written and performed by Taiyo Na, a spoken word artist and Asian American community leader in New York, and Magnetic North, a rap duo that formed to write songs for an Asian American rally at UC Berkeley in 2003. These artists are storytellers, and each song is a lullaby for anyone feeling far from home.

As an Asian-American listener, I found many songs genuine, comforting, optimistic, and empowering. It’s easy-listening, and one of my favorite feel-good albums to put on when I’m struggling or feeling defeated. All right, I’ll say it: it can be sappy. I think a commonality amongst APIs is that we care… a lot. But we conserve it for the right moment, and that makes us seem cold.  So we pour our hearts out in sappy songs. In short, if you love, you will love this album.

Many songs on the album can get emotionally deep, especially if you can relate, so I’ll start with the fun stuff:

Summertime” is a light-hearted fun tune, and reminds you to go to the nearest beach for a BBQ and soak in the sun! For me, living in Fukushima, that is a few hours east to Iwaki City, or two hours west to Niigata.

I Got My” features Jin, the first API solo rapper signed to a major record label in America. This is a power song, inspiring you to get out into the world and do something amazing with what you got with the crew who’s got your back. Got it? It makes me want to get out and climb Mt. Bandai!

Of course, what’s an API album without yearnful love songs? There’s something hot about unspoken passion, whether it’s happening to us, or the character in the Korean drama you’re currently watching. It takes a while for a pair to get lovey-dovey, but we looooove watching the process.

Lalala” is a silly love song, with Taiyo celebrating strong women, Theresa Vu fumbling over her lyrics because she gets awestruck, revealing those embarrassing, but adorable moments of vulnerability (swoon), and Derek Kan being cute, skipping and lalala-ing with the featured singer Ruth Cho. I like a guy who can skip and tra-la-la.

New Love” is a 3 minute R&B drama that brings together two broken-hearted souls that swells into a climax that either ends happily, or…

So love, much drama-rama. Good luck with your romances and relationships, dear APIs!

* * *

But here we are, at some of the heavy stuff:

Fukushima” is a haunting ballad for victims of major disasters, and expresses support and compassion for those who still need help. This song basically sold me the album, especially soon after 3/11. Another insightful thing about it is that it expresses anger against the injustices of terrible government handling during emergency disasters and racial jokes that have been told while victims are still in recovery.

I’m Here” is a song that inspires compassion, when one tries to understand parents, friends, lovers in the aftermath of conflict, which is usually silent, or hidden under the guise of something else. I am glad when the teachers at my school still talk to me because I haven’t yet figured out how to understand Japanese people when they’re silent with me.

Lastly, “Home:Word,” the title single, makes you want to call mom and dad, your sibs, or chosen family.  Add to that being surrounded by ads about nostalgia and furusato everywhere in this country, it’s no wonder that the single was #2 on iTunes in Japan.


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