Surprisingly enough, I really haven’t written that much about the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack here. The OST was so hugely influential on my music taste that it’s actually difficult for me to try and put it into words. I’ve brought it up a little bit in one of my Anime Roots post, but it doesn’t really do my feelings justice. The soundtrack is such a huge, sprawling masterpiece of various genres and various tones that I don’t even know where to start talking about it.
Sooooo, why not start by bringing up the single most obscure thing possible!
Have you ever noticed that deep within the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, there lies multiple songs sung from the perspective of a greasy lesbian hound dog?
Yes, Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts not only blessed us with a brilliant and iconic soundtrack, but she also blessed specifically me with multiple lesbian blues bops, all sung by Mai Yamane.
Now, it’s rather difficult to actually find information about Mai Yamane online in English. I actually went into this hoping to write a legitimate research essay, but lack of information and an overactive imagination led me here. One day, when my Japanese reading skills go beyond that of a first grader, I’ll do some hardcore research into her life and hopefully find out that she is the badass lesbian biker I’ve always dreamed she was.
For now, though, here’s what I can tell you:
- If you’re not as deeply entrenched in the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack as I am, you should know Mai Yamane as the singer for the anime’s ending theme, “The Real Folk Blues”
- She has a 1988 blues/rock album called Woman Tone with songs called “Lady Luck” and “Hey Lady,” which swings the pendulum in favor of my Badass Lesbian Biker fantasy
- According to this 2003 interview (sorry, it’s in French), Yamane recorded “Blue,” the final ending theme from Cowboy Bebop, in just one take, which is really incredible considering how powerful that song is. Imagine being so talented and badass that you’re trusted with closing out an iconic music-based series in just one go?
- Most importantly, I can tell you that her voice sounds like lavender-scented, gravelly gold. It’s a voice that made high school me fall in love with a woman who is old enough to be my mother without ever having to see her face…
Okay, are you still following me here, or have you already backed out of the page, fearing that I’ve been overcome by some sort of pride month fever-dream? I’m not joking here – there really was a story about a bitter lesbian petty criminal hiding within the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack all along.
Let me reel this in a little bit and make some more serious observations. One of the greatest things about Bebop’s music is that each song is so richly and thoughtfully composed that the soundtrack harbors its own unique set of characters and stories within it. These songs give a little glimpse into what it’s like to be an average, non-bounty hunter citizen inhabiting the vast universe of Cowboy Bebop. Steve Conte croons on “Diggin’” as a gate-digger falling in love, creating a character that gives depth to the actual lore of the space gates that are prominent throughout the anime. Songs like “Chicken Bone” and “Wo Qui Non Coin,” sung by Edward’s seiyuu, Aoi Tada, give us a further look into Edward’s goofy little mind. “Cosmic Dare (Pretty With A Pistol)” is a pop song that sounds like it’s an actual Top 40 hit in-universe that helps develop the world we’re following Spike and co. into, and so on and so on.
Which brings us to these Mai Yamane songs. “Pushing the Sky,” “Want It All Back,” and “Don’t Bother None” all come from the perspective of a bitter, jaded woman who has some choice words to say about the women in her life. Thus, the soundtrack ends up giving us a sultry yet brutally condescending song about virgin innocence, a lesbian kiss-off anthem about a gold digging girlfriend, and a gritty story about a petty criminal’s one-night stand with a sneaky woman. Here we go:
Pushing the Sky (Future Blues OST)
Listen to this. This raw power. That dirty guitar riff, followed by the sneering line, “don’t want to be the one to pop your cherry, girl.” In the song, it seems she’s challenging an immature lover (or ex-lover? Wannabe lover?) by implying that she’s too immature to handle the real world, or her love. This song’s a bit more loose compared to the other two songs, but there’s still a distinct sneering quality to Yamane’s voice that lets you know that she will be having none of your teddy bear baby bullshit.
This song sounds like it’s going to crash into the window of your mansion and kidnap your wife. But your wife isn’t even mad, and ends up leaving you for the mulleted motorcycle woman who destroyed your veranda. Your kids choose their new step-mom over you, too. You don’t even blame them – after all, you haven’t provided vocals for a classic anime soundtrack recently, so what do you have to offer this family?
Want It All Back (No Disc OST)
Here, Yamane tells us a bitter story about a high-maintenance ex-girlfriend. She bought her nice pajamas, took her to see some foreign films, bought her expensive drinks on the beach…only to have her leave her and not even have the decency to break up with her herself. She heard it all from her dad!
The song’s fueled with cheeky anger, and, like many other songs from the series, is something that you can easily imagine playing on rock radio. Maybe your cool but slightly grumpy uncle would listen to this song on his record player after the divorce. Personally, I listen to it by itself and jam out in the car all the time. It ignites an angry little fire in me, and I’ve never even had a gold-digging significant other!
Don’t Bother None (No Disc OST)
This one showcases the more traditional blues-y side of Bebop‘s soundtrack, and it does a great job. Mai Yamane’s beautifully coarse voice really is perfect for songs like these…
Our girl has clearly become disillusioned following that nasty gold-digger breakup. She’s turned to stealing wallets from old men, but she’s not even having luck in that department – the wallet’s empty. But, hey, it’s all good, “that’s just the way that it is/don’t bother none.” This one’s a little lighter on the lesbian anger, but in the second verse, she ends up meeting a lady “with the face of a star,” who sleeps with her and then steals her car. But again, “guess that’s just the way that it is.” What a great world view. It’s beautiful. I hope she gets to sleep with a lady who’s not into grand theft auto soon, and I also hope she stops stealing from the elderly.
Perhaps, after all this, you can see why I haven’t written anything much about the soundtrack prior to this. I don’t have any real music criticism chops, so all I can really give you are the ravings of a madwoman. Ravings that, in retrospect, were maybe best kept in the vault. Did I need the world to know that I’m such a dork that I skipped right over having crushes on anime girls and instead projecting my feelings on women singing for anime soundtracks? Well, it’s midnight, and I’ve already typed everything up, so there’s no going back now…
In all seriousness, though, doesn’t the fact that I have this much to say about the mini-stories within a few songs show just how incredible Cowboy Bebop’s soundtrack is? I mean, yeesh, I’ll get all riled up thinking about a song’s wilting saxophone solo transitioning into a congo layered choir chant before I even get to the actual plot or characters. I know everyone’s said as much a million times before, but – the Bebop soundtrack really is that good.
This is probably a cop-out for pride month content, since it wasn’t an actual talk about representation. If anything, I hope you’ve walked away with some songs to add to your “Bluesy Anime Lesbian” playlist. …oh, you don’t have one of those? Well, um. I hope you still enjoyed reading!
Here are some Actually Insightful posts to check out, because I’m doing my best to try and hype up other people’s posts during this blessed pride month:
- Exceeds Expectations: A Review of “Expectations” by Hayley Kiyoko (this one’s an actual, real review of Hayley Kiyoko’s album about sexuality)
- 12 Reasons Why Sailor Moon Is Amazing: Regarding Sexuality and Gender (a post from The Spooky Redhead that talks about gender and sexuality in another 90s anime classic)
Enjoy, and if you have any good gay anime song recommendations, definitely share them with me – this is what I live for!