Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)

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"Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)"
Earthly Stars Single Cover.jpg
Single by Miyuki Nakajima
from the album Short Stories (Tanpenshū)
A-side "Headlight, Taillight"
Released July 19, 2000
Format CD single
Genre Folk rock, ambient rock
Length 5:11
Label Yamaha Music Communications
Songwriter(s) Miyuki Nakajima
Producer(s) Ichizo Seo, Miyuki Nakajima
Miyuki Nakajima singles chronology
"Not Even Blinking"
(1998)
"Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)" / "Headlight, Taillight"
(2000)
"Ride on the Gentle Luminous Dragon"
(2003)
"Not Even Blinking"
(1998)
"Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)"/"Headlight, Taillight"
(2000)
"Ride on the Gentle Luminous Dragon"
(2003)
Music video
"Earthly Stars" on YouTube

"Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)" (地上の星, Chijō no Hoshi) is a song that Japanese musician Miyuki Nakajima composed and recorded for the country's acclaimed television documentary program Project X -Chōsenshatachi-, which aired on NHK during the first half of the 2000s. It was released as a double A-Side single with "Headlight, Taillight" (ヘッドライト・テールライト, Heddoraito Tēruraito) in July 2000 and reached the number-one spot after 30 months, becoming one of the longest running singles in history of the Japanese Oricon chart started in 1968.[1]

History[edit]

After a couple of commercially lackluster studio albums were released, Nakajima left Pony Canyon, a record label she had belonged to since her debut. Double A-Side single "Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)"/"Headlight, Taillight" is the first release under the record label, Yamaha Music Communications, which was newly founded in 2000.

Both songs were originally written for the TV documentary series Project X: Challengers (プロジェクトX~挑戦者たち~, purojekuto X chōsenshatachi) which was aired on NHK. Akira Imai, a producer of the television program decided to ask Nakajima to write theme songs, because he was moved by lyrics of her 1998 smash hit "Another Name for Life".[2] Imai thought that her insight on the song coincided with concept of a documentary that reports unknown activities of obscure people, who built up the modern Japanese society. The program premiered in March 2000, and her theme song which features her distinctive vocals widely became known.

An opening and a closing theme on the program were released as the thirty-seventh single for Nakajima in July 2000, and both of them also appeared on her 28th studio album Short Stories released in November 2000. In 2004, Nakajima re-recorded "Earthly Stars" on her studio live album and DVD entitled Miyuki Nakajima Live! -Live at Sony Pictures Studio in L.A.-, released in the following year. Utatabi, her 2008 live album released on CD and DVD also includes a live recording of "Earthly Stars" performed in December 2007.

Reception[edit]

"Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)" / "Headlight, Taillight" debuted at the number-15 on the Japanese Oricon Chart, in excess of 35,000 copies sold.[3] It became a smash hit because of the long-lasting popularity of the TV documentary program, remaining on the Oricon charts for more than two years.

On 31 December 2002, Nakajima made her appearance on the annual NHK music program Kōhaku Uta Gassen. Here she performed "Earthly Stars" from the tunnel in Kurobe dam, Toyama Prefecture. Nakajima's performance recorded the highest audience ratings from the program in 2002. After appearing on the show, the single began climbing the charts again, reaching #1 in January 2003.[1] The single was later certified to have sold more than a million copies.

Cover versions[edit]

Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)[edit]

Year Performer Album Genre Notes
2003 Various
(Nobuo Furukawa, Toshihiro Nakanishi,Chuei Yoshikawa,Hideo Yamaki)
the most relaxing feel 3; Peace of mind Easy listening
2003 Richard Clayderman Clayderman Plays Antique Pianos Easy listening
2003 Twelve Girls Band Beautiful Energy Easy listening/world also appeared on their 2004 Eastern Energy album released in the U.S.[4]
2003 Julia Fordham Nakajima Miyuki Tribute; Yourself...Myself... sung in English lyrics written by Justin Tyme
2004 Fuyumi Sakamoto Zenkyokushū Enka/kayokyoku
2005 Michiko Shimizu Uta no Album Parody as a part of the track "Utahime Medley"
2007 Aya Endo (as Miyuki Takara) Lucky Star Ending Theme Collection Anime soundtrack
2009 Demon Kogure Girls' Rock ~Tiara~ Heavy Metal
2009 Dr. Metal Factory Cover Metal Now Heavy Metal

Headlight, Taillight[edit]

Year Performer Album Genre Notes
2001 Takashi Obara Try! Try! Try! Piano yo Utae Special; J-Pop Tokushū 2001 Easy listening
2003 Janis Ian Nakajima Miyuki Tribute; Yourself...Myself... Folk sung in English lyrics written by Ian[5]

Uses in popular culture[edit]

The song Earthly Stars was sung in karaoke form at the end of Episode 7 of the anime Lucky Star. It was sung by a character named Miyuki Takara, voiced by Aya Endo. (see also: List of Lucky Star albums)

The song is also used in the Suntory Boss Commercial featuring Tommy Lee Jones.

The song Headlight/Taillight is used in the anime Nichijou (Part 79)

The song was used in the 15th season of the show GameCenter CX, in the segment Project CX, a segment about Famicom peripherals. Miyuki Nakajima sings the song with lyrics related to the featured peripheral.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Miyuki Nakajima, arranged by Ichizo Seo

  1. "Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)" (地上の星, Chijou no Hoshi) – 05:11
  2. "Headlight, Taillight" (ヘッドライト・テールライト, Heddoraito Tēruraito) – 04:58
  3. "Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)" (地上の星, Chijou no Hoshi) [TV mix] – 05:11
  4. "Headlight, Taillight" (ヘッドライト・テールライト, Heddoraito Tēruraito) [TV mix] – 04:58

Personnel[edit]

  • Miyuki Nakajima - vocals
  • Ichizo Seo - keyboards, strings arrangement & conduct
  • Hideo Yamaki - tomtom, cymbals
  • Hideki Matsubara - bass guitar
  • Masayoshi Furukawa - electric guitar
  • Elton Nagata - keyboards, acoustic piano
  • Keishi Urata - computer programming
  • Seiichi Takubo - computer programming
  • Masatsugu Shinozaki - violin, concertmaster
  • Kiyo Kido - violin
  • Jun Yamamoto - violin
  • Yumiko Hirose - violin
  • Osamu Inou - violin
  • Kei Shinozaki - violin
  • Yu Sugino - violin
  • Naoyuki Takahashi - violin
  • Kathrine Cash - violin
  • Tsunehiro Shigyo - violin
  • Keiko Nakamura - violin
  • Machia Saito - violin
  • Masako Mabuchi - viola
  • Joshin Toyama - viola
  • Gentaro Sakaguchi - viola
  • Kaori Naruse - viola
  • Masaharu Karita - cello
  • Tomoya Kikuchi - cello
  • Masahiro Tanaka - cello
  • Susumu Miyake - cello
  • Yasuhiro Kido - background vocals
  • Fumikazu Miyashita - background vocals
  • Katsumi Maeda - background vocals
  • Toshiro Kirigaya - background vocals
  • Etsuro Wakakonai - background vocals

Chart positions[edit]

Year Country Chart Position Weeks Sales
2000-03 Japan Oricon Weekly Singles Chart (top 100) 1 183[6] 1.1 million+[7]
Oricon Weekly Singles Chart (top 200) 202[7]

Footnotes: Until expansion of the hit parade in December 2002, Oricon provided only the top-100 sales charts in general (except a more detailed magazine especially published for the music industry called Original Confidence)

References[edit]

Preceded by
"Untitled 4 Ballads" by Every Little Thing
Japanese Oricon Chart number-one single
January 20–26, 2003 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Happy Life" by 175R