Skip to main content

#ThemeSongTuesday: Shadows of a Setting Sun


Ladies and gentlemen, we have a frontrunner for Entrance Theme of the Year.


We've spent about a week trying to come up with our own reasons—and adding to each other's—to justify why Shinsuke Nakamura's heel theme is so great.

Let's start with the title. Nakamura's first theme was entitled "The Rising Sun" and now that he's displayed a more sinister and aggressive demeanor as a heel, he comes out to "Shadows of a Setting Sun." See the contrast in Nakamura doing a 180 as a villain?

On last week's SmackDown Live, Corey Graves took time out to explain on commentary that Nakamura had his theme song changed (in kayfabe) because he was tired of the WWE Universe singing along to his original theme. That alone was a dick move in itself already. But from a behind-the-scenes perspective, that move also makes sense because WWE is trying to write Nakamura as a despicable heel with no redeeming qualities. We've seen too many heel characters who are cheered anyway because the crowd finds them cool. With Nakamura, the idea was to take every bit of him that the crowd loved—starting with his theme song—and flip it on its head to get the desired heat. It's the same principle behind Chris Jericho's refusal to make merch and him adopting a slower and more deliberate speech pattern during his Anton Chigurh-like gimmick from 2008-09.

The song's lyrics reflect the new attitude that Nakamura brings to the Blue Brand. In the week since the song's release, fans online are still conflicted on the dialect being used by Shadows of The Sun, the band behind the theme. That, among other reasons, is why the English translation of the lyrics remains generally inconsistent on different sites. For the purposes of this article, I've pasted the English and Japanese lyrics from Genius.com.

(English)
[Verse 1]
I thought this day would come
I have not left. I have remained
This isn't about the politics
I have taken everything you have wanted
You finally understand that questioning is stupid
Because there is not one person in this world who can understand

[Chorus]
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? I am the best!

[Verse 2]
Good luck trying to get by me
You're scared. Okay, it'll be all over in one hit
I will break and destroy you, welcome to your nightmare
I will decide your fate
Escape is meaningless, so try to run away
I will always find you
I will hand you over to your God, without fail
Now, I've found you

[Chorus]
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? It's my strength
Do you understand? I am the best!


(Japanese)
[Verse 1]
Kono ni~tsu ga kuru to omotta
Ore wa atama-dōri nokotta
Keikoku seiji ni
Buchi kama seijin
Anata ga eta tsumori no mono to wa iki
Yatto wakaru ka nā
Ore ni shitsumon suru no wa bakada
Shiage ka wā dorei wa dokodarou?
Kono sekai ni hitori mo inaikara yo

[Chorus]
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore wa ichiban!

[Verse 2]
Me osamete mae muite miro
Kimi boku osorete ippatsu de shon
Bori kowasu anata no akumu ni agaru
Kimi o nemure ga kimi o moraru
Nige nigete mo imi nā ~ i imi nā ~ i
Orenara mise ka kura reyashi nā ~ i
Kanarazu-kun kamisama watashita ~ i
Mitsuketai adzuke harawa serukara nā ~ i

[Chorus]
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore no chikara
Wakaru ka? Ore wa ichiban!



Let's look at the lyrics first. Notice that the persona in the song refers to himself using the gruff "ore" than the more humble "boku" or the genteel pronoun "watashi." The use of pronouns in Japanese generally depends on factors like gender and context. "Ore," as a pronoun, conveys a very rough image of self, and is only considered acceptable when used in a conversation among close friends. For the persona to be using "ore" to refer to himself in the song connotes an immense amount of pride, while also condescending on whomever he's addressing through the lyrics—much like how Nakamura no longer respects AJ Styles, or anyone for that matter.

Throughout the lyrics, you see the swagger, intimidation, and power that Heel Nakamura has been showing off since WrestleMania. This isn't just a guy who's happy to be here anymore. This guy's a killer. He knows he's the best, and he will ram his knee into your head until you bow down in submission. 

It's also worth noting that the vitriol is dripping in every bar that the rapper spits in the song. Think back to your favorite anime and the most hateable heels you watched growing up. From Nakago in Fushigi Yuugi to Kurei in Flame of Recca to Toguro in Yu Yu Hakusho, all three of these characters had seiyuu (voice actors) who really brought out the abhorrence their characters had in their hearts through their voices. The rapper in "Shadows of a Setting Sun" does the same thing, especially at the height of his emotions in certain lines like in the chorus, for example. I won't blame you if you thought that an angry demon was screaming at you as you listened to the song.

Because this theme is extra special, I'm going to break it down even more to explain how the song is structurally and technically different from "The Rising Sun." To do this, I got some help from producer and MC Ninno and sound engineer Anton Magno, both of whom are also huge wrestling fans like you and me.

"The biggest and most obvious distinction," begins Magno, "is the change in genre. From the original track that was a more electronic/party-friendly track with dubstep drums, they flipped it in to a heavy rock/rapcore version. And as we all know, rock is more mean and hardcore than electronic. Shadows proves to be a more aggressive track than the original—like Nakamura's change in demeanor—by making everything more upfront and in-your-face with the added heavily distorted guitars and vocals."


Listening to Shadows outside the context of a wrestling show can give you a clearer idea of how distortion plays a huge part in setting the tone of the track. "What distortion does," explains Ninno, "is it adds and strengthens upper harmonics to the fundamental frequencies of the notes/sounds. This makes whatever is distorted appear louder than it actually is without physically making it louder." 

The effect is seen in the vocal track, in particular. "So besides already aggressively shouting the lyrics," Ninno adds, "the distorted effect makes the vocals seem louder than everything else and therefore becoming the main focus of the track instead of the violin melody."

Most fans generally agree online that the heel theme works because it's taken what's worked best in the original and kept it in. "The melody, which would be the violin here," says Ninno, "descends in this super catchy chromatic movement. It helps that A Minor is a key we kinda all know how to sing instinctively." Now you've taken that, and put it into the background and replaced it with a less catchy (both melodically and lyrically) vocal. That by itself, would have already been enough. Then you take a bunch of elements and distort it, which dirties up a sound even more."

The distortions also serve one more purpose: to take what you know about the original track—or at least, what you think you know about it, and then disorient you. Remember Nakamura's kayfabe reason for changing his theme? He wanted you to stop singing along to it. Turns out, there was a science behind it, too.

Magno explains it like so: "The melody was the part of the original track that people sang along to.  By taking that away from them and replacing it with something like the vocals, it basically just disrupts what they're familiar to. It isn't to say that they won't ever sing along to it. I'm sure with a few more listens, the crowd will be chanting the pre-chorus lines and then shouting 'ORE WA ICHIBAN!' altogether when it hits (I know I started doing it after only a few listens)." 

He's not wrong because even though the verses are hard to follow along to on the first listen, when did that stop us from trying to memorize Linkin Park's "Papercut" or "In The End?" At the very least, "ORE WA ICHIBAN!" could be Nakamura's answer to Minoru Suzuki's "KAZE NI NARE!"


Ninno breaks it down further by describing the type of sounds we hear when we listen to Shadows. "In the original, everything was super clean—compressed, but clean—but this new theme, in contrast, contains a lot of these complex sounds," he shares. "It doesn't necessarily prevent fans from singing a long; how many of us have jammed out to Metallica in Rock Band, am I right? But it certainly is less catchy melodically. I wouldn't sing along to this anymore, simply because that violin [solo] isn't the highlight anymore—which was honestly the best part of the song anyway."

In terms of structure, you'll notice that Shadows no longer has the solo violin intro in "The Rising Sun," along with its accompanying buildup. "Instead," compares Magno, they now just hit the glissando on the playback, then go straight to the full band performance. This takes away everyone's anticipation, so now we're force-fed something we weren't used to getting—like the weekly shots to AJ's nuts."

On one final note of comparison, Magno also points at the subtle differences between Nakamura's original theme and his current one—changes that make the track more heelish, in his words. "The first would be the emphasis of the chromatic passing chord in the verse," he shares. "This is most noticeable in the line that comes right before the pre-chorus buildup, where the other parts of the melody go away, leaving only the drums, vocals, and guitars. This helps the track appear more dark and sinister than it originally was because it was no longer in the key with the most of the track." Yep, it really goes back to that mental image of an angry demon, doesn't it?

If you're still reading this column by this point, then congratulations. We just went on the deepest of dives—to the depths of hell, even—just to break down Shinsuke Nakamura's heel theme. And honestly, this has been the most fun column to write all year just because of how awesome the song is. Sure, "awesome" gets thrown around a lot—Thanks, Miz—but "Shadows of a Setting Sun" really deserves the tag just because of how many conversations it's started, how it brought out our inner music geeks, and how it has completed the package of this new and improved Shinsuke Nakamura.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash my supporter so I can protect my balls again tomorrow.

What do you like/dislike about Nakamura's heel theme? Does it really deserve all the hype? Sound off in the comments below!

Photos from WWE


*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.

Comments

Trending This Week

Crystal Announced For 2018 Mae Young Classic, Then Mysteriously Pulled

The Critical (7/18/18): How To Be a Fan in 2018

Can Martivo Find Gold At The End Of The Rainbow?

PWR Live: Way of The Champion Live Results

#MustWatchMonday (7/16/18): The New Toru Yano