FRIENDS

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FRIENDS
Mini album by B'z
Released December 9, 1992
Genre Adult rock
Length 26:47
Producer Tak Matsumoto
B'z chronology
3rd Mini
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MARS
(1991)
4th Mini
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FRIENDS
(1992)
5th Mini
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FRIENDS II
(1996)

FRIENDS is the fourth mini album by B'z, released on December 9, 1992. The release is their first concept album, with each song contributing to an overall story for the first time in the B'z catalogue. The music was composed to be akin to that of the soundtrack to a movie, with each track being labeled as "scenes". A follow-up album entitled FRIENDS II would be released four years later in 1996 but would not feature a connected narrative.

The mini album would be the band's first venture into "adult-oriented rock" music when it hit shelves in December of 1992. It stood in stark contrast to their fall album RUN that contained hard rock numbers such as "ZERO" and "Out Of Control" and aided in demonstrating their versatility. Tak Matsumoto noted that the genesis of the project was that, "I wanted to make an album that was like a movie's soundtrack." The songs' connected lyrics were all written in the course of one flight, according to Koshi Inaba. The vocal tracks are thus represented by four themes: "Recollections", "Reunion", "Conflict", and "Resolution". The title of the album, "FRIENDS", is meant to encompass the overall theme of the narrative as the protagonists are not romantically linked at the time of the story.

The album's opening vocal song "Itsuka no Merry Christmas" has proven one of the band's most popular songs of any sort. It has been downloaded over 500,000 times as a ringtone according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan, and has sold more than 100,000 in the form of a full-length download for cell phones alone. It has been collected numerous times on compilations, beginning with 1998's B'z The Best "Treasure" and followed by The Ballads ~Love & B'z~ which opened with the song and featured a hidden dance-oriented version as a hidden track, B'z The Best "Pleasure II" in 2005 which featured an acoustic rendition, and lastly B'z The Best "ULTRA Pleasure" in 2008. To date, decades later, the song is often requested and played in Japan during the holiday season and is the subject of frequent covers on numerous television programs, including a popular cover performed by fellow Japanese artists Gackt and Ayumi Hamasaki as a duet in 2001. B'z themselves have only performed the song on television four times: in 1994, 2002, 2005, and 2017.

Despite its enduring popularity, "Itsuka no Merry Christmas" is suitably only performed at LIVE-GYM concerts when the band's tour schedule runs into winter months. Fellow album track "Boku no Tsumi" has never been performed live, with "Koi Jyanakunaru Hi" and "Doushite mo Kimi wo Ushinaitakunai" being performed only during B'z LIVE-GYM '93 "RUN".

Upon release, concept album FRIENDS sold 706,950 physical copies in its first week. This would make it their highest-selling mini album debut to that point, with its sequel FRIENDS II succeeding it. As with all other B'z mini albums released to date, FRIENDS has been certified Million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan for sales in excess of 1,355,530 physical copies sold. The lasting legacy of the album has led to significant digital and ringtone sales of lead track "Itsuka no Merry Christmas" in subsequent years.

Track listing

All music and guitar by Tak Matsumoto. All lyrics and lead vocals by Koshi Inaba.

PROLOGUE: Friends
An instrumental song, "Friends" lacks even guitar with its arrangement being performed entirely with strings instead.
SCENE 1: Itsuka no Merry ChristmasA Merry Christmas Once Upon A Time, いつかのメリークリスマス
Recollections: The titular "FRIENDS" spoken of in the album's title were once romantically involved but no longer. It is now their first December apart as the protagonist describes the festive mood that only reminds him of their past relationship. He laments the loss ("I felt we were always going to be together, my hands forever holding yours"). A past Christmas spent together spent in happiness is recounted, until it's revealed he now walks the streets alone, watching smiling couples pass by arm in arm.
Not only the foremost song on the album, "Itsuka no Merry Christmas" quickly became one of the band's signature songs—a distinction it carries to this day decades later. Although never a single, it rivals many in the band's catalogue in terms of popularity and remains a Christmas staple in Japan.
SCENE 2-1: Boku no TsumiMy Sin, 僕の罪
Reunion: Reaching for cigarettes he put aside long ago, he feels compelled to finally call her again. Hearing her voice, everything changes ("While sewing up the hole in my heart, the words came bursting out: 'I want to see you'"). The title, "My Sin", refers to his inability to let go or even let enough time pass before trying again ("I know, I know, I understand; Not yet, not yet, not enough time has passed yet"). When they decide to meet, he sees that her hairstyle has changed but "the smile I've become accustomed to is just the same". The song ends as he oscillates between trying to win her back and accepting the realization that time is slowly forgetting their time together.
The most upbeat of the album's tracks, "Boku no Tsumi" is the only song from the work to never be performed live apart from the instrumentals. The song begins with somber guitar prior to the shattering of glass. The prominent female chorus vocals are provided by famed Japanese pop singer Maki Ohguro.
SCENE 2-2: Love Is...
As with other instrumentals on the album, "Love Is..." is performed by one instrument, in this case a keyboard. Its melody is sourced from the the next track, "Koi Jyanakunaru Hi", and is effected to sound akin to a music box.
SCENE 3: Koi Jyanakunaru HiThe Day Love Ceased to Be, 恋じゃなくなる日
Conflict: The two decide to meet again to rekindle what they once lost. Collecting shells along the winter beach, they continue to hang on despite the answer being obvious ("We can't just let go no matter how long it's dragged on, so we keep suppressing these dimming feelings the best we can"). All they once did together in happier times no longer feel the same as before ("Puzzled and meaningless smiles on our faces become replaced by yet another bewildered feeling"). Burying a shell on which they had painted their memories and hearing the echo of distant bells, it signalled "both the end and its beginning". After having tried again to no avail, he mutters to himself, "I don't need love anymore". On a paved street in the middle of the winter night, she slips her arm into his. Still, through his doubt, he looks to the sky, returning to the song's title with certainty: "It was the sky of the day when love ceased to be."
Apart from the first vocal track present, "Koi Jyanakunaru Hi" is undoubtedly the second most popular song from the mini album. Although it has not been performed since B'z LIVE-GYM '93 "RUN", it was voted to tenth place for the fan-slected compilation B'z The Best "ULTRA Treasure" and included on its first disc. In a 2014 fan club poll asking which songs fans would like to hear as part of B'z LIVE-GYM 2015 -EPIC NIGHT-, the song finished third but ultimately was not performed.
SCENE 4: SEASONS
Seasons: The passage of time, with the two having parted after the meeting prior with the intention of parting for good. Spring comes, summer is forgotten, and fall passes, until...
Recorded only here on this album, "SEASONS" is used to bridge the time between the third and fifth scenes on the album. It is performed solely by Tak on an acoustic guitar.
SCENE 5: Doushite mo Kimi wo UshinaitakunaiNo Matter What, I Don't Want to Lose You, どうしても君を失いたくない
Resolution: A new winter has arrived and a year has passed since their reunion. In a daydream brought on by the season, he thinks of "nostalgic days long past" and considers whether he was wrong to walk away ("'No matter what, I don't want to lose you!' I scream that from the deepest recesses of my chest"). From his car, he notices a couple walking closely, arm in arm. He again considers the cost of love to those involved ("When love ceases to be, is it considered a betrayal to the other person?"). He decides that it may be best if they go on living after closing that chapter, and if they could forget the animosity between them, there may still be a place for them. Envisioning a return to the seaside someday and dancing on the sands as they had before, he imagines the two of them waving goodbye to the days that are now behind them. The story of the two "FRIENDS" is left open-ended as he relays a reversal of roles from a new perspective ("After you wake up, you'll be going out to join the crowd of people on this unchanged street").
Running at over six minutes long, "Doushite mo Kimi wo Ushinaitakunai" is the longest song on the album by a considerable difference. It's the only true power ballad included as well and is driven by both guitar and keyboards. Though it should come as no surprise given all of the songs are connected, the album contains a direct reference to the song from the third scene, "Koi Jyanakunaru Hi". Interestingly, an unreleased instrumental version of the song served as the ending theme to Music Station from 1992 through 2002 until another composition by Tak Matsumoto took over in the form of "#1090 [Sen Mu Ichiya]".
SCENE 6: Itsuka no Merry Christmas (Reprise)A Merry Christmas Once Upon A Time, いつかのメリークリスマス
Future: Christmas has come around once again as it all returns to the beginning, the future left to be decided.
To close the album, this piano-only reprise of "Itsuka no Merry Christmas" brings the story back to the where it began.

Reversion history

Original Song Reversion History
Itsuka no Merry Christmas
MINI ALBUM SONG (1992)

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RE-RECORDING: Itsuka no Merry Christmas (Reprise) (1992)
An instrumental reprise of the original song featured as the closing track on the same mini album, FRIENDS.
KARAOKE: Itsuka no Merry Christmas [Karaoke Version] (1996)
Karaoke version found only on B'z TV STYLE II Songless Version.
RE-RECORDING: Itsuka no Merry Christmas [Secret Version] (2002)
A hidden dance-tempo version found on The Ballads ~Love & B'z~.
RE-RECORDING: Itsuka no Merry Christmas ~"Koisuru Hanikami!" Version~ (2005)
An acoustic rendition found only on B'z The Best "Pleasure II".

Live appearances

Live Performances

Itsuka no Merry Christmas [18 SHOWS]
crossbracket.png B'z LIVE-GYM '94 "THE 9TH BLUES -Part2-" [1/32 SHOWS]
crossbracket.png Merry X'Mas ~ Mary Had a Little Lamb/Silent Night [1/1 SHOWS] (Acoustic Version)
crossbracket.png B'z LIVE-GYM 2003 "BIG MACHINE" [2/12 SHOWS]
crossbracket.png B'z LIVE-GYM 2011 -C'mon- [9/26 SHOWS]
crossbracket.png B'z LIVE-GYM 2017-2018 "LIVE DINOSAUR" [5/18 SHOWS]
Boku no Tsumi redx.png
Koi Jyanakunaru Hi [34 SHOWS]
crossbracket.png B'z LIVE-GYM '93 "RUN" [34/49 SHOWS]
Doushite mo Kimi wo Ushinaitakunai [19 SHOWS]
crossbracket.png B'z LIVE-GYM '93 "RUN" [19/49 SHOWS]

Home Videos

Itsuka no Merry Christmas
crossbracket.png LIVE-GYM 2011 -C'mon-
Boku no Tsumi redx.png novid.png
Koi Jyanakunaru Hi novid.png
Doushite mo Kimi wo Ushinaitakunai novid.png

Sales data

No. Cover Mini Album Physical Copies Sold Chart Positions Certification
FIRST WEEK LIFETIME WEEK MONTH YEAR
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FRIENDS
1992.12.09

706,950+

1,355,530+

1

Million

Personnel

B'z

Support Members