It’s important to the thesis of this piece that I note I tried to write the entirety of this post while listening to “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” on repeat. I couldn’t do it. “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” is incredibly awful writing music.
Lynn Minmay’s very first hit song, “My Boyfriend is a Pilot,” is not the song she sings at the end of Do You Remember Love?, but the assessment given of “Ai oboete imasu ka?” could just as easily apply.
Just your ordinary love song.
But “just your ordinary love song” has great power within the logical sphere of Macross, and the franchise’s obsession with pop culture produces the fascinating side-effect of immortalizing that which is inherently transient. It’s a ridiculous sort of paradox, wherein pop culture loses the momentary “pop” and becomes culture proper. My iTunes library tells me I have listened “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” sixty-one times since I purchased Ranka Lee’s version approximately three months ago, in which time I have listened to many other songs many other times. But “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” will stay on my phone for as long as I continue to like Macross because “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” is no longer just an ordinary love song, but a very niche, very specific cultural artifact for me that I have imbued with sentimental value that outstrips its formal musical merits.
This is all well and good for me, but let me posit that “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” is not just representative of Macross as a whole for me, but for many others besides. Yes, I think this “ordinary love song” is easily the most iconic piece of music to come out of the Macross franchise – because of, rather than in spite of, the very banality that makes it what it is. It is the Macross song, more than any of the franchise’s many other songs can claim to be.
There may be reasons this is so. Ad naseum repetition of the tune in SDF. The fact that it had comparatively fewer tunes to compete with than songs from Frontier did. “Kyun kyun,” as performed by Exsedol. Its recurrence in DYRL and Frontier. But, mostly, there is no reason. It’s not a particularly good song; catchy, but not in a way that differs from any other pop hit. The lyrics, while cleverly resonant with SDF Minmay and Hikaru’s relationship, aren’t exceptionally evocative. It’s dreamy, but not inspiring. It’s fun, but not memorable. It’s not even the first song Minmay sings in SDF!
And yet we remember it. Why?
Because of nostalgia, probably. Perhaps because to some people it’s catchy in a way beyond just being the tune of the summer. Maybe because of the way it become representative of one of the key tensions of Macross. But also probably because Macross asks us to remember it by mythologizing pop culture as a whole (“a force for peace! even if incomplete and imperfect,” says SDF). How grand! The latest hot track on the radio isn’t just something I’m listening to because it’s current and popular – now it is a universally relevant force! Of course culture has power; we know this to be true. But I don’t think Macross only elevates culture generally (perhaps this is Macross heresy), but also particular cultural artifacts. “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” and “Ai Oboete imasu ka?” are just ordinary love songs, but they are the chosen ones! The former wins through sheer market penetration. It got played the most on Top 40 radio to the point that Frontier calls it “legendary.”
I wonder if Macross Plus devotees (I like SDF best so far) feel “Aimo,” rather than “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” to be The Macross Song. While I sympathize with them, I cannot agree. “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” is the First Idol’s first song, and it is the first song weaponized in SDF 27 against the Zentradi. It is the first song, therefore it is the genesis of the legend. It defines the key of everything that will come after, yet does so without limiting itself. “Aimo O.C.” is the successor to the legend, likewise the songs of Walkure.
Again I’ll return to the banality of “My Boyfriend is a Pilot.” It is less profound than “Ai oboete imasu ka?” (I’m not alone anymore is a profound sentiment, I think), less beautiful than “Aimo,” less of an immediate earworm than “Ikenai Borderline.” It’s just a singer describing her plane-loving boyfriend (an idol wishing the robot-obsessed fans of her franchise would pay attention to her). And because it is not special, it endures. It is a song that exists throughout franchise iterations, all the while unbound to specific events. Perhaps I contradict myself here, but I think you can argue “Yasashisa SAYONARA” overwrites “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” as the Event Song of SDF 27 (and that other tracks hold this title in DRYL and in Frontier). “My Boyfriend is a Pilot” never becomes the same sort of climactic universe-moving force others do.
So. It endures because it is ordinary. That is the virtue that makes it special.
I give you The Macross Song.