Yoasobi: A Magical Music Duo Wins Over Japan

by | Oct 7, 2020 | Japan, Music | 0 comments

Hello guys, Camille here. For this new article, I would like to tell you more about Japanese music, and specifically about the magical music duo Yoasobi, which I discovered with awe during confinement. They combine an anime look and feel and base their songs on short stories! Exciting!

Wait, who are they ?

Yoasobi found their breakthrough in December 2019 with their song ‘Yoru ni Kakeru’ (Racing into the night). Interestingly, the duo is composed by former Vocaloid producer Ayase, and vocalist Ikura, who rose to fame whilst covering popular songs on YouTube. I found very little information in English on the Internet. It was a real shame, I thought, as it is such a new musical experience for me. I first fell in love with it instantly. First because of Ikura’s poignant and crystalline voice, but I came back for the variety of genres it entails.

Let me explain why.

Vocaloid: Japanese collaborative music

For those who may not know, Vocaloid is a genre of music that exclusively uses the Yamaha software of the same name. By its nature, it has become a separate genre of electronic music that became very popular in Japan through sharing platform Nico Nico Douga. The movement got so strong that the synthetized voices proposed by the software became actual virtual idols. Some even went on to perform live events. Through the platform, millions of creators connected to collaborate on musical projects. It sometimes gives place to creating stories, mangas, books, and even one theatre production. It is a very peculiar genre, see below for a selection of Vocaloid songs.

From online communities to mainstream hit

If I have deemed important to tell you more about Vocaloid, it is because the Yoasobi project reprises characteristics of the genre. The (beautiful) vocals by Ikura are organic, but the instrumental is typical of what you could find in a Vocaloid piece. What is particularly innovative, I find, is the will to tell stories through songs. Most of the pieces they produced are inspired by short stories published on the Japanese platform Monogatary. For example, take their third single, ‘Ano Yume o Nazotte’. It is based on Sota Ishiki’s ‘Yume no Shizuku to Hoshi no Hana’.

However they may be priding themselves on writing their own music, it is fascinating that they anchor themselves in Japanese pop culture. By this, they participate to a movement, whilst delivering powerful testimonies of life in Japan that stir controversies.

Downer songs and joyous melodies

‘Yoru ni Kakeru’ is their first piece, inspired by Mayo Hoshino’s short story ‘Thanatos no Yuukawu’. It makes a poignant portrait of a couple who throws themselves off the top of an apartment building. I am probably not teaching you anything when telling you that this is not usual pop song material, and rather reserved to obscure gothic or rap pieces. That is however the strength in Yoasobi’s formula: telling their audience about serious topics with killer melodies.

Ikura was even invited to the Japanese YouTube show ‘The First Take’. This popular show invites musicians and singers to perform at home during these times of coronavirus.

This has become a trend with J-pop artists such as Zutomayo, Aimyon and Shinsei Kamattechan tackling similar themes in their songs. (I however have a keen preference for Yoasobi).

If this shows anything, it is that mainstream pop can be successful whilst carrying powerful messages to their audiences.

That’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed discovering about this magical duo as much as I did, and that you’ll follow Yoasobi!

Mata ne!

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