Hello there! Before we start, I hope everyone is still doing well, both physically and mentally. The multitude of events that have occurred these past couple months have been pretty insane to witness (with some being necessary for overdue change), so I just wanted to check in with y’all. 🙂
That being said, the blog is back with another monthly installment of J-Music Exchange/Rate! In case you don’t know what this segment is about, fellow blogger/music fan Leap250 and I pretty much give each other a Japanese music album from our respective libraries, we listen to ’em and ultimately review them on our own blogs. Pretty simple, right? We’ve been doing these reviews for the past couple months so if you haven’t checked out last month’s reviews where I discussed Kuroki Nagisa’s Remon no Toge while Leap wrote about Shall we☆Carnival by i☆Ris, feel free to read those!
As we’ve mentioned in our previous posts, Leap and I decided to suggest albums according to a specific theme each month, with the last one revolving around the genre of ‘pop’. So this time around, we’re giving each other albums that showcase an enjoyable and unique vocal styling of an artist. While you may know me as a person who enjoys pretty generic-sounding idol music, especially when it comes to the vocals part, surprisingly I can appreciate artists that have a significantly distinctive singing voice. And obviously with a theme like that, there were many, many choices I could’ve picked: Fujiwara Sakura, frederic, BRADIO, so on and so on.
However after listening to and loving her third studio album, I had to hand over iri’s Shade. Her vocals in that album (and in general) were pretty sick. Meanwhile, Leap went ahead and recommended me the first full album of up-and-coming J-pop artist milet, eyes.
Let’s jump right in!
Not much background info has been revealed of milet but even then, what we know of is definitely noteworthy when it comes to her music.
milet (ミレイ, mirei) spent her early life living in Canada, where she ended up becoming proficient in English, Japanese and even French. It wasn’t until 2018 when she moved to Tokyo in order to pursue a career in music… and it certainly didn’t take long for her dream to come true. With the release of her first single, inside you, it was used as the theme song for a Japanese drama called QUEEN, which also resulted in it getting a #16 spot on the Oricon weekly albums chart. Many people took notice of milet’s sharp, Western-inspired vocals and her popularity quickly rose, thanks in large part to her songs being included in multiple pieces of well-known media: “Again and Again (eyes mix)” in the TV drama JOKER x FACE, “Proven” in Fate/Grand Order Babylonia, and what most people in the anime community will probably recognize, the ending song to Vinland Saga, “Drown”.
On June 3rd, 2020, milet released her first full studio album, eyes, which includes most of her popular tracks. It also got the #1 spot on Oricon’s Albums chart.
Leap’s thoughts on eyes:
If there’s one thing that I can fault milet’s first full-length album for is that it really does come in at quite a full length of eighteen tracks. Suffice it to say, “eyes” might very well be the lengthiest album I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to barring original soundtracks and two-disc special editions. Not to say that that’s inherently a bad thing but since milet’s Western-infused Japanese Pop sound is fairly uniform all through out, the songs just start to bleed into each other after a while which in turn made it hard to really focus on and appreciate what song was playing at the time. That being said, I think milet sounds absolutely incredible in whatever song she’s singing anyways so no harm done really (lol). I read in the comments of one of her videos that people likened her vocal quality to someone like Adele or Sia and ever since then I couldn’t help but think so whenever I hear her sing. Low vocal registers are such a rarity for Japanese artists generally and she really uses it to great effect in this album.
Before we get into probably the most notable aspect of this album, the vocals, I think discussing the overall style of it would be a good start.
I apologize if I mention the West a lot in this review but honestly, that’s kind of the recurring theme I get from this album. Given that milet originally grew up in North America and probably still catches up with the evolving styles of music we Americans/Canadians hear everyday, I can tell she has embraced that mellow electro/indie pop vibe that has been admired by many. While I can’t exactly make a specific comparison to a Western artist (mainly because it’s been YEARS since I’ve kept up with whoever’s popular here in the States… I feel like I’ve already become old school lol), milet definitely gives off that dramatic dream-pop style with tracks like “Fire Arrow” and “You & I” (but at the same time, it’s apparent that she can make more brighter/louder songs like “STAY” and “Without Your Love”).
And I thought the consistent style she had throughout this album worked really well. Mainly regarding the general flow of it, I felt like it was genuinely smooth; there were even some places in the album where I didn’t notice that the next song was playing (which may be seen as good or bad, but I thought it was fine). I also noticed even though this album has a whopping 18 tracks, its length was only about an hour. I feel like when you put those two aspects together, it makes me think that the whole composition was carefully thought-out, resulting in an easy and enjoyable listening experience.
With doing this particular style of pop music, the variety of instruments that accompany the vocalist’s singing just impresses the hell out of me. Piano, acoustic guitar, violin, synthesizers, electronic drums, the works; this mixture of old and new instruments just work so well in order to express emotion in milet’s songs. As I’ve noticed, not only with milet’s music but also with other artists, the electronic parts just give that ‘oomph’ while the lightness of a guitar or piano complements them. And I feel like I truly got that from some of the songs featured in this album, especially the opening song “Again and Again”. Similar to how the vehicle in the music video ‘blew up’, so did the instrumentals in the chorus and it went hand in hand with milet’s equally emotional vocals. Not to knock EDM but I definitely prefer something like this since it’s a lot more calm and remarkable, in my opinion.
And now for the part of the review I was looking forward to the most: the vocals. When Leap suggested this month’s theme of ‘vocal styling’, I definitely didn’t expect him to give me a voice AND vocal styling that’s as astounding as milet’s. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the way she sings is more on the Western side rather than what we usually hear in Japanese music. While I was writing this review, I tried to look up what artists sounded similar to her since I couldn’t remember for the life of me. What I found was some people on her YouTube comments saying she sounded like Sia, Adele and even Beyonce.
And… I’d have to agree! All three of those artists have deep and strong voices, as well as the ability to express a great amount of passion while singing; milet absolutely falls into those categories. When you hear her in songs like “Inside You”, “Grab the air” and “Drown”, you immediately get hit by her husky, unique-sounding voice and it just feels… weird. Not in a bad way; it’s just unusual yet intriguing to hear a voice like hers in a Japanese song. Like, this combination of a Western vocal styling and Japanese lyrics just work! And I think that’s pretty much my main takeaway on the vocal part of eyes and milet as an artist.
But I can’t not discuss the lyrics within this album, as one interesting thing about them is that they all have a mixture of Japanese and English. I’ve listened to my fair share of artists who do exactly that such as Takeuchi Anna, Ohashi Trio, Nulbarich, and hell, even the artist I recommended to Leap this month, iri, does the same. For the most part, they all sing in English pretty well, especially the ones who actually grew up in areas where the native language was English (obviously). But I think with milet’s case, not only can she sing in English clearly but to take the influences of Western music and vocals, and incorporate that into Japanese songs is what impresses me the most. I might still be a J-music amateur but to hear something like what milet does within the Japanese music medium is super new and fascinating to me.
In closing, I really enjoyed this album. You know that feeling you get when something feels familiar but at the same time, super different? …might just be me, but that’s legitimately how I felt while listening to this album. Surprisingly I can still remember what popular songs in the country I live in sound like, and to be reminded of the likes of Adele or Sia within a music culture known for its high-pitched pop and loud rock music; it’s just riveting to me. Add that to a well thought-out track list and a mellow electro/indie pop style, and you got a very amusing album. I love what milet brings to the table, both instrumentally and vocally, and she’s definitely someone I’ll be following in the future.
Also, I didn’t want to mention this in a review solely about music but… milet is hecka beautiful! 😛
(had to include a THE FIRST TAKE video of hers, cmon)
Well now that you’ve listened to a great artist like milet, you should head over to Leap’s blog where he reviewed an album from another great artist, iri! Shade has to be one of my favorite albums that I listened to this year, so definitely check out his thoughts on it! (now that I think about it, both albums included a song called “Wonderland”… interesting lol)
Thanks for reading!! 😀