Gotta love artists who do covers
Hello and welcome back to another J-Music Exchange/Rate post! In case you’re not too sure on what this is all about: basically, me and my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 pick out an album from our respective libraries, give them to each other for us to listen to, and later we review them on our blogs. This is just a fun, little thing we’ve been doing for about two years now, and it gives us the perfect opportunity to discover new stuff from the Japanese music scene. Plus, we hope that it allows you, the reader, to find some new artists/songs to listen to as well!
And just like every other review, we base our album selections on a specific theme each month. For example, for the month of February, we chose albums that revolved around romance/love because of the Valentine’s Day holiday. So for March, it was Leap’s turn to decide and he went with artists that are primarily known to do cover songs. With covers being a very popular thing for artists and musicians or really, anyone to do, I think it’s also a good practice to check out the original stuff these people have done since it tends to show off a more personal and creative side to them.
That said, here are our picks for this month: Leap tossed over NEW ROMANCER by up-and-coming virtual singer RIM, while I gave him ERA, the first full-length album from the electro/rock band RAISE A SUILEN (who are also a part of the well-known BanG Dream! franchise).
Let’s jump right in!
RIM (理芽) is a Japanese artist and virtual singer. Back in October of 2019, she got her start after signing with the KAMITSUBAKI STUDIO indie label and posted various videos, more specifically song covers, on her YouTube channel. In December, she released her first original song, titled “You & Me”. RIM began to gain some traction after the release of another original of hers, “Shokuchuushokubutsu”, as it became a viral hit on TikTok and even gained over 35 million+ views on YouTube (as of when this post was published).
So far, RIM has released numerous singles and one full studio album. She has also done a couple of live concerts, including one where she performed cover songs. And lastly, RIM is a part of the group VWP, which includes other well-known virtual singers in KAF, HARUSAURHI, ISEKAIJOUCHO and KOKO.
RIM – NEW ROMANCER
- Pillow Talk / ピロウトーク
- Love Song / ラヴソング
- Samishii Hito / さみしいひと (Lonely)
- Yadorigi / 宿木 (Mistletoe)
- Itai yo / いたいよ (It Hurts)
- Kanbinamuhou / 甘美な無法 (Luscious Lawless)
- Shokuchuushokubutsu / 食虫植物 (Carnivorous Plant)
- Taiji ni Tsuki wa Kisuwoshinai / 胎児に月はキスをしない
- You & Me / ユーエンミー
- Cry Baby / クライベイビー
- Mateki / 魔的 feat. KAF (Magical)
- Yasashiku Shinaide / やさしくしないで (Don’t Be Kind to Me)
- September / 十九月
Leap’s thoughts on NEW ROMANCER:
YouTube cover artist RIM represents a new wave of artistry in line with personalities we’ve come to know in recent years as virtual YouTubers in what is now called “virtual singer” – an offshoot if not a direct byproduct of the doujin-esque Youth Pop burst in previous years that saw to the rise of widely popular “faceless” acts such as Yorushika and ZUTOMAYO. Like VTubers, virtual singers have taken to adapting a 3D avatar to serve as their likeness whilst keeping their identity hidden from the public. The main difference of course being the specifity of their activities which, for the virtual singer (as the designation would suggest) is more about the singing more than anything else. In RIM’s case, it’s by doing cover songs. Something to note with regard to that is her song choices, which end up being atypical of the Japanese music cover scene; which range from covers of songs by lesser-known indie bands like Hockrockb to “See You Again” from the Fast and the Furious (lol)
I find this to be reflective of the otherwise unconventional music space that RIM occupies with her own music as you’ll get to hear here in NEW ROMANCER, which is an album that fuses R&B, J-Rock, and Youth Pop that make up a fascinating blends of sounds; accentuated greatly by RIM’s transparent vocal stylings.
Like always, I’ll be breaking down this review in multiple main points, so let’s just start!
1) Let’s Talk About RIM’s Covers
Because this month’s album choices were based on artists that are mostly known to do song covers, I feel like I had to bring up RIM and the covers she frequently does. Funny enough, my first experience with listening to RIM’s music actually wasn’t from her covers. Given that “Shokuchuushokubutsu” is one of her more well-known tracks, I happened to hear it from a random Instagram post a year or so ago and just thought it was a cool song. So to find out that RIM’s beginnings as an artist consisted of her posting covers on YouTube, I had to check them out.
And from what I’ve heard so far, she definitely does some solid covers! Naturally, I listened to the songs that I’m more familiar with and it was really really really nice to hear RIM’s own take on some of these amazing tracks. Her version of SIRUP’s “Loop” was smooth and certainly nostalgic; I loved hearing RIM’s voice in her “Wonderland” cover; and the “Kimi ni Muchuu” one she did (original by Utada Hikaru) was SUPER good. It was also interesting to see that she has done popular foreign songs such as Sia’s “Chandelier” and “bad guy” by Billie Eilish, all of which she sounds pretty good in.
Being able to hear RIM perform these songs was a real treat and it’s cool to see that, not only did she do a great job replicating and maintaining the overall feeling and atmosphere of the originals but RIM was also able to put her own spin on them, which makes these covers even more enjoyable. And in a way, seeing RIM’s past experiences with singing and vocal work adds another level of appreciation for, and even relates to, the album we’re talking about today.
2) Good Balance Between Consistency and Variety
I know that may sound like a bit of a contradiction but let me explain.
Throughout NEW ROMANCER, one major thing I noticed, as well as enjoyed, was that a lot of the songs had a sense of being consistent with its overall atmosphere while at the same time, also implementing certain things that felt significantly unique/different. There are definitely many albums that do such a practice but I feel like RIM and what she did with this album is an exceptionally good example of it.
There were a lot of various uses of differing paces or styles or intensities or even instruments that I heard throughout this album, and I did enjoy a lot of what was being shown. Towards the beginning of the album, you have a really loud, rough-sounding, acoustic guitar-based song in “Samishiihito” and right after that, it quickly changes into a much slower and almost dreamy track with “Yadorigi”, thanks to RIM’s light vocals and interesting/fitting filters. To me, a lot of that kind of stuff happens throughout this album. Another example being the distinct changes between the more simple-sounding “Shokuchuushokubutsu” and the doujin rock-like “Taiji ni Tsuki wa Kisuwoshinai”.
And while you might think that ‘flip-flopping’ between different styles and paces in each songs could result in somewhat of a mess, RIM honestly executes it pretty well here. Despite the many changes, I believe she did a good job maintaining an overall ‘vibe’ with most of these songs, which helped it become a cohesive album. With the recurring use of certain instruments such as a piano, acoustic/electric guitar and some really sick bass playing in a lot of these tracks, RIM was able to develop a particular sound and style that resonated throughout this album.
That said, I think that idea is also shown in her cover songs. Even though a lot of the covers she has performed are pretty different from one another, like I said, she had the ability to put her own twists and truly make them in her own rendition. And that stylistic consistency, in my opinion, is shown within NEW ROMANCER as well.
3) RIM’s Vocals Are Super Good
Another glaring aspect of this album is RIM’s vocals, which I absolutely adored.
I couldn’t help but notice that, at times, she sounds kinda similar to another artist I know (whom of which I recommended an album of theirs to Leap for last month’s review), Fujiwara Sakura. And like Leap mentioned in his review of Fujiwara’s good morning, singing voices with lower vocal registers are pretty great, especially when it adds or even makes a song performance. That being said, I had the same thoughts when I listened to RIM’s voice in this album.
RIM is definitely more on the deeper side of things when it comes to her vocals, and you can clearly hear her great, low register in a handful of tracks like “Kanbinamuhou” and “NEUROMANCE”. But a lot of the times, if the song calls for it or has a certain tone, RIM can definitely sing at a much higher pitch, or even somewhere in between. Either way, her voice sounds smooth and fitting for a doujin/indie song collection.
Whenever I come across an artist and find out that they have roots in uploading cover songs on YouTube, it’s pretty cool to think about that kind of music journey. Aspiring musicians who want to make a name for themselves so they jumpstart their careers by uploading music (original or covers) online, and if they’re lucky, they could get the chance to pursue their passions even further. There are so many artists that have gone through that type of lifestyle, and to see another fantastic example in RIM is great.
NEW ROMANCER is a solid album. With it having an overall indie/doujin rock atmosphere, RIM also does a good job giving us some interesting tracks that have something new and unique to hear in a handful of them. The various levels of energy and paces were fun to hear, and of course, RIM’s vocals bring it all together to create an enjoyable album to listen to.
Plus, I know ‘virtual YouTubers’ and those sorts of online content creators are the ‘thing’ right now so if you’re a fan of them, RIM is technically one of those. So that could be a reason to check her and her music out!
Aaaaaand that’s all I got for you today!
Not gonna lie, this review was kind of rushed and a bit lacking (lol). Lately school’s been fairly hard on me so it’s been a little difficult trying to formulate a Exchange/Rate review this month. But I still hope you enjoyed reading it!
And as always, if you haven’t done so yet, you should definitely go over to Leap’s blog and read his review for this month. I gave him a super fun album by a group within the popular BanG Dream franchise, ERA by RAISE A SUILEN, so click here to check it out!
Lastly, I recently posted another album review that happened to also be about music artists and cover songs, where I talked about a shuffle album from the TrySail seiyuu/idol group. You can click here to read it!
Thanks for reading!!! 😀