Like always, viral hits end up being great music recommendations!
Hello and welcome back to yet another installment of the J-Music Exchange/Rate segment! In case you’re not familiar with what this is all about: essentially, me and my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 pick out an album from our libraries, swap and listen to ’em, and later review them on our respective blogs. It’s pretty much a fun thing that allows us to discover new artists and albums within the Japanese music world, and we hope that these reviews help you find new music to listen to as well.
The month is May is somewhat special for the Exchange/Rate segment, as it marks the two-year anniversary since Leap and I revived it (we started it back in 2018 but took a bit of a break until 2020). It’s honestly crazy to look back and see how many albums we’ve exchanged and how much we’ve written; it feels unreal that I was able to talk about twenty-five (25) albums in two years. Like I said, it’s a fun thing we’ve been doing and I’m glad I’ve been able to do something like this, especially on a consistent basis, with a J-music expert like Leap. I also have to say thank you to those who have read any of our reviews!
That said, like always, Leap and I base our album choices on a specific theme each month. It was Leap’s turn for May and he thought it’d be cool to choose an album from an artist that became popular on TikTok. TikTok, of course, is currently one of the most popular social media/video-based platforms in the world, but don’t be fooled: it is not just a place where people make videos of themselves dancing. I’ll get more into that and my personal experiences with the platform later on but for now, here are our choices: Leap tossed over Ohashi Chippoke’s 2019 release Popular no Arika, while I gave him DARLING SYNDROME by Vocaloid producer Kairiki Bear.
Ohashi Chippoke (大橋ちっぽけ) is a Japanese singer-songwriter, born 1998. As a teenager, he started listening to music from different parts of the world, especially in the United States and Britain, and began composing his own works that combined the Japanese style with the aforementioned Western genres. A lot of his songs feature an interesting stylistic mix of folk, American/British-based rock and even a K-pop-inspired vibe that can be dance-inducing at times.
Ohashi Chippoke started to find some traction in 2021, thanks to one of his songs, “Joryoku”, becoming a viral hit on TikTok, with many people using it for their own video creations.
Since Ohashi Chippoke’s debut in 2018, he has released four full albums, five singles and has done a number of live performances. He has also written songs for other artists, including the popular idol group Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku (“Anytime, Anywhere”).
Ohashi Chippoke – Popular no Arika
- Ruby / ルビー
- Take it Easy / テイクイットイージー
- Urge / アージ
- Diver / ダイバー
- Yume no Nakade / 夢の中で
- Matsuyama / マツヤマ
- Fumi no Hi / ふみの日
- I Love You ni Ha I Love You / アイラブユーにはアイラブユー
- Rakuen / 楽園
Leap’s Thoughts on Popular no Arika
When I first heard Ohashi Chippoke, my initial impression of his sound was that it sounded pretty much what you would expect from a popular artist… except I come to find out after the fact that he wasn’t as popular as his style of music would suggest, or at the very least he wasn’t raking in the kind of views that I assumed he did just based off of how much his music caters towards today’s J-Pop/Youth Pop. Seeing how his song “Jouryoku” went and blew up on TikTok however, it might just be a matter of time before Ohashi becomes truly mainstream. And I say that because, comparing his viral hit to his debut album “Popular no Arika” here, not a whole lot if at all really changed with his approach.
If anything the album ends up being more of what made “Jouryoku” such a catchy tune in the first place: with Ohashi’s smooth singing and tasteful use of autotune in tracks like “Ruby” and “Life”, coupled with his overall fan-friendly, acoustic guitar-laden sound as you’ll hear in “Take It Easy” and “Diver”. The way Ohashi seamlessly blends together these two elements to his music is fairly unique in my opinion and “Popular no Arika” in turn makes for a very refreshing listen because of it.
Al’s Thoughts on Popular no Arika
0.5) Why TikTok is Actually Pretty Cool (In My Opinion)
In case you’ve been living under a rock, TikTok is a social media platform where people create and post short-form videos, similar to the now-discontinued apps like Vine and Musical.ly. These videos fall under many different categories/genres like music, dance, comedy, food, self-help, and even educational/informative stuff. And the great thing is that the app provides users a wide array of easy-to-use tools for content creation, such as special effects, filters, hashtags and most notably, a vast library of sounds and songs (popular music, movie/TV scene clips, other users’ TikToks, to name a few). Also trust me, while it may sound like it, I’m not getting paid to say this lol
When TikTok started to become popular back in 2019 or so, I initially wasn’t too interested in checking it out. I heard the various criticisms about the platform, with people saying that it’s essentially a place where people do the same trendy dances to the same trendy songs. That didn’t sound all that interesting to me, plus I already put time into other social media like Twitter and Instagram, so another one would’ve just been too much at that point.
Fast forward to 2020 in the thick of the pandemic, now with a lot of time on my hands, I became interested in TikTok due to a couple of seiyuu/voice actresses I know who were on the platform. And naturally being someone who is neck-deep in seiyuu/idol fandom, I try to support my oshis on whatever platform they’re on. That is when I started to actually explore TikTok and as I dove deeper, I realized that there is truly more to this app than meets the eye. Yes, one of the main focuses of TikTok is the dancing stuff. In fact, I will admit that I was a hypocrite and I actually ended up enjoying the trendy dance stuff, MAINLY when it came to Japanese idols/seiyuu. But beyond that, I discovered that there are other types of great videos made by talented, funny, and likable individuals. Hell, I even stumbled upon some really helpful educational videos, especially regarding stuff I’m interested like cooking or graphic design/Photoshop. So while I won’t sit here and say that TikTok isn’t a time-waster (it is at times lol), there are still some legitimate positives to this app.
That said, one big part of TikTok are trends. Most of the time, these trends consist of people making videos that use the same sound/song and feature the same actions (whether that be a particular dance, gesture, etc etc). And I don’t know if it’s just an personalized algorithm thing but a lot of the trends I happen to see do feature Japanese songs, surprisingly. Because of that, it’s also another opportunity for me to discover new music, and I’ve definitely found some great songs and even new artists to listen to through the world of TikTok (even Western ones, like this really nice feel-good song by indie artist/rapper Anees)
1) The Overall Emotional Nature of Popular no Arika
And like this month’s theme suggests, Ohashi Chippoke is one of those artists who became popular due to a song of theirs being used in thousands upon thousands of TikToks; that being his 2021 release “Jouryoku”. That track is definitely a nice one to listen to with its fun energy and youthful vibe but when compared to his 2019 album release Popular no Arika, in my perspective, they’re pretty different. Different in a way where it just feels a lot more emotional, raw and less… upbeat like what’s shown in “Jouryoku”.
And I think Ohashi Chippoke pulls off that kind of musical style really well. Many of the featured tracks expressed a pleasant-sounding and mellow vibe, thanks to the constant showings of acoustic instrumentals, generally slower pace and Ohashi Chippoke’s fantastic vocals.
One interesting observation I noticed, and enjoyed, was that this album felt “dreamlike”. So many songs had a very dreamy, lulling atmosphere to them, which I found to be exceptionally enjoyable. It felt like I could just relax and calm down when I heard tracks like “Diver” with its easy guitar strumming and faint-yet-pleasurable xylophone in the background, or “Life” having a much more grand energy that makes you feel like you’re going on some sort of fantastic adventure.
Even the songs that didn’t necessarily fall in line with the whole ‘dreamy’ theme that I noticed and were more pop-like or had a more general acoustic sound to them; I feel like those still did a great job conveying a sense of mellowness. I loved “Yume no Nakade” and “Take it Easy” cause of its simple, poppy composition and the cheery atmosphere they gave off. Same goes to tracks like “Matsuyama” and “Rakuen”, this time cause of how much passion Ohashi Chippoke gave off, even though those felt so much more warm and almost melancholic.
But if there’s one word that I would use to describe this album, I would use “pure”. Every song just felt like so much thought and emotion was used to compose them, and it definitely showed. Doesn’t matter whether it was a sadder-sounding track or something more in line with a happy mood, I think Ohashi Chippoke’s ability to create pretty simple compositions while expressing various feelings was displayed beautifully throughout.
2) Star of the Show: Ohashi Chippoke’s Vocals
Each time I listened to this album, I truly was astounded by Ohashi Chippoke’s superb vocals; to the point where I believe it shined the most out of everything within this album and basically stole the show.
Not to diminish what Ohashi Chippoke did on the musical side of things, but damn… his voice was great to listen to in all of these songs. Funny enough, I couldn’t help but think that his vocals were somewhat of an interesting mixture of the voices of Eve and Yonezu Kenshi, having certain aspects and cadences from each artist. Which, that is one heck of a combination and to hear someone convey it, in a way, is pretty awesome.
His voice is very, very refined and just really pleasant to listen to. Especially in the more somber tracks like “Matsuyama” and “Diver”, Ohashi Chippoke’s youthful-sounding vocals and the way he can hit higher notes at certain times was certainly a highlight for me when listening to this album. His voice fits SO well with the type of music throughout Popular no Arika, without a doubt.
Like I mentioned earlier, TikTok is one hell of a place to get artist/music recommendations. As much as it gets a bad rep, I would say that being able to find new, great musicians and songs through all those short videos people make is absolutely a positive about that app.
And after listening to this album of his, I’m glad that Ohashi Chippoke and his work blew up because of a TikTok trend. I especially enjoyed comparing that viral song of his to Popular no Arika and just noticing the differences between the two, since there is actually a two year gap between those releases. Seeing how much more emotional, raw and melancholic Ohashi Chippoke was with this album; it’s an interesting side to him to discover and explore, and it is cut-clear that he’s a talented musician and vocalist.
Even though I usually turn to another Ohashi for this particular type of music, the overall mellow and almost dream-like atmosphere Popular no Arika gave off was lovely and an album I’d totally come back to in the future.
Aaaand that’s all I got for you today!
I apologize for this review being super late in the month; lack of motivation and me being under-the-weather lately factored into it so that’s my bad. Hopefully you enjoyed this review regardless! Ohashi Chippoke is a fantastic artist and I’m glad he’s getting a lot of traction and attention as of late.
Now that you’re finished with this review, you should go on over to Leap’s blog and read his thoughts on the album I gave him, DARLING SYNDROME by Kairiki Bear!
Thanks for reading!! 😀