What do you mean I don’t even have a TikTok accoun-
Yoooo! How’s everyone doing? Mighty fine I hope, as I welcome you back to yet another installment of the J-Music Exchange/Rate!
If you are new to the blog and/or are only coming across this series for the first time – the Exchange/Rate is the tandem album review series conducted by myself and Al over at Omunibasu.Blog, wherein each month we “exchange” albums from our respective libraries for the other person to talk about and discuss. The albums we pick out for one another are based on a theme that we decide on beforehand. This project of ours (of which now spans fifty reviews, lol, that’s a whole shelf!) has been a fantastic way for us to broaden our scope in terms of what we listen to, as well as a way for us to share with you guys some albums that we personally like and listen to. If you’ve ever been curious about a particular album and want to see if we’ve talked about it in the past, feel free to head on over to the J-Music Exchange/Rate page.
Al and I take turns deciding on the theme for the month’s reviews, and the ball is back in my court once again. TikTok (especially JP TikTok) in recent years has low key become one of the primary ways for bands and artists to peddle out their music so to speak in the hopes that a clip of one of their songs that get used for a TikTok video goes viral. I know Some of my favorite songs have indeed become popular from TikTok first and foremost before becoming a mainstream hit on other platforms too. That is why I thought it’d be interesting if we can talk about albums by bands/artists who have, at one point in time, became a viral hit on TikTok.
With that, I went ahead and had Al take a listen to Ohashi Chippoke’s Popular no Arika (catch Al’s review here!). Ohashi broke through with his song Jouryoku which saw wide use on TikTok, subsequently catching the attention of people, including myself. Al in turn gave me Vocaloid producer Kairiki Bear’s album Darling Syndrome to talk about and discuss with you guys today.
Kairiki Bear (かいりきベア) is a Vocaloid producer who made his debut on NicoNicoDouga in June 2011 with the song “Wakare Note”. He would later rise to prominence with “Alkali Rettousei”, released on November 2016, as his first song to hit a million views on NND. This was followed up by the successful release of “Venom” in August 2018, which belatedly became a viral hit on TikTok for its use as a dance track.
＜T ｒａｃｋｌｉｓｔ＞ *Spotify/Apple Music
０６・ビータ/vita – DARLING SYNDROME ver.
０８・リラルラドリーミング/lyralura dreaming – REBOOT ver.
０９・アイ情劣等生/aijou rettousei – REBOOT ver.
１０・アルカリレットウセイ/alkali rettousei – TearDrop Flavor
１１・マイナスレッテル/minus label – CherryRed Flavor
１２・セイデンキニンゲン/seidenki ningen – Computer Flavor
１３・失敗作少女/shippai-saku shoujo – MARETU Remix
＜T ｒａｃｋｌｉｓｔ＞ *Physical Release
１０・リラルラドリーミング/lyralura dreaming VOCALOID ver.
１２・アルカリレットウセイ/alkali rettousei – TearDrop Flavor
１３・マイナスレッテル/minus label – CherryRed Flavor-
１４・セイデンキニンゲン/seidenki ningen – Computer Flavor
１５・ベノム/venom – MARETU Remix-
１６・アンヘル/angel – MARETU Remix
１７・失敗作少女/shippai-saku shoujo – MARETU Remix-
Ａ ｌ : As this month’s theme suggests, I found out about Kaikiri Bear through one of their songs being constantly used on a bunch of TikToks. That song, “DARLING DANCE”, is one that I ended up really liking, especially after hearing it over and over again, similar to the other trendy tracks on that app. And you know, seeing familiar seiyuu/idols dance to that song, like Arai Ruri and Tono Hikaru… it certainly adds to the enjoyment.
Vocaloid is something I’m not too familiar with, nor have I listened to a whole lot of it. There’s nothing bad about it; I just feel like it’s not something that lines up with my usual/everyday musical tastes. So I felt like Kaikiri Bear’s album, DARLING SYNDROME, was an intriguing (and legit) introduction to the overall world of Vocaloid music.
And I thoroughly enjoyed it! This album had such an interesting combination of that iconic/recognizable synthesized singing and loud, fast-paced rock music, which was expressed pretty well throughout the whole tracklist. With that was the incorporation of various, electronic sounds and motifs that paired well with everything. And while I do think that it felt a bit one-dimensional at times, DARLING SYNDROME was still a fun first-time experience, for me at least, into the whole Vocaloid/doujin craze.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
Before I formally start, I want to address something that you more than likely should have already noticed, which is of course there being two different tracklists for Darling Syndrome here. I’m not exactly sure as to why that is, but my best guess is that for distribution purposes they couldn’t include certain songs on the digital release. Now, they’re not *that* different in reality (there’s a difference of four songs, but two of those are remixes of the other two songs), so in reconciling that fact, I figured I’d talk about them here too, as it does ultimately tie in to how I sort of want to frame this review, as well as how I thought it best to approach listening to this album.
Specifically, I wanted to emphasize two main things about Kairiki Bear’s sound over the course of this review, predicated on the idea that their songs are simultaneously both largely similar-sounding to one another yet at times different enough that you can sort of make out the nuance in between: I’ve narrowed it down to two key (in my opinion at least) elements, namely: the guitar-centric nature of Kairiki Bear’s Vocaloid compositions, and his choice of Vocaloids respectively. Darling Dance features without a doubt the Vocaloid most people are familiar with in Hatsune Miku, and along with it a song structure that, by the end of this album, you’ll be even more than familiar with.
That is to say, even just these first two songs already share quite a number of similarities. This is where I thought it was a bit of an odd choice to take out Angel and Venom (the following track after this one) from the digital versions of Darling Syndrome available for streaming. Wherein the tracklist for Spotify and Apple Music had Telestoteles in this spot instead, which is another song that utilizes Kairiki Bear’s Hatsune Miku tuning, Angel would have at least been a way to cut through some of the monotony (so to speak) of otherwise hearing two very similar tracks back-to-back, by featuring a different Vocaloid from the one we just listened to.
Angel utilizes the Vocaloid MEIKA Mikoto: a “voicebank” developed not by Yamaha (the first developers of Vocaloid software alongside Crypton Future Media, famous for creating, among other notable names in Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku), but by Gynoid Co. Why this matters is that, as someone who knows what Miku and that generation of Vocaloid sounds like, its not a “voice” that I myself (and I bet a lot of others too) are used to hearing. At the very least it’s different *enough* from Miku that it doesn’t make it feel as though Darling Dance seamlessly bleeds into Angel (unlike the digital album’s transition to Telestoteles) and is able to set itself apart as its own song.
Venom, as was previously mentioned, is the other track that was taken out of the digital album as another song created utilizing a voicebank by Gynoid Co., this time around making use of v flower (or simply, ‘flower’). Again, another song that does manage to set itself apart from the rest of the album in terms of where it stands in the tracklist for the physical release by featuring a Vocaloid that is tonally different from the ones we’re generally used to hearing. I would like to think that just having this sort of variety does a lot for the album and I would surmise is partly if not wholly the reason why this and Angel were included in the physical release of Darling Syndrome.
Unlike MEIKA Mikoto who’s only used for one song throughout Darling Syndrome, flower actually sees much more use, appearing in three other songs in the album. A lot of that, I presume, is because of the innate versatility in flower, which was designed to produce a more androgynous voice that’s equipped to handle faster Rock arrangements specifically. For what it’s worth, I do think flower is able to play with Kairiki Bear’s compositions the most out of the Vocaloids he utilizes for that very reason. Personally, I think flower is actually the best Vocaloid I’ve heard so far in terms of just straight up speaking (lol) which appears to be a staple of Kairiki Bear’s lyricism.
It took me a second to realize why I felt Mare Mare stood out for me the most out of all the songs on Darling Syndrome, but after a good couple of listens, I wanna say it’s because this song sounded the most… organic out of all the tracks on the album. What I mean by that is of course the way the Vocaloid sounds in the song, wherein most if not all Vocaloids have this distinct echoic synth (almost metallic) quality to them. Vocaloid “singing” in general at times also sound manufactured or “put together” in the sense that there’s this choppiness to the words being produced by the sounds that make up the syllables in a voicebank for a particular Vocaloid.
While you can still definitely hear it, I found that I noticed it the least, not just in Darling Syndrome, but across all of the Vocaloid songs I’ve ever heard, here in this song, where at times it felt like I was actually hearing a person sing. Now, it’s no secret that Vocaloid voicebanks are made using an actual person’s voice as a reference. Most are disclosed and public knowledge, with some being more prominent than others. The “voice provider” for Kizuna Akari, the Vocaloid that Kairiki Bear uses here for Mare Mare for example is one Yonezawa Madoka; a seiyuu known most notably for her role as Hirasawa Ui from K-On! which I thought was neat.
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ Ｄａｒｌｉｎｇ Ｓｙｎｄｒｏｍｅ＞
It was interesting to hear Kairiki Bear’s thoughts on Vocaloid, both in terms of it being an avenue for him to create music as well as its being in itself an instrument to make music with, in an interview with Natalie.mu commemorating “The Vocaloid Collection” Winter 2020 Fan Festival (link to a translation of the article here). In particular. the way he talks about the medium is almost that of a programmer in that the manner in which he describes his composition does sound very technical and analytic, and that they are very much aware of the computer-generated nature of their work. A far cry from the approach that you’d expect from someone in the creative field.
Not to say that creative people can’t technical or analytic of course. If anything, Vocaloid *would* be the intersection of the two – a musical instrument that one can fine tune to their personal preference to fit their compositions. Fellow Vocaloid producer DECO*27 brought up something interesting in that regard when he talks about how Kairiki Bear “doesn’t use a guitar as a guitar” in reference to the atypical sound that his guitar-playing otherwise produces. In reconciling these two seemingly detached observations, there’s a line of thought where we can say that for Kairiki Bear, the Vocaloids are the instruments, and his guitar is the one doing the singing.
That is to say, the high tempo Rock heavy guitar-playing is where Kairiki Bear’s personal flair and individuality as a creator lies, and it’s in his use of Vocaloid where we can see his calculated proficiency as a musician. Viewing the album in that lens, Darling Syndrome in spots lends itself to being a nice little showcase of what more modern Vocaloid works currently sound beyond what we have all come to know from Hatsune Miku ten or so years ago, as well as what Vocaloid producers *like* Kairiki Bear and DECO*27 are able to do with what’s apparently a myriad of voicebanks available today. “In spots” being the operative word, of course.
３.２５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５
６.５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
Conversely, Darling Syndrome does quite agressively reinforce the fact that this is “Kairiki Bear’s Vocaloid” pretty much with each song with how obstinately identical most of the tracks ended up being. Kairiki Bear mentions on the interview I linked above that there are “aspects you won’t understand if you don’t have a good ear” and “not many people could concretely describe what was amazing about it” when talking about his sound signature. Perhaps that is where the disconnect with me lies, as someone who’s admittedly a pedestrian in the world of Vocaloid. Regardless, not an album I’d listen to in one sitting, but definitely still has some choice bangers in it.
What did you guys think of Darling Syndrome. Likewise, what are your guys’ thoughts on Kairiki Bear and Vocaloid music in general? Lemme know down in the comments section below!
Also, let us know too some of *your* favorite bands/artists/songs you discovered on TikTok! Al and I would be very curious to know 😀
Don’t forget to check out Al’s review of Ohashi Chippoke’s Popular no Arika over at Omunibasu. Blog if you haven’t yet.