Friday, October 13th, 2017

DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu – Uchiage Hanabi

Sounds like Radwimps, and scored almost the same


Patrick St. Michel: DAOKO has been kicking around for a while now. She released journal-like whisper rap songs at the start of the decade before slowly morphing into a genre-blurring act channeling the likes of Japanese rock group Sotaisei Riron or covering netlabel anthems. Recently, she’s eyed a crossover, dabbling in many sounds but not quite getting there. Alas, her breakthrough comes via a ballad trying to ride the exhaust from last year’s Your Name. “Uchiage Hanabi” works better than the other half-dozen songs tied to animated films from the past year trying to recreate Radwimps’s success, partially because the song works in off-kilter percussion that mucks up the cinematic sheen a bit, and partially because the other artist credited here knows his Radwimps really well. But this is still a J-pop ballad, and it can only be so good when it follows a very predictable path musically and emotionally. It’s probably the worst possible intro to DAOKO and her much more interesting back catalog (which she’s already returning to sonically on her latest single), but here’s hoping it at least prods more people to explore what she’s about. 

Ryo Miyauchi: DAOKO’s chase for alternative cool as a major-label artist has given diminishing returns in the past few years, so her dive into the super-contemporary with this anime film tie-in is actually a welcome one. Cheesy as it is, the summertime romance opens a tender side that she might’ve brushed away on her own output. The season-exclusive theme as well as its overall novelty doesn’t provide this song with much mileage, though you could’ve said the same about its sort-of predecessor “Zen Zen Zense.”

Stephen Eisermann: All of my favorite animes (“Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Seven Deadly Sins, etc.) end with songs that manage to always feel empowering and that is so important when you know these shows will be viewed all over the world. Truth is, I stopped looking at the lyrical translations immediately after hearing these songs because often enough, the bombastic production choices were sufficient to make listeners feel the expected emotions. This song is no different and even before viewing the lyrical translations I knew the song was about a romance and the fight for keeping another person happy. It sounds romantic, I feel invested, and I want so badly to be the girl that Kenshi is singing to and for.

Edward Okulicz: Despite the text, this song in no way evokes fireworks. Not a bit. Almost nothing in life, be it a pop song, a first kiss (or any kiss), a surprise, a moment of laughter, feels like fireworks; it’s just a cliche. But the hammy lushness of the outro, littered with la-la-las, is a near-endless and endlessly replayable pleasure, more a lovely sunrise than a fleeting firework. Good vocal interplay from DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu, too.

Alex Clifton: A pretty enough song with some nice vocal interplay, but a song about fireworks needs to have a bit more energy. The verses do actually evoke the languid summer night described and while the chorus is gummy enough, I don’t have a sense of bombast. If you’re talking about this sort of yearning, you need to go big or go home; sadly, this song never fully achieves either despite its potential.

Nortey Dowuona: Soft, understated piano, smooth synth bass, slight guitar and soft strings sliding over pumped drums. Both DAOKO and Kenshi acquit themselves well, especially since Kenshi seems to be immediately stymied by weak drum programming.

Iain Mew: The filtered guitar bits are gorgeous and the guile-free sweep of strings and dual voices makes me smile. If it feels at times like they’ve hit on good moments by throwing everything at one song until something sticks, it’s still an approach with plus points.

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