Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ieiri Leo: An obsession worth nurturing.

(Taku Takahashi, please step back from that ledge, my friend...)

I've been nothing short of obsessed with the gorgeously cat-eyed Ieiri Leo since I first heard eight seconds of Sabrina in an Oricon ranking video a million moons ago.  I still wonder why I didn't make a beeline for my laptop and blog the crap out of that single (and Shine...and Bless You...) right fuck that instant.  But then I think...I dunno.  I think being transported to magical shiny la la land every time I pop one of her CDs in is a good excuse, don't you?

Ieiri Leo has been immersed in music her whole life, participating in school choirs and music lessons from a very early age.  She began songwriting in her early teens, finishing Sabrina at only 15, saying that she was inspired by the difficult times she was going through when she began writing it at 13. It was shortly after she finished Sabrina that she knew a full-time career in music was what she wanted.

Ok, let's just stop there for a second.  15?!?  She finished that song at 15?!?!!  If you haven't read the translation of those lyrics, you shall now have the option!  (Of course by that, I mean...)

How many of you guys wrote poetry or songs at that age?  Probably most of you, right?  Yes, yes you did.  Now think for a second--what were you writing about when you were 15?  Though our adolescent lives were all pretty complex, they usually will boil down to several common experiences.  I know I can tell you what I was writing about...maybe you'll see a few familiar concepts...

*ripply flashback noises*

Angst...is there a god...more angst...oh the wub in my heart...why am I not in college yet...holy slutwaffles, there's a profound thought...OH MY GOD THERE'S TWO!!!...oh fuckballs moar angst...hey is that a duck?

*throat clearing*

Yep.  Yep yep yep.

At 15, this incredible girl was writing with more descriptive prowess than I could have dreamed of even as a junior in college.  She seems ancient, yet eternally youthful in her songs.  And the rest of her songs so far are just as well-crafted, some even more so.  I'm not going to lie, I almost thought great songwriting was dead in a gutter somewhere.

To compliment her lyrics, Ieiri holds nothing back in bringing her most powerful asset by far to the table--her voice.  It is very rare to hear such a soprano voice be so powerful as hers.  Normally when I think "high voice," I think squeaky "and/or nasal," qualities which don't dare show their faces in Ieiri's performances. She has a very unique, crystal-clear quality to her voice which shines (PUN NOT INTENDED I SWEARSIES!!!!) through even in her lives.  In my relatively short time being a fan of Asian music, I've heard very few artists who consistently sound as good or better than their studio recordings on stage (BoA, Gackt, Yeo Hee and lecca being some notable exceptions to that rule).

Whenever Ieiri performs or shoots a PV, she reaches beyond the pure, luminous sound of her voice to bring us lucky, lucky listeners to an emotional wonderland which many of us might otherwise trip over and miss should we somehow encounter it in the wilds of our own lives.  Though many of her songs released thus far have a serious quality to them, her more upbeat songs, like Colorful, manage to convey the same power without losing a shred of authenticity. For someone so young in mortal years to have such a gift is fascinating, and I think that somewhat spiritual magnetism is what really drew me to Ieiri's music in the end.

One of her free live performances this year was at Odaiba Mezamashi, to which she drew a sizeable crowd of all ages and genders.  Awesomely enough, the performance is still available to watch on the intertubes (though with Japan's charmingly fascist new law, that may change soon, so catch it while you can).

The first song of this performance is by far my favorite song out of her repertoire, "Last Stage," which is to be Track 2 on her upcoming album.  It has a bit of a Jim Croce/Simon and Garfunkel vibe to it, and the glorious cognitive dissonance that created for me made it an instant love.  In any case, the entire performance is very much worth watching. It's really a treat to see the normally fairly stern and professional Leo let down her guard a little bit to get her audience up and moving.  (And also a really good reason to buy the DVD versions of her singles, jus' sayin.)


For people new to Ieiri's music, I would suggest listening to her singles in the order they were released (for maximum addiction POWAAA, of course).  

Sabrina is the song that catapulted her into the public eye, and it was for a reason (beyond being Toriko's end theme, of course).

ripe is a very simple, lilting B-side which compliments the A-side quite well, and it is still a very popular tune at her live performances.  In my opinion, it is her weakest B-side, but still nothing I would skip over on my Ipod.

Shine is by far her most popular song still, and her strongest A-side, in my opinion.  Listening to it when you're feeling crappy will instantly brighten your day, I can guarantee you that.  I adore Ieiri's creative use of English in her lyrics--it is quite charming, and for me it brings new meaning to words which otherwise might sound too new-agey for me.

Hello is almost as popular a song despite being a B-side.  Like ripe, Hello is very laid back, but it is very catchy.

The third track, Colorful, is not typical Ieiri fare, but that does not diminish its value in the least.  Its staccato, upbeat sound is fitting punctuation in her powerful legato repertoire, and something I hope to hear more from her in the future.

This melancholy collection is actually my favorite of Ieiri's single releases thus far.  It shows a bit of an evolution in Ieiri's ability to handle complex song structures and keys.

Bless You is my least favorite A-side, but again, it's still a great, well-composed piece. It is a powerful song, and it is in one of the most complicated keys to compose in, A-flat minor.  I know that super-technical music geekery doesn't mean too terribly much to most of you, but it's just a quirk of mine--the more of the black keys on the piano used, the more I will ultimately end up liking the song for some reason.

Ijiwaru na Kamisama was used for a Pocky campaign, and from the clips Glico released, I didn't think it would be as awesome a song as it turned out to be. You gotta love a drastic key change in the middle of a song.

Kokoro no ka ta chi is my favorite B-side out of all of them so far.  I'm really not sure why, either: maybe it's the different structure, maybe it's the instrumental, but either way, it is a very strong piece with beautifully narrative lyrics.

Ieiri's first full-length studio album drops on 10/24, and the only B-side to be included on it is Hello, so it is definitely going to be worth purchasing.

CD Tracklist

  1. Sabrina (サブリナ)
  2. Last Stage
  3. Say Goodbye
  4. Shine
  5. Ashita Mata Hare Masu You ni (明日また晴れますように; Tomorrow As You Shine)
  6. Second Dream
  7. Kimi Dake (キミだけ; Only You)
  8. Bless You
  9. Fake Love
  10. Hello
  11. Mister (ミスター)
  12. Lady Mary
  13. Linda

Check out a few previews below!


Vilma said...

You inspired me to start posting on my MM blog again~ ♥
Wanna check it out? :)


Mara said...

Aww yay <3 Definitely will! Ganbatte!

Kazemaru Zen said...

Is it just me or did Ieiri really feels somehow similar to Younha when Younha was debuting in Japan? :o