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Obsession takes on an electrifying form in Bakénéko’s deceptively danceable “Stay”

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Back in 2019, we reviewed Los Angeles-based alt-Jpop duo Bakénéko (Mai Ikushima and Brandon Liew)’s debut single “Remember,” a soaring hook-filled banger that could easily shake up neon arenas. Now, they’re back again with “Stay,” another enjoyable bop with a thoughtful twist.

Bakénéko – “Stay”

Written in the aftermath of a toxic relationship, “Stay” is singer Mai Ikushima’s response to the wrongful perception that being possessive in a relationship is the same as being devoted. By taking on the character of a possessive ex-girlfriend, Ikushima channels the very manipulative horrors that she experienced in her own life. 

“When a guy actually showed this kind of behavior to me, people reassured me that he was just ‘committed to love,'” Ikushima explains. “I hope flipping the genders helps others see how manipulative and messed up that double standard is.” 

“Stay,” which has lyrics cushioned by Japanese (“Unrequited love? / No way / I choose you”) and elements of outright subjugation (“Tell me you’ll obey / Doing whatever I want to” and “Try me once / You’ll never escape”), are warning signs that ironically go unnoticed due to Ikushima’s saccharine singing style and Liew’s candy-colored production. One could easily be deceived into thinking that this raving club hit is innocently joyful; it’s certainly wildly upbeat enough. Further aided by the implicated happiness of the Jpop genre, it’s a curious glimpse into what it’s like being blinded by soaring feelings. 

But while the warning signs are clear once spelled out, it’s hard to tell that there’s danger involved within the moment. Much like an actual relationship, these evident lyrics get masked by hokey, overwhelmingly misdirected feelings–until it’s too late.

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Header photo by Marlo Colma.

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Li-Wei Chu

Music and film lover from California.

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