Japanese pop/R&B singer RIRI is destined to become a major star.
Take a listen to her show-stopping pop banger “HONEY” and flirtatious anthem “That’s My Baby,” and it’s easy to see the reasons why SONY Music signed her onto their label so early on. It’s hard to believe that RIRI, who has a beautifully expansive vocal range, is only a mere 19 years old. Blending R&B with pop sensibilities, RIRI’s impressive albums RIRI (2018) and NEO (2018) call to mind a very early Utada Hikaru–only with more polished production tools and a flirtier sense of style. Like Hikaru, RIRI also has a very international appeal–often inserting catchy English phrases into her songs to win over her Western audience (she even has full English versions of her songs!). It’s interesting, then, that RIRI’s “Summertime” diverts from that almost entirely.
Produced by Nariaki Obukuro and supported by rap artist KEIJU, “Summertime” simmers and sizzles with R&B flair. There’s not a huge booming pop moment here–you won’t find RIRI and her collaborators hitting you hard with euphoric phrases like “THAT’S MY BABY!” or “I WANNA BE YOUR HONEY!”. Rather, the production on “Summertime” is understated, but still shows off RIRI’s vocal range. What’s amazing is how Obukuro is able to turn some of the strangest sounds on the track (an off-kilter vocal loop, sparse backing beats, chopped vocals) into music that doesn’t follow a conventional song structure. However, as the song twists and turns into new dimensions, RIRI still shines even in the presence of KEIJU’s cool rap verses. There’s even a chopped vocal breakdown that serves as a semi-EDM drop (the closest thing to radio-friendly pop on the song), and it somehow sticks the landing.
“Summertime” invites the summer season in with unconventional pop bliss, proving that RIRI is even more than just another pretty voice in the music scene.
Li-Wei Chu is a recent graduate from UC Davis who majored in Cinema and Digital Media who also briefly studied film at Queen Mary, University of London. Li-Wei is obsessed with horror films (especially the ones that give him nightmares), films from East Asia, and really, any film that makes you stop and think.
He loves talking about film and indie music with others. He’s also a record collector and cross-stitches when he has free time. In the future, he hopes to be able to write about film and wants to find a job in the film industry that can support his record buying habits. Maybe one day he’ll also be able to play the guitar.