kiki vivi lily - vivid

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Fresh, fun and creative, “vivid” is the first full album from it girl kiki vivi lily, and features inspired production from trendsetters like Tomita Lab, sweet william, and Arata Hikaru (WONK), resulting in an excellent record that firmly belongs in anyone’s best of list for 2019.

kiki vivi lily has been on the radar for a little while with her EP “Lovin you”, as well as featuring on tracks by illmore and SUKISHA, and with her cute voice, quirky melodies and inventive lyrical phrasing, it’s easy to see why all these modern producers want to work with her. On “vivid” they get to stretch out their creative abilities to find ways to feature and build around her talents. This means diverse percussive hits (no four on the floor here), a variety of instruments, and pulling from genres like soul, synth pop, 90’s hip hop and future bass.

So that means you get something cool for everyone: tracks like “Asian Resort” with its Latin/shibuya-kei vibes, the uplifting soul vibes of “At last”, “K.V.L.F” which has funky synths and Kool & the Gang “Get down on it” rhythm guitar, or a stripped down (and superior) remix of “AM0:52.” The key is that the production tends to take a back seat instead of overpowering her, which was sometimes the case on “Lovin you”. kiki vivi lily doesn’t have the most powerful voice, but that’s also an asset as she’s got a girl next door image and a voice that’s sweet like Chara/Sato Moka. This gives the songs a personal core/narrative that is sometimes lacking on auteur producer releases.

Possibly because she’s not an apparent superstar/model like RiRi, she expresses her feelings in fun and roundabout ways. She’s the kind of girl calling randomly in the middle of the night to hear her partner’s voice again (“AM0:52”), addicted to her lover like black coffee every morning (“カフェインに中毒”). The best is “80 denier,” where she sings about needing a little bit of opacity in a relationship to cover her feelings - 60 denier is too transparent. But if you’re expecting your boy to make a move without him knowing exactly what you’re thinking, it kind of makes things difficult! Indeed, she muses that boys don’t even understand what denier is anyway.

“vivid” is an amazing debut album for kiki vivi lily, and has been well worth the wait. While it’s hard to fail with producers/track makers like these, she elevates them with her personality to create something really special. If you’ve always thought J-pop was melodramatic, cliched or bland, “vivid” is your antidote, and kiki vivi lily has emerged from the clouds as a new heroine for Japanese music. Thank goodness.

Royce Leong