Japan’s leading songstresses are acclaimed for good reason. Just look at icons like Ayumi Hamasaki or Utada Hikaru; a good voice and a talent for angelically subduing the listener seem to press down pretty hard on the superstar stamp, and marks have definitely been made with such penchants. Looking at the success of Fukuoka-based Shiina Ringo, who chose to sit behind the mainstream windshield instead of ride its turbulence, they aren’t the only ways to hit it big either. She ranks with the above singers in terms of success, but only in her native country. She lacks the international attention and adoration that makes names like Utada household, but you’d be mistaken to say she isn’t as good. Her style leans more toward avant-garde J-rock than soaring, majestic pop, so really it’s a little weird to even compare her to them in the first place other than for fiscal comparisons.
It’s probably the interesting mind of Ringo herself that kept her popularity largely within her native walls, seeing as she denied the chance for international fame via record labels. And an interesting mind she has, demonstrated by the musicianship found on her sophomore album Shouso Strip
Filled to the brim with life and energy, a trait immediately drawn from the chorus of opener “I Am a Liar”, Shouso Strip
is a playful entourage through the bustling streets of Shinjuku, Tokyo and something that’s unlike most albums out there. It primarily fuses genres of rock, jazz and pop into a style unique to Ringo all her own. Her voice is raspy and a little childlike, but the sound of it is greater than the sum of its parts and she certainly knows how to use it in refreshing ways. She knows how to expertly harness emotions of melodramatic vigor and respite, as well as uplifting, high-energy pep and cheer.
One of Shiina’s best traits is the perfection of her imperfections; her voice isn’t crystal clear, nor does she force it to be, one of the reasons she chose not to expand her sound to international lengths is because she said she simply is not capable of it (meaning she knows her limits), and on the side her body isn’t symmetrical either, particularly her shoulders, from surgery she had as a child. So whether it pertains to the music or not, Ringo is an interesting icon (despite not actually wanting to be an icon) worthy of many music lovers’ attention for her personality and how she copes with her weaknesses, making Shouso Strip
an expertly-crafted album not to be missed.