Review Summary: Stellar debut that started with anonymity
In the world of J-pop, there’s very little at risk. Infamous for unrelentlessly churning out the utmost juvenile works in the industry, new artists tend to create albums without much merit in terms of originality, innovation, or songwriting. Worst case scenario, the sterile sound of most of these artists’ productions solely rely on its vocal power in the hopes of attracting the necessary air time to become a hit. The intense pressure the artists are under from their label to put out a hit results, for the most part, in the total compromise of their talent in favor of compositions without the soul nor the passion that got these people noticed.
Fortunately, Aimer didn’t fall for this trap.
She bypassed all attempts to streamline her music to the pop standard, instead denying the public even the most minute detail as to who she was. Sure, she had been featured in some recent anime and whatnot, just who was Aimer? No public appearances, near-anonymity - was she endorsed due to her talent, or was it just to fuel some sort of mystery amongst the record buying public? Regardless of the answer, Aimer’s timing in the industry was nothing short of a blessing as she came about in a time where soulless pop productions reigned supreme and quality was sacrificed for quantity. In her debut work, Aimer brought forth an album that focused intently not only on its production, but paid attention to the potential her remarkably catchy songs had.
Opening up her album with a traditional song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, almost seems to be like a joke, a childishly unorthodox choice, yet Aimer has managed to create a mature sounding. Her mellifluous voice combined with the ethereal synth creates this sort of atmosphere that leaves one breathless. The arrays of instrumentation --mainly composed of strings, piano, synth, and drum-- throughout the album are outstanding while successfully creating a wintery-night feeling, the prevailing theme of the album. Just as the name of the album implies, Sleepless Nights chronicles the moments at night where it is tough to keep one’s eyes closed.
The wintery-night feeling comes from the synth first seen in the opening tracks, and it climaxes on the song “Fuyu no Diamond”, where the interplay between the vocal and the echoing electronic touch paints a wintery atmosphere, making it arguably the best track of the album. The lyrics also play a critical role towards the theme such as: regretting the past life, dealing with loneliness, and reaffirming one’s love. They are gloomy yet retrospective; it’s something that keeps us awake at night.
Despite the wintery feelings produced in this album, the barrier of language prevents most of her western audience from seeing the complete picture. When listening to music in a different language to our own, it is often difficult to notice the implication of the music without knowing the lyrical content. Translation exists, but it does not feel the same compared to knowing the language beforehand. However, it does not matter when the vocal delivery is potent enough to overcome the language barrier; it certainly the case here, with its overall melancholic theme while also provides a contrast with a few uplifting tracks within the album (for tracks like “Egao”, “AM 2:00”, and “Re:pray”). The melancholic tendency within Aimer’s vocal doesn’t hold her back to bring a stellar delivery into these tracks.
Aimer is cautiously expressive. For an album that seemingly has a visible pattern behind it, she manages to keep the album from being too static. Her singing skill brought upon not only a consistency, but also a variation within the album that comes from the vocal delivery style. With both solid songwriting and production, Sleepless Night comes forth as a gift to the J-pop realm.