Singers definitely need a lot more than just a good vocal to make provocative and smart J-pop in 2023, and it’s obvious in the new single “Someone Else” that Anna Aya has much more than just her magnificent singing ability to rely on when making such a track. In this song, her voice is but one facet of a multilayered performance style capable of issuing statements both austere and soothing the same, and although this isn’t the first instance in which her creative dynamics have stolen the spotlight from the competition, it could be the piece of material to debut her music career to an international audience.
The verses and the instrumental groove are entirely cohesive in “Someone Else,” with sparse percussive pulsations contributing as much to the rhythm as Aya’s command of the lyrics would. She’s uncompromising in her pursuit of the beat in this single, and one could even make the argument that the yearning in her voice adds to the frustrated tone of the backdrop enormously. Tension is her weapon of choice in this performance, but she isn’t utilizing it in a manner I would describe as flashy or overindulgent – quite the opposite, truth be told. Balancing the moodiness of the music with that of the words is no easy feat, but you’d never know that from her swaggering demeanor here.
It’s quite clear that Aya is going a little softer at the verses than she could have in this song, but this too only serves to expand on the natural friction the hesitant groove in the background produces. Rather than turning to a hostile bassline or a forced urgency in the beat, she’s taking the absence of intensity and turning it into a catalyst for every powerful insinuation her lyrics can yield. Her emotions are on her sleeve, and not just in the linguistic form typical of pop songwriters in 2023.
Visceral poeticisms are nothing without the soul of their source to bring them to life, and it’s impossible to debate as much when considering the lyrical structure in “Someone Else,” and specifically the way Aya approaches it. She has no interest in concealing her emotionality behind excesses nor understated ribbonry alike; this is a singer who doesn’t need enigmas to tell a story, but instead a beat supple enough to match her intimate style of expression. There’s a lot of thought going into this, which hasn’t been as common as I’d like it to be in the underground lately.
Anna Aya has evolved a lot since first making headlines outside of music, and although I think she’s still got some room to grow her rather unique composing formula into everything it could ideally be, there is no dismissing the elegance of her new single “Someone Else.” Fantastically well-produced and sporting euphoric harmonies that aren’t lacking the grit and tenacity of a true performer’s handiwork, “Someone Else” could do quite a bit for its creator on the mainstream level, which has become an increasingly elusive target for indie artists everywhere amidst a wave of unbelievable new talent on which Aya is riding high this fall.
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