Japanese artist, Kikuo, is known for his distinct musical style of pairing whimsical, upbeat music with dark themes usually pertaining to child abuse or being lost forever, whether it be in a maze, nightmares or darkness. His song “愛して愛して愛して” (Trans. “Love Me, Love Me, Love Me”) falls right in line. It’s a story about a person that wishes to be paid attention to, loved and validated, yet they twist it. They demand everyone pay attention to them by harming themself and begging others for their love. Kikuo uses his music in such an amazing way to bring this story to life.
You’re lured into the song with a simple music box, and other instruments played with mallets join in. Various runs on marimbas and vibraphones. There’s an accordian that joins the party every now and then as well. These instruments all make me think of children. Music boxes are often associated with lullabies and I picture jovial children dancing accompanying any accordion player. What’s makes them feel different in this song, is how Kikuo plays with the stereoscape. You only hear certain instruments on certain “sides” (This is much more apparent with headphones). No matter how sweet these instruments are on their own, when all heard at once, everywhere it’s very possible to feel overwhelmed, much like the other people in this song must feel with the protagonist of our story.
What really seals this song is the singer. Kikuo often writes his vocals using a program called Vocaloid, which is basically a computer generated voice that you can make songs with. This has an immense effect on the song. There’s always a robotic sound to songs made with these programs since it’s not exactly a real person singing. This makes this song feel all the more unsettling, especially paired with a high vocal range making it seem like the song is being sung by a child. If you can get past the artificial childlike voice, then you might still think the song is somewhat cheerful sounding. That’s when the last piece of the puzzle comes in. The lyrics. This is where Kikuo’s styles really shines. The lyrics of this song don’t sugarcoat like the instrumentation does. It’s repetitive and it’s unnerving. “Love me, love me, love me more and more / Love me, love me so much that’s it’s maddening.” Mannerisms in the lyrics further compare the singer to a child, “Aren’t I a good kid? Hey, hey, I’m good right? It hurts, hey”.
Each piece of this song wouldn’t make sense without the rest and that’s why I love it. Kikuo’s work is just so interesting to me. Dark themes have always been intriguing to me and the contrast Kikuo brings to his songs like this one always amaze me. I tend not to listen to lyrics when I listen to music, or rather, I hear them as another instrument, one without words. Yet, he makes the vocals so powerful, I can't not listen to them. I don’t get scared away from his music. It’s raw and real. Not like a lot of the fluffy music we hear on the radio, and even when those songs do get “dark” it’s always surface level. Kikuo gets right into it. There’s twisted shit out there and it needs to be talked about.
By Mayah Bosley, Winter 2018
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