Predicting the future is often a pointless venture. Nothing that seems likely to stay actually does, as tastes and situations shift all the time. Yet in the case of “Kiss Dake De,” I feel pretty confident in pointing towards this ballad by Masaki Suda featuring Aimyon highlights the direction J-pop will be taking in the years to come. Watch the video below.
The one area where this number signals no change is musically. This is a familiar-sounding ballad finding actor-turned-singer Masaki Suda delivering softly sung lines of longing over gentle piano notes and acoustic guitar strums. A few electronic distortions ripple off deep in the background, but they end up being pure decoration, not really impacting the flow of “Kiss Dake De.” Aimyon comes in and does her own verse over the same arrangement. Then they duet, serving as a somewhat understated emotional climax for the number. It’s all pleasant enough, but hardly a break away from your typical mainstream pop ballad in any country.
Look at the people involved to get a sense of what the future has in store for J-pop. That’s partially because both Suda and Aimyon really established themselves as top-level stars over the first six months of 2019, after getting plenty of buzz in the music world in the last couple of years. On a very obvious level, these two are going to be around the top level of the nation’s music industry for a long time to come, and this brings them together for a blockbuster collaboration.
It also hints at a future where borders between artists vanish, and features like this become much more important. In some other time, the fact Suda records with a Sony Music sub-label and Aimyon records with one run by Warner Music would have prevented this from happening. The landscape, though, has become far more fragmented, and “Kiss Dake De” reminds that the best way to stand out to a bigger audience is to work together. It’s not totally new, but it is going to become more common moving forward — Aimyon has worked with the rock band RADWIMPS, Suda has collabed with Kenshi Yonezu — and it will prove to be vital in a space where YouTube clicks and streaming plays become central to success. The song might stay the same, but this pairing points towards a new reality.