The question you need to confront heading into Sheena Ringo’s new song is “Do I like Auto-tune?” This isn’t the first time the long-running J-pop singer/songwriter has dipped her voice in the pitch-altering software and has even been present in other numbers landing their own videos. “Niwataori to Hebi to Buta” finds her getting ambitious with the technology though, coating the bulk of her vocals in it. Considering that her voice — capable of both refinement and wild release, often able to pivot between on a single song — is one of her best musical tools, it’s almost a provocation to lean this hard into digital manipulation.
OK, got your thoughts on Auto-tune figured out? Watch the video below.
The clip itself goes just as big as the song and features a few newsworthy developments. Set in downtown Tokyo, the video loads up on elaborate fashion and graphics as Ringo overlooks a particularly eye-catching parade. A good moment to remind readers that Ringo is playing a huge part in creating the 2020 Olympic entertainment, so maybe this is a preview of what she’s planning for the opening ceremony. Maybe you can help explain things to your parents after watching this a few times.
Also noteworthy — the video stars Aya Sato, a dancer formerly of the duo AyaBambi. She hasn’t been seen for some time, but here she is the clip. This trended on Twitter this morning in Japan.
“Niwataori to Hebi to Buta” serves as the opening number to Sheena Ringo’s forthcoming album Sandokushi, out later this month. She just goes all in on Auto-tune in her early lines, and the digi-trail remains even as the song goes on. Notably, all the lyrics are sung in English, and they play out over a marching band arrangement that adds oomph to all of it (while this song is much more disorienting, a good reference point would actually be Sekai No Owari’s “RPG,” another number bridging John Philip Sousa to T-Pain).
This song works for me thanks to Auto-tune, a touch that escalates the confusing and dizzying atmosphere of the song. It’s probably best as curtain-opener for whatever appears on the album, but even as a standalone number it offers some welcome chaos and ambition from an artist who has reached a point in her career where she can settle if she’d like.