When it comes to Japanese musicians ‘getting it right’ when it comes to fostering global levels of awareness, availability of music and all-round success, few set a better example than Suiyoubi No Campanella / aka. Wednesday Campanella. The electronic trio, fronted up by the hip, chic model looks of singer KOM_I, the outfit are now one of the most regularly cited acts amongst Japanese music fandom in the West. And best of all – unlike so many other Japanese acts, their music is prolifically available via streaming services like Spotify.
I first heard of Suiyoubi No Campanella back in February 2015 on the It Came From Japan podcast, which featured their track Mothra. Lured in by their fascinating blend of dance-pop accessibility, quirky sung/rapped vocals and enticing melodies, I quickly became a fan. The group’s output – both in terms of music and their striking, colourful music videos – is notoriously prolific; since 2013 they’ve released at least one full album per year.
It is with their most recent SUPERMAN – that it felt like things were really starting to ‘click’ into place. Now signed to major label Warner, the band have deftly maintained their inherent ‘hipness’, while simultaneously putting out some of their most ‘pop’ material to date. Recent singles Ikkyu-san and Audrey are ridiculously catchy mini-masterpieces that neatly slide into the quasi-tropical house sound dominating Western chart music right now, while still offering up melodic structures that still feel definitively ‘Japanese’.
And this brings me onto the topic of why, precisely, I feel Suiyoubi No Campanella’s subtle rise upward is so significant for Japanese music’s larger role within Western music’s wider listenership.
I’ve long put forward a theory that the ‘kind’ of Japanese acts that become well known in the west invariably falls into a number of defined routes. For a while, the likes of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume represented one route – sleek pop pushed via dedicated ‘once a year’ live shows in London that represented a meeting point for a delineated fandom of ‘J-pop’. Likewise, the J-rock scene saw its own dedicated conveyor belt of acts – sometimes aided by the appeal of anime OP themes (in the case of Scandal etc.) in opening them to a wider audience. Taking this to its fullest extent, we have started to see the case of acts like One OK Rock and Man With A Mission that have started releasing English language records as part of a further bid to achieve Western success.
But to me, Suiyoubi No Campanella represent a kind of third route – a more credible, organic one – that while perhaps taking longer, and being more subtle in nature; is more universal in nature. In essence, by keeping the focus firmly on a credible yet accessible sound – paired to ‘exciting’, artistic imagery – the band have forged an identity that feels just as at home in say – a Western indie or club music magazine as it does within the realm of dedicated J-pop coverage or fandom. Suiyoubi No Campanella feel inherently ‘global’ in both their sound, visuals and outlook – something constantly reaffirmed by the availability of their music and videos on ‘global’ platforms like Spotify and YouTube.
To consume the band’s music and videos is to operate within this levelled, universal space – not at a remove where music is limited to increasingly archaic formats such as imported CD releases or paid-for downloads. The band’s music is simply ‘part of’ a wider mix of global music – and as such, opens it up to inclusion on pan-global playlists on Spotify.
And it’s paying off – currently Suiyoubi No Campanella have roughly 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, more than Perfume’s 90,000 and fast closing on Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s 130,000.
As a ‘new model’ of success for Japanese acts in the West, I think Suiyoubi No Campanella represent something tantalisingly new and exciting – and if more Japanese acts start following this model, who knows what the musical landscape might look like in a couple of years’ time…