Vaundy Replicates, Evolves in New Double-Disc Album

Photo by Yoshiharu Ota
Vaundy poses for a photo. While he pursues the essence of pop music, he said, “It’s a given fact that I create what I want to create.”

With a combined 4.6 billion plays on YouTube and streams, Vaundy is one of the most listened-to artists right now. He recently released “replica,” a double-disc album with 35 songs on the SDR/Sony Music label. The epic album features his recent hit songs, such as “Odoriko” (Dancer) and “Koikaze ni Nosete” on Disc 2, while most of the 15 songs on Disc 1 are newly written. The artist spoke to The Yomiuri Shimbun about his search for the essence of pop through ambitious songwriting.

“Disc 2 is a bonus,” Vaundy said. He was more focused on Disc 1, which is, essentially, a completely new album. His songs are such viral hits on subscription music services that even led to an admission restriction for his performance at Fuji Rock Festival this summer. Yet he swiftly put those songs aside and focused on the next phase.

The toy packaging-like cover art of the limited edition of Vaundy’s new album, “replica,” is based on his university graduation artwork.

The 15 songs on Disc 1 have unique melodies that captivate the hearts of listeners while featuring vividly raw vocals and instrumentals with minimal acoustic effects, a clear departure from his previous colorful pop songs. Disc 1 also includes the songs “One liter full of love” and “Jonetsu.”

“They’re closer to me,” he said. “Before now, my songs often started from a tie-in project or already had concepts chosen, so I had to take those frameworks and limitations into consideration when I wrote the songs. The pop songs in this album are more personal and more challenging.”

This was when Vaundy suddenly asked us, “Do you mind drawing a doughnut?” The doughnuts we drew looked alike, all of them rings with dots representing sugar sprinkled on them.

“This is pop music. In my head, replicas equal pop music,” he said as he began speaking about his thought process behind the album.

Vaundy theorizes that the process of creation boils down to the accumulation of replicas on replicas. Even though the word “replica” tends to have a negative connotation, “I myself am a mixture of the replicas of my father and mother,” he said.

He then went on to say composing music is the same in the way that one understands and analyzes works created by earlier generations and then extracting the good parts.

“Music, art, design — they are all the activities of making a replica from replicas of life in a dramatic way,” he said.

The last song on the album’s Disc 1 is evocative of David Bowie, both in the song’s style and Vaundy’s vocalization, because he believes that Bowie is who he should work to surpass right now. According to Vaundy, musical innovation was put on pause after the 1960s and the 1970s when musicians like The Beatles, Bowie and Haruomi Hosono thrived.

“To those people who broke ground, what we’re doing right now are just tiny festivals,” Vaundy said self-deprecatingly.

“We must make good use of pop music and work hard toward its evolution. That’s what’s in Disc 1,” he proclaims.

Although Vaundy has found great success with streaming, he also opted for a physical release.

“If this album doesn’t sell 1 million copies, I’ll never release a CD. I’m that committed,” he said. “When you’re releasing a CD in an era when many people don’t listen to CDs, then you’ve got to have a lofty goal. Otherwise, it won’t be interesting.”

Innovation of anime songs

Photo by Junpei Hiyoshi
Vaundy sings at a concert.

Vaundy has produced many unforgettable, quality pop songs, such as his hugely successful “Kaiju no Hanauta” (Monster’s flower song). Apparently, one of the sources of his cutting-edge talent is anime songs, or anison.

Thanks to his mother, he grew up in a household full of music. The first CD he bought was a best-of album by singer-songwriter Kazumasa Oda. He began composing songs as a junior high school student and became infatuated with anime and anime songs.

“I sang them to death. I’ve been deep in the [anime] otaku life for a while,” he said.

According to Vaundy, “Lately, the hottest of Japanese music has always been anison.”

Artists like Kenshi Yonezu and YOASOBI, whose songs regularly top the charts, have already been involved in creating anime songs one after another, but Vaundy isn’t surprised.

“Anison has always used the latest sounds since the 1970s and the 1980s,” he said.

The influx of imported music restarted en masse in post World War II. According to Vaundy, this transition allowed various kinds of new styles to blend and form idiosyncratic styles. Musicians who were quick to recognize the latest sounds tried to incorporate such music in their works, and anime songs became one of the platforms to do so. Furthermore, anime has gained more and more overseas viewers who only know ansion.

“Japanese anison, the forefront of musical evolution in this country, is pop music,” he said.

If Vaundy is going to challenge himself, his choice of platform is anison. “Todome no Ichigeki” (The final blow) is his most recent anison venture, the ending theme song for the second season of “Spy x Family.” On first listen, the song may just sound like city pop, a genre of Japanese pop music that is experiencing a revival in popularity right now, but he invited Cory Wong, one of the world’s top rhythm guitarists, to join the song, leading to the highly intricate track. In anime, anything goes.

“That’s because [anime] is already unrealistic,” he analyzed.

High-quality music, distinct album artwork and passionate live performances — Vaundy, 23, is an artist who always incorporates his whole personality into his work.

“Consider me as an anime protagonist and enjoy the person that is me,” he said eloquently.