Yoasobi Shows ‘Strong and Unrivaled’ Presence in Music Scene; Puts Unique Origins to Good Use

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yoasobi’s Ayase, right, and Ikura

On New Year’s Eve last year, Yoasobi, a music duo that formed just five years ago, raised their profile big time at NHK’s 74th “Kohaku Utagassen” (“Red & White Year-end Song Festival”).

They performed their record-breaking hit “Idol” for the first time on a Japanese music program. Their powerful performance alongside a band was enlivened by dazzling dances and cool poses by other stars on the TV show. Among them were popular K-pop groups Seventeen, Stray Kids, Le Sserafim and NewJeans as well as Japanese groups Nogizaka46 and Be: First.

During the performance, the two-member unit at the center stage had a “strong and unrivaled” presence. They were a unifying force for all of the other stars on stage.

©Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. ©Aka Akasaka x Mengo Yokoyari/Shueisha, “OSHI NO KO” Partners
Digital cover art for “Idol”

The success of “Idol” made 2023 a great year for them, leading to live performances in Japan and overseas. Ayase, the composer for Yoasobi, looked back on the year in an unexpectedly laid-back manner.

“We had some energetic live performances last year. We had a lot of good experiences, but it feels like we’re just setting started. I don’t think we’ve reached a higher stage in our activities.”

Despite Ayase’s composed and modest self-assessment,“Idol” was arguably an unprecedented hit in the Japanese popular music scene. Last April, the song was released as the opening theme song for the TV anime series “Oshi no Ko,” based on a manga of the same title, and topped Billboard Japan’s domestic chart for 21 consecutive weeks. This was the longest such streak in the chart’s history. Videos uploaded by fans singing and dancing to the song rapidly spread beyond national borders and burst into overseas charts as well. In short, they made it big at home and abroad.

The 3-minute, 33-second song composed by Ayase includes aspects of pop idol songs, rap, loud rock and video game music. Ikura’s cute voice is uplifting, alternating between frenzy and introspection with changing tones.

©88rising’s Head in the Clouds LA Music & Arts Festival
Yoasobi attends a U.S. music festival. Ikura smiles while Ayase is seen on the screen.

Ayase explained that a curious coincidence happened in the song’s creation.

“Before even receiving an offer to create the song, I was already a fan of ‘Oshi no Ko’ and was so inspired by the manga that I made a demo song for it,” he said. “It was destined to be the opening theme song. I thought it was an interesting happenstance.”

Unique creative style

Yoasobi was formed in October 2019 as a project for a fiction writing website operated by Sony Music. Ayase had gained attention as a vocaloid producer who composed songs using voice synthesizer software, while Ikura worked as a singer-songwriter under the name Lilas Ikuta.

Since they started as a unit that makes music based on novels, Yoasobi has a unique style for creating songs from original works. Their debut song “Yoru ni Kakeru” (“Into the Night”), which also became a global hit, is based on the novel “Thanatos no Yuwaku” (“An Invitation from Thanatos”) by Mayo Hoshino.

Ayase said, “I make songs by digging into novels, repeatedly reading them to understand the content well. I also think deeply about what sounds are suitable and what kind of melody is comforting to listeners if I am to recreate the world of novels for them.”

©Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
Digital cover art “Yoru ni Kakeru” (“Into the Night”)

Ikura is the one who breathes life into the music.

“I get songs in advance, but I don’t discuss how I’m going to sing them until the day of recording. I go over the novel and score in my own way, considering the world of the novel and personalities of the main characters, then decide on the singing style and vocal nuance,” said Ikura. “Finally, I coordinate with Ayase-san in the studio to complete the song.”

Describing Ikura, Ayase said, “No matter what she sings, she can turn them into one of her assets.

“I once worried my rap-like expression in ‘Idol’ would not be fitting for Ikura. However, even when she doesn’t know how to do it correctly, she always manages to find the solution her own way. I can create songs freely because I trust her abilities. I can’t help but think about how amazing she is.”

Ikura also said, “Ayase-san can complete the entire process from writing lyrics, composition and arrangement by himself on his PC. He finds the right sounds, inspired by his mental picture of the story, when thinking about the feel of the song.

“He has finely honed senses. I really respect him,” Ikura said with a smile.

Yoasobi’s history

2019 Formed by Ayase and Ikura, releases debut song “Yoru ni Kakeru” (“Into the Night”)

’20 First appearance on NHK’s “Kohaku Utagassen” (“Red & White Year-end Song Festival”) performing “Yoru ni Kakeru”

’21 First concert with audience at Nippon Budokan hall. Performs “Gunjo” (“Blue”), “Tsubame” (“The Swallow”) at second appearance in NHK’s “Kohaku Utagassen”

’22 First appearance at Rock In Japan Festival. First live performance overseas in Indonesia

’23 Global success of “Idol,” arena tour in Japan and an appearance in a U.S. music festival