When you think about Tokyo, you can’t help but to picture the romanticized skyscrapers, flashy neon signs, and crowded people moving at a breakneck speed. But like any city, there are dark corners that are often overlooked and even kept in secret from outsiders. Tokyo-based artist MIREI sheds light to many of social and cultural issues in modern day Japan through her music. Offering her own personal insight into the phenomenons such as papakatsu and speaking out on issues such as sexual harrassment, cultural conformity, and more, she is using her work and platforms as a way to bring awareness. Her latest song “Sell Me Your Love,” addressed the ways people have monetized “love” through social media, hosting culture, and more.
We had the chance to speak with the artist on her music, background, and more.
Has music been always something you wanted to pursue? Or was there a specific moment in your life that made you want to pursue it?
Music has always been part of my life since I was born thanks to my family and singing has always been the biggest part of my expression. The first toy I got was E-Kara, which is a microphone that can be connected to television and sing karaoke. In my early years when I got into trouble with local kids, my parents enrolled me in dancing classes. Since then, I’ve always wanted to be a singer and even watching artists like Britney and Beyoncé through TV made me want to pursue this even further.
For someone who is new to MIREI, what three songs would you recommend?
First, I would recommend “Lonely In Tokyo”, which captures the essence of why I sing and make music. Second would be “1998”, which is a great song to get to know me. And lastly would be “Sell Me Your Love”, which is a great introduction to the type of topics and issues I’d like to explore with my work. The story behind the song is shocking, but I don’t think that our current practice of love being treated as a tradeable commodity is not so different from the problem that they were having.
We noticed that a lot of your past songs are in the electronic/synthpop side. What influenced you to change your style this time with your new song “Sell Me Your Love”?
While I was making this song, I visualized the surreal, luxurious bars in the nightlife scene. I wanted to make this song more seductive than what I’m used to and since RnB is my favorite way to make myself feel sexy, it was natural to go towards this direction and express this part of me.
“Sell Me Your Love” is inspired by how love has become something that can be measured by a form of currency. Beyond the hosting culture, you mention how this can be applied to relationships between fans and artists where ‘love’ is measured through likes, handshakes, etc. As an artist yourself, how do you maintain a healthy relationship with your fans?
I always remind myself to not care about the likes or change my personality in order to please everyone. This pressure is something that happens to everyone and not just in relationships, but other areas of our lives. Sometimes you post something that receives many likes while other times you get radio silence. I learned not to care about the numbers and continue to say and show whatever feels authentic to me. In the end, numbers are just numbers and can’t judge me or my relationships. I think this awareness is the key to maintaining a healthy relationship. Oftentimes, people become manipulative unconsciously and start demanding others to give us certain things that measure their affection, which can lead to a toxic cycle of constantly comparing. It’s nice to show you care, but you need to set healthy boundaries to avoid getting trapped into such situations.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling in wanting to get those likes and validations all the time?
You shouldn’t judge yourself by other people’s opinions on you – whether that is through their comments or social numbers, you need to remember that you’re responsible for taking care of your own mental health and self-love. While wanting to better yourself is always great, it’s important to not base your worth on other people’s perception of you. You should never seek external validations and decide for yourself what values are important for you while also embracing your flaws along the way.
What are some themes that you would like to explore more with your music in 2022?
While staying home these past few years, I’ve been looking back to my childhood a lot. From old memories with my friends and family to the Y2K trends on TikTok, I’ve been reflecting a lot about my environment and experiences which naturally translated into my music. In addition, I’ve been thinking about how our Internet culture has the tendency to seek perfection – which is poisonous for our mental health. I would be bombarded with filtered faces and bodies that would suffocate me. Same goes for music – a lot of vocals are auto-tuned and highly processed that it would make me lose confidence in myself. When I would look into the mirror and sing, I would feel too real and far away from “perfection.” Things changed when I decided to step back from socials and reconnect with myself. This experience is something that I explore a lot in my upcoming music, so get ready for all of them!
The world ends tomorrow and you decide to throw an apocalyptic party tonight. What song will you choose as the opener? And which one as the closing one before we all die in flames?
For the first song I’ll play “September” by Earth Wind, Fire. We all have a memory we’d like to revisit from time to time and doing it while singing “21st night of September” would be perfect, right? It could be your wedding, party, date, whatever. I want every attendee to remember it. For the closing, I’ll choose “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. After I hit the play button, I would run to my loved ones and hug and dance with them while telling them “I’ll always love you.” I wanna fill this party with lots and lots of love in all forms, not just the romantic ones. But the love you have for pets, friends, teachers, and many others. To me, this song captures such love.