As she uses music to call attention to important issues like #MeToo and #TimesUp, Japanese artist MIREI celebrates new album, Take Me Away. Her English debut album uses kaleidoscopic sound to produce a potent backdrop to her lyrical reflection on the painful push for authenticity in a deeply conformist culture. “‘Take Me Away’ is about how hard it is to feel like you belong, especially when you’re dealing with things like anxiety and depression,” she says. By the end, the singer encourages us to embrace our own truth. Finding collaborations with Dai Burger, DJ Sliink, and DJ Shiftee, she perfects this amazing rendition of ‘No Ordinary Love’ which she gave a portion of its proceeds to NAACP. Get to know this influential, inspiring artist as you hit replay on her music.
MIREI: Because of COVID-19 my tour and all my gigs were canceled and I was stuck at home. It was frustrating but also gave me time to dig into some music. I felt a new connection to Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” while sheltering in place. This was certainly no ordinary love or life. The song just hit differently – originally it’s a simple love song but now listening to it, I just think about how people are finding new ways to give love to each other while we’re kept apart from each other. The virus has taken so much from us, but not our ways to connect. After I performed it on my IG TV (aka MIREI TV), the fans really loved it and I decided I needed to release it officially with a video to further share the message. That’s why I decided to cover this song, dedicating to all the frontline workers for COVID-19, and also all who are fighting against racial injustices.
Talk about your album Take Me Away
Take Me Away is my first album in English, and it’s inspired totally by my experiences and stories as a young 21 year old woman living in Japan as well as my friends. Growing up in the big city of Tokyo has been such an inspiration and influenced all that I do, but there is a dark side too.I wanted to break the stereotype of cute, east, kawaii girls in Japan. I wanted to break the toxic masculinity around us, pushing us down. There’s more to us and we have something to say!
What inspired your English language debut?
I have to be honest, the internet was the biggest inspiration for me. On social networks like Twitter or Instagram, many people started to voice their opinions and fight for their rights and equality in movements such as #metoo, #timesup, and #blacklivesmatter. We’re all so connected and the internet has empowered us, especially to tell the stories that maybe would go unheard normally. Growing up in Tokyo is exciting but also gave me so much discomfort as a musician and woman. I want to solve those discomforts, or at least start a dialogue on it all. And that’s when I realized it isn’t enough to sing these songs in Japanese… so with English being more of a universal language, I knew more people would listen. I needed to tell the WORLD about what was happening here.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
I love every song from my album so it really depends on my mood each time. Right now I feel like I wanna choose “Let Me Be.” I love how the song is just buttery smooth and an honest exchange from one lover to another. If you love 90s R&B, I’m sure you’ll love this one.
Talk about your tribute to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements
While watching the #metoo movement, I just felt like I could relate and that’s what seems to be the common thread with women around the world. I experienced similar situations, and heard some horror stories from my friends. The story I was shocked the most by was Shiori Ito’s. She came forward about a Japanese journalist who raped her. At first Japanese media tried to hide the news but thanks to the internet, it wasn’t possible to keep it a secret. She could also speak English, so media all over the world had covered it. Finally the civil court found the journalist guilty in December of 2019 after Shiori had initially lost it in criminal court. Here’s the thing though – we still don’t know ALL the stories and we still don’t know ALL the cases, and how many cases have been swept under the rug like this without the same result? So what if she didn’t have internet? What if she couldn’t have the strength to keep fighting and pushing? There are so many hidden victims treated unfairly. I tell this story a little bit in my song “Not A Number” on the album.
Tell us about MIREI TV. How has it changed your work as an artist during shelter in place?
Since we have to keep social distance, it became impossible to do concerts or shows and sing together face to face. As I said, my tour was canceled and that’s so frustrating, but this also gave me the opportunity to keep live streaming. I have my fans all over the world and most of them are living in outside of Japan anyway so they can’t come to the gigs. It has been so awesome to communicate with my fans and talk about many topics together, while also laughing and keeping positive through all this. I go live on Fridays at 7 pm EDT but people are tuning in from so many different time zones! I’m just thankful for this.
Roberta Flack. I started to do YouTube live in June and since June became Black Music Month, I’ve I’m digging into soul music from the 1960’s to 70’s. It’s all I’ve been listening to these days. “old but gold” as they say. Spotify and YouTube are now suggesting so many nice classic recordings! Roberta Flack’s voice is just so elegant and sexy at the same time, which I’m trying to be in my real life (haha). I’m listening to her everyday, drinking hot green tea. That’s my chill.