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Avex Horizon: Saue and Nakae’s “SO.RE.NA”

The sheer size of Avex — the Japanese music/entertainment label — guarantees a few interesting ideas tucked away. Even though the face of the label is anchored by heavyweights such as Ayumi Hamasaki (neve rmind her steadily sinking stock), various EXILE groups and a sack full of K-Pop acts, Avex has spent a lot of time cultivating some of the most interesting projects in the past couple of years. Some of them include Oomori Seiko, the Maltine Girls Project and BiS, among others. Earlier this year, they backed the song “Limo” by rapper/AAA dude Sky-Hi, a thrilling bit of pop-rap featuring the production work of Broken Haze. It was a sign that Avex still had plenty of space for great ideas.

Welp, here’s another gem from the massive imprint. Saue and Nakae is a special collaboration between rapper Saue of the rap outfit Cyprus (who I knew very little about before this) and Yuri Nakae of idol unit Tokyo Girls’ Style (who I know a lot about). “SO.RE.NA” is their first song and it is a lovely, jittery thing, one seemingly about a generation gap. See: the chorus for one, but also how Saue’s first verse opens with “back in the days” and reflection on various old aspects of life…followed up by Nakae not knowing anything about them. It’s a cute concept done well (beats a “Kids React To…Pogs” video), but what pushes it over the top is how fantastic the production is, and how well it works in tandem with both the headlining artists. No one is credited specifically with making the backing track, but it is a sweet bit of work full of sliced up vocal samples and vaguely trendy touches (Phony Phonic, where I saw this initially, pointed out how it seems in step with PC Music, and I agree, though it extends to a whole huge swath of electronic music too).

Anyway, what I really like about this…and “Limo,” and a bunch of other artists…is how it is a hip-hop inspired song, but one putting its own spin on the style. Like, I don’t have anything against KOHH and think he’s done some very good work, but I’m always going to be more drawn to the artists who interpret a genre that’s well outside their culture into something all their own rather than just imitate all the recognizable parts. Watch the video above.