WHO IS SIRUP?: The Leading Face of Japanese R&B


Japanese underground alternative R&B sensation SIRUP is rising to popularity on the J-pop music scene. SIRUP’s name 一a mashup of the term Sing & Rap 一 is highly representative of his style of music, making him a unique addition to the Japanese R&B genre.

As a self proclaimed R&B connoisseur, whenever I hear a new R&B artist I get slight anxiety. R&B is such a sacred music genre, and a highly respected art form that is the elemental factor in other music genres like hip hop. This is why I tend to be highly critical of those proclaiming to be making R&B music.

Although I have open ears and an open mind, my great adoration for classic R&B and its subcategories prompts me to hold new R&B artists to a certain standard that was set by their predecessors. In the United States I am aware of the better side of today’s R&B music, however I love to delve into how R&B looks around the globe.

I began listening to the underground Japanese R&B soul singer SIRUP for the purpose of this feature story, but now I’m a fan. As soon as I heard the first 30 seconds of SIRUP’s song Loop I was enchanted by how soulful his voice sounded. 

When I closed my eyes and imagined SIRUP singing in English, it was like I was listening to American artists like Miguel, Khalid and Justin Bieber. However, the more I listened the more I heard certain attributes that were unlike what I have heard before.  SIRUP is in a lane of his own, and is becoming one of the more notable Japanese R&B singers of this era.

Born in Osaka, Japan as Kyotaro—stylized as KYOtaro —SIRUP made his entrance into the R&B realm when he released his SIRUP EP in 2017. 

SIRUP as an Artist

The SIRUP EP definitely has a new-aged R&B vibe, similar to Bruno Mars. I highly enjoyed this EP because the quick tempo in each record meshed perfectly with SIRUP’s harmony.

SIRUP also flexed his vocal abilities on the second track of the EP, LMN, proving that he was able to sing on a true R&B beat. The musicality of the song LMN on the SIRUP EP complimented SIRUP’s harmonious voice, and helped make the EP more diverse. SIRUP’s second EP however had a new flavor, and consisted of an amalgamation of different music genres.

SIRUP EP 2 was a mixture of dance-pop and R&B, heartfelt lyrics, upbeat tempo melodies and rhythmic breakdowns. Underground production by Shingo S., Chocoholic and Zentaro Mori of Soulflex is responsible for the alternative R&B flow of the album, and the transformation of SIRUP’s music style.

Some of SIRUP’s inspiration derives from artists like Alicia Keys, D’Angelo, Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway, hence the neo-soul flare in his 2019 album Feel Good. On the album Feel Good every track is different and will induce a different emotion.

SIRUP including songs Rain and Do Well, from past EP’s, in Feel Good further proves that SIRUP likes giving us the best version of himself each album. Even if that means bettering old songs and presenting them as new!

His latest EP CIY is the best that has yet to come. Released on March 25, 2020, CIY brings back a revamped style that has the same elements of the SIRUP we all love. CIY still has alternative R&B rhythm, but with a more futuristic disco production. SIRUP’s voice on CIY intertwines seamlessly with the music production, creating a euphoric sensation for the listener. 

SIRUP’s CIY also includes Afrobeats, as heard on the track Why Can’t, emphasizing his appreciation for global influences. CIY is a beautiful mash-up of R&B, House Music, Afrobeats and hip hop. In his latest album cure, released in March of 2021, he taps into a more Y2K R&B sound. While he maintains the same energy in cure as he has in past works, SIRUP’s evolution is definitely evident.

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