HAPPYPILLS – Utsu-P Album Review

Written by on October 13, 2023

Review by GS Alvarez

Two years after his last release, 2021’s UNIQUE, Vocaloid producer Utsu-P is back with a new double-album, celebrating fifteen years since his 2008 debut. The established J-Metal artist pulls no punches with his September 13, 2023 release HAPPYPILLS, and each of the twenty-one tracks highlights new vocalists, genre fusions, or re-workings of previous releases. While many of these tracks are not new to frequent listeners–12 of the 21 tracks were released previously, either via streaming or through Utsu-P’s YouTube Channel -each new song is sure to impress new and old listeners alike.

Below are some of the highlights of the album:

 

Disc 1

[3] Moth [ガ] feat. Hatsune Miku

Released as a single on March 18th 2023, “Ga” [lit. “Moth”] is Utsu-P’s most obvious venture into the trap metal genre. When she isn’t growling, Miku’s voice dances around in an almost rap-like manner, elevated by the rhythmic bass and drums in each verse. The track starts off lighter than previous entries, but escalates throughout. Each chorus incorporates a wall of guitars and screams more characteristic of tracks off 2014’s “ALGORITHM.” This song was accompanied by an illustration by [ziro_], and Miku’s moth-themed outfit goes along with her laments about a moth’s ugliness. She asks, “What’s the difference between the ranks of insects? A brand name.” And by the final brutal breakdown, you really feel her rage about this perceived inferiority.

[4] Vulgar [下品] feat. Ci Flower

The most recent single prior to the album’s release, “Vulgar” was dropped on July 7th 2023 with an accompanying video by Shiro Iku. Similarly to “Moth,” this track preaches rebellion against acceptance, both in its lyrical content and its instrumentation. Utsu-P continues to fuse genres with his implementation of trap elements. Ci Flower’s voice is noticeably cleaner than her Vocaloid equivalent (having been bought and re-worked by CeVIO in 2020), but Utsu-P still stretches her capacity to scream at the end of this track.

[5] Hidden Boss [ウラボス] feat. Hatsune Miku
Initially released on July 22nd 2022, this heavy track follows in the footsteps of vocal synth classics like “There’s a Supposed to be a Cheat Code for Happiness” and “The MMORPG Addict’s Anthem,” which put Miku in the place of a hidden video game boss. In this upbeat track, Miku boasts about her strength as a boss, and eggs on the listener, encouraging them to use cheats, glitches, and any means necessary to beat her. This track is a fun one, and with a bright and colorful video produced by [mikuma], it’s a great change of pace at this point in the album.

[6] Bizarre Food [ゲテモノ] feat. Hatsune Miku

This track also features a video by mikuma and feels like a spiritual precursor to Hidden Boss. Released initially on March 25, 2022, Miku sings about feeling commodified, and the non-structured lyrics allude to her frustration at being something of a content farm. Utsu-P makes the interesting choice of using her English voicebank for this almost-entirely Japanese song, leading to her accent feeling foreign and wrong. It works in the context of the song though, and the instrumentals do a great job of giving her breathing room when necessary, along with elevating her voice with an interesting selection of synth strings and heavy drums.

[7] Friendshi_ feat. Kagamine Rin

This new track sees Utsu-P reuniting with Kagamine Rin, and for a good reason. Her nasally vocals may be a challenge for some producers, but this song has them harnessed perfectly. Between her rough screams and whining vocals, she fits in perfectly. It begins by urging listeners to “bring on the party,” and party it does: the beat is fast and messy throughout, but becomes clean and almost danceable at the chorus. Synth samples sprinkled throughout only add to the fun (but still heavy) vibe of this mid-album track.

[8] RRRRafflesia [ララララフレシア] feat. Hatsune Miku

This track, released first on October 21st 2022, blends smooth guitars, characteristic vocal roughness, and assorted miscellaneous sound effects (popularized in the vocal synth trap community by producers like wotaku) to create an interesting fusion of genres. Highlighted by a choir and a chorus of shouted hey’s, Miku compares the listener to the famously foul rafflesia plant, and cries about her disdain as she drowns in it. While I wish this track had a more pointed ending, as it seems to just “stop,” it provides a great listening experience for the runtime it does have.

[10] Hello Builder [ハロービルダー] feat. Hatsune Miku

While not written initially as a special track for mobile game “Project Sekai,” this song did find its way into the catalog through a selection process, making it unexpectedly one of the most popular tracks on the album. Its swinging rhythm, straightforward vocals, and almost-wubbing bass pushes this track to the more electronic side of the album. The breakdown creeps into hyperpop territory, but this only improves the track, which is a great break from some of the darker stuff on this album.

[11] Hyper Reality Show -HAPPYPILLS ver- feat. Hatsune Miku

This track, initially released back in 2019, was Utsu-P’s first big foray into the world of trap-metal. He has revisited it for this album with a fresh new instrumental, and he cleans up and improves his most popular track in every way possible. Similar to the 2020 reworking of his classic MiKUSABBATH, this version of “Hyper Reality Show” cleans out engine noise, deepens bass tones, and clarifies guitars. This track is only available on the physical CD as it’s a special bonus track–otherwise, a preview is available on the album’s crossfade.

Disc 2

[1] ATARI FRONT PROGRAM -HAPPYPILLS ver.- feat. Kafu

While the first disc of this double-album heavily features Cryptonloids, Utsu-P leans more into CeVIO AI voices for Disc 2. (Note: despite its name, CeVIO AI does not feature generative voices, and each voicebank is built upon samples from a compensated voice provider.) This track was released as the album’s first single back in April 2021, and Kafu’s clear vocals impressed many longtime fans. Its title, “Atari Mae,” has many translations, and as such the song’s lyrics reference the multifaceted nature of vocal synths as “puppets” of the producers that use them. Kafu’s voice is incredibly real, and any accompanying engine noise is masked impressively with Utsu-P’s thrashy guitar.

[5] SUSHI-GO-ROUND feat. ROSE

Released on April 14th 2023, “SUSHI-GO-ROUND” features Utsu-P’s most explosive (and unexpected) drops yet. The androgynous depth of ROSE’s voice fits perfectly in this song about trying to stand out. The instrumental is constantly pushing and almost falling forward, which is in line with its metaphorical center of conveyer-belt sushi. This is also emphasized by the grit of the sushi-go-round, portrayed once again by mikuma in the official video. The whistling flute, acoustic guitar accents, and sampled screams (likely from Utsu-P’s side project, Ohayou Gozaimasu) all blend together to make this a stand-out track.

[10] IAMAI feat. GUMI (AI Megpoid & A.I.VOICE GUMI)

The album closer is, in my opinion, the strongest piece of the work. Utsu-P leans into the hot topic of AI with the creation of this concept track, in which GUMI Talk is a hypothetical program that generates lyrics based on the listener’s thoughts. She expresses that the listener consistently has thoughts of unwarranted aggression towards others, stemming from a deep depression within themselves. Throughout, she tries to understand why that is and confront the listener–at the end of the track, however, she is abruptly shut down and the program is determined to be operating as an error. The song, which features a serene piano and gentle guitars throughout each verse, builds intensity towards the belting chorus, during which Utsu-P expresses GUMI’s desperation in a wall of sound. There are no screams throughout the entire song, marking a departure from his usual style–but it works in his favor, ultimately making this a fantastic closing track to HAPPYPILLS.

Image from Amazon Music


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