Soma Saito is known for his intricate music, which takes strong inspiration from music from the 60s to modern-day artists, his emotional performances and technicality on the vocal end, and the sensibility he brings as a writer and avid reader of literature that populates his lyrics with amazing characters, taking the listeners to unique soundscapes.
And he has been on an amazing streak of emotional album releases since 2020 when the behemoth of an album “in bloom” was released.
That album would end up opening pandora’s box for the, then, 29-year-old singer-songwriter, showing his true self as a composer, diving deeper into his passions, fears, desires, and, ultimately, the worlds he wants his fans and listeners to experience.
He’s been, since then, also known for having music that is not easy for casual listeners to grasp – as the stories are rather complex and usually with multiple underlying meanings, double entendres, or with “twists” that only happen in the hidden tracks (usually available only for those that purchase the physical CDs).
That reputation as a complex singer-songwriter that tells vivid, engaging stories and knows how to pull off the most insane and abstract concepts has preceded him, making Soma Saito one of the most anticipated solo artists whenever he mentions he’s got something in the works.
People are looking forward to the stories he creates, and the unique settings he carefully crafts, leaving words unsaid for you to fill in with your experiences and expectations.
Making you take part in those stories, influence the outcomes, and experience all the emotions that come with them.
Last year, as a 31-year-old, Saito decided to dive deeper and deeper, creating a dark EP with “Yin/Yang”, following up to 2022’s best album of the year (within the seiyuu industry), the surrealistic concept EP “my beautiful valentine”.
Within “Yin/Yang”, there lies “mirrors”, the last song in the EP (digital version only, the physical version has a bonus song, the epilogue of the EP’s story, “St. Obsession”).
This song arrives to rip your heart out of your chest and mess you up for good as Soma Saito explores what he has been hurting due to experiencing “impostor syndrome”.
If Soma Saito’s “mirrors” makes you cry, know that this is an insanely personal song to him, according to his words for rockin’ on magazine.
For those of you that have been reading Saito’s interviews over the years about his work as a voice actor or as a singer, you may have noticed that he doesn’t really think he’s good.
He always downplays his work.
And no, it is not the well-known “Japanese false modesty” here. It’s something else…
When I listened to the CD for the first time, “mirrors” instantly came across as a song about a person facing a strong inner conflict.
The person looking in the mirror is calling themselves… a liar.
They want the one in the mirror to go away.
They want peace and quiet.
They want the doubts to end.
And throughout the song, Saito is screaming his heart out however, only through the guitar as his voice is as delicate and emotional as you could get, with his mix of falsetto and head voice (as a tenor) leading the way.
And the reality behind the composition “screaming” for help is because…
… this is a deeply personal song for him. These are his words about “mirrors”:
“Personally, I like the line ‘deceive me, false me’ 《まやかしてよ／偽者のぼくを》in the second chorus. I always feel like a fraud, so the title ‘mirrors’ is also fitting. This song is about the question of what it means to be a fake or a genuine person, and I still don’t have an answer to that. The lyrics express this feeling of always being in that state (of confusion and doubt).”from his interview in December 2022 for rockin’on magazine
If the song makes you cry, now imagine what the owner of those feelings is going through.
Yep, Saito opened his heart out in this song. He showcased fragility for the very first time in his music.
He used to mention that his music never showed his emotions nor had specific messages from him. That has changed with “mirrors”.
He confirmed it, those are his feelings.
His own hurt and pain, not a character’s.
Despite how popular he is as a voice actor and as a solo artist; despite how many accolades he has in his solo career (he’s the owner of the best-selling album by a male seiyuu — “quantum stranger” — and has the longest streak of #10s on Oricon’s Weekly charts), he still feels like he is a fraud.
And he is struggling to find the answer as to who he truly is.
Now listen to “mirrors” knowing that the song is performed by him struggling with imposter syndrome, reflecting the hurt and confusion he is feeling.
The sense of emptiness.
The hurt in his performance.
The rondo of emotions that goes through those quiet verses.
What is impostor syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where an individual doubts their abilities and feels like a fraud despite evidence of their achievements.
This feeling of inadequacy can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or profession. Imposter Syndrome is not a mental disorder, but it can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health, career, and personal life.
How Imposter Syndrome Manifests
Imposter Syndrome can manifest in different ways. Some individuals may experience feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and fear of failure.
They may attribute their successes to luck or external factors rather than their own abilities. Others may overwork or become perfectionists to compensate for their perceived inadequacies.
The Impact of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome can have a profound impact on an individual’s personal and professional life. It can lead to a lack of self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
It can also prevent individuals from pursuing their goals and limit their potential for success.
Recognizing the signs of Imposter Syndrome and taking steps to overcome it can help individuals live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome requires self-awareness and a willingness to challenge negative self-talk. Here are some strategies that can help:
- Recognize Your Achievements: Keep a record of your accomplishments and refer to them when you doubt your abilities.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts: When you have negative thoughts, challenge them by asking yourself if they are based on facts or assumptions.
- Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional about your feelings. They can provide a fresh perspective and support.
- Practice Self-Care: Taking care of your physical and mental health can boost your self-esteem and reduce anxiety.
- Embrace Failure: Failure is a natural part of the learning process. Embrace it as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Music can be seen as an outlet to try to overcome Imposter Syndrome and Soma Saito does it by screaming from his heart out. It’s not as much him seeking help but also putting the spotlight on an issue that many think is redundant or something that people may pretend to feel.
My experience with impostor syndrome
As someone that suffers from imposter syndrome, “mirrors” hit home as soon as I heard it.
Having doubt looming over me is taxing. It feels like even the smallest mistake I make will destroy everything I do, that I’ll be exposed as a “fraud”.
Let me tell you, it’s scary as heck.
And I’m saying this as a small-time content creator that happens to appear on camera once a month and hosts a weekly podcast that, and still, more often than not, ends up bringing hate and criticism my way.
And I’m not even going to start on the music reviews, those that, to my surprise, attract fanatics that, at times, decide to lash out at my — different — opinions to theirs.
This all ends up taking a toll and honestly, more than once made me wonder about my skills, my knowledge, and experience.
Those small things end up leaving a big dent in your confidence and that’s when impostor syndrome kicks in.
Dealing with impostor syndrome feels awful and no matter how many “good” or “positive” comments go your way, that one negative comment you read somewhere or remark you heard will linger in your head.
It will hamper your work.
Make you doubt your skills.
Make you feel like a fraud when you aren’t.
And it takes a lot of strength to smile and move forward or even have the courage to face yourself and try to find who you truly are while abstracting yourself from all the “noise” around you (does it remind you of the intro to “mirrors” with the people laughing in the background?).
Soma Saito dealing with impostor syndrome
I reckon Impostor Syndrome is even more intense for someone experiencing big media exposure as Soma Saito does.
He has thousands of different expectations to meet. His talent agency, his music label, his fans, and his own.
Fans + “fans” that nitpick at everything he does or doesn’t. How he should look, who he should hang out with, what he should sing, how he should act, and what he should change in his life. You name it.
Good or ill-intended, fans and those that are a bit more on the “obsessive fan” wagon end up affecting his mental health and, in a way, make him feel like the “fraud” he mentions.
Then there are the pressures that come from the seiyuu industry itself that also take a toll on not only Soma Saito, but I imagine many other seiyuu.
It was in 2018 that Saito officially took over the songwriter reigns in his solo career and back then he mentioned in an interview that he was afraid of showing his true self as a composer (which meant, now in hindsight, him going for darker, more emotional songs).
In 2022, he mentioned in an interview for Rolling Stone Japan magazine (about his career as a solo artist and the release of “Yin/Yang”:
“When I started my music activities, I felt that I had to present what was expected of me as the voice actor Soma Saito. That was wonderful in its own way, and I got to perform many great songs. But now, I feel like I can do music in the way I want. And I’m grateful that there are many people who message me saying “I love watching you enjoy yourself in your music”. So, I don’t have to put up any “I have to do this” or “I can’t do that” barriers anymore. (…)”.from his interview in December 2022 for Rolling Stone Japan magazine
Fans ended up giving him the push to create the music he likes, explore the things he loves, and create the worlds and stories he envisions however, that still resulted in a really shy “quantum stranger” back in 2018.
It was only with “in bloom”, Saito’s 2nd full-length album released in 2020, that fans would officially dive deep into the dark, intricate stories of the singer-songwriter.
And it was as mindblowing as it was spine-chilling from start to finish.
“carpool”, the album’s leading track ended up hitting everyone like a truck as the song goes deep into nostalgia and longing, presenting the loss of someone dear as its premise and, from there, exploring the emotions that come with such an empty void.
These are visceral, raw songs. They will, for sure, make anyone that takes the time to dive into them feel those emotions (even if you do not understand Japanese). You will most likely feel chills run down your spine or cry.
However, nothing came close to what happens in “uzumibi” — or so I thought at that time — , a song that is a literal descent into madness.
This song hits as hard as “palette” does. However, the way it presents itself is more intense and twice as darker as “palette” sounds.
But things end up escalating in “Yin/Yang”, his 3rd EP and it is exactly in “mirrors” that Saito shows that he is wearing his heart on his sleeve as a solo artist.
“mirrors” illustrates that moment in which you confront that “impostor” on the other side of the mirror.
The fragility in your psyche.
The doubt that has been making you wonder what and who you really are.
And Soma Saito does so in such an intricate way — a 6/8 composition — mixing several rock influences, from post-rock, shoegaze to emo-rock, but also delivering a stunning head voice + falsetto (whisper voice) performance.
You can feel the pain in his voice.
And now, with Soma Saito’s words, you can get to know a bit more about the person behind the most intricate and fascinating songs released to date by a male seiyuu artist.
And this person is now being fragile in front of you.
He trusts you to understand him. But also he is being fragile around you to pat your back, giving you the strength to move on and overcome your own battles with impostor syndrome.
How you approach impostor syndrome is what will end up defining you. And that is ultimately what Saito does in “mirrors”. He sits in front of the mirror and confronts himself.
Yet, Soma Saito didn’t get the answers he was looking for. And thus, he is still searching for who he truly is.
One thing is for certain, for those truly seeing him and listening to his work because they appreciate the art Saito creates, he is far from being a fraud.
He is a generational talent as a singer-songwriter and, easily, one of the best voice actors in Japan. But that, as we may all now know, is taking a toll on him mentally. So appreciate his work and respect him as an individual. Don’t put ridiculous expectations on him beyond what he already has to deal with as a professional.
If Soma Saito’s “mirrors” makes you cry, know that this is an insanely personal song to him.
But also know that what is triggering you to cry as you listen to this song will, eventually, be overcome because deep down, you are strong.
Impostor Syndrome can appear when you least expect it. It is something you won’t initially notice but it will be going hand-in-hand with your drive to do everything perfectly, of having high expectations from your family, friends, peers, or bosses.
It may appear because you have high standards for yourself. Or that you believe that all the good things that happened to you may have been sheer “luck” or “destiny”.
I hope you are less tough on yourself and slowly overcome those doubts in your head. Fully embrace the awesome being that you are!
If you haven’t listened to Soma Saito’s 3rd EP “Yin/Yang“, I thoroughly recommend you!
Fancy reading music reviews? I had the pleasure of diving deeper and deeper into this outstanding EP in an extensive review. Give it a read if you feel like understanding more about the unique story in this EP.
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