SARAH LOHMANN WRITES — “Who are we to say that we are not enough?” Ena Mori asks this of listeners in “WHITE ROOM,” the tenth track of her sonically stunning LP, DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE! (2022). The LP flows through an eclectic soundscape with passion-charged lyrics and production.
According to Offshore Music Philippines, Ena Mori is a half-Japanese half Filipino pop artist and singer-songwriter from Manila, Philippines. After a series of hit singles and a short EP, Mori’s DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE! was released in late July 2022. It falls into numerous genres, including alternative, indie, and electronic pop. It was listed by New Musical Express as number one on “The 25 best Asian albums of 2022,” and tracks have been streamed hundreds of thousands of times on platforms like Spotify.
Powered by intense emotion and deep vulnerability, the album is a collection of whimsical tracks whose lyrics describe Mori’s personal journeys. Love, self-discovery, insecurity, and growth: DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE! maps these themes on bouncy basslines and intricate vocal stylings.
The first track, “there’s a fire in my kitchen up it goes I’m to blame,” is a 21-second vocal snippet stylized as grainy and far-away, bringing radio broadcasts of decades past to mind. This primes the listener to hear Mori’s sounds as a response to pop musicians that came before—women who broke barriers in genre and culture. In an interview with CNN Philippines, she explained that she roots for bold ideas that are “out of the box.”
Throughout the album, the soundscape fluctuates between the upbeat, poppy whimsicality of the aforementioned songs and some more subdued ones. This contrast sets up sonic foils despite being thematically consistent, a strategy that highlights the intricacies of those emotions she leads us through. It is rare that something like love or growth could ever be one-note, so Mori doesn’t attempt to limit them.
This theme is furthered in the lyrics, some of which reflect Mori’s experiences growing up different — and differently. In “KING OF THE NIGHT!” she sings: “I wanted to show that I’m hurting badly / But deep inside me, showing my colors.” She once explained that growing up in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan, she was bullied for being mixed race and overweight: “I felt like an outcast.” According to a 2013 study in Sociology Compass, the concept of race in Japan conflates categories like racial background, ethnicity, language, culture, and citizenship, so being Japanese is set opposite to being “foreign.” In other words, it can be difficult or even impossible for mixed-race people to be seen as Japanese.
DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE! is for those who enjoy experimentation in alternative indie pop and, even more, those looking for a fresh perspective on what it means to be an outcast, a “wild one.” The LP pushes listeners to embrace themselves wholly and without regret.
Sarah Lohmann graduated from Knox College with a BA in Creative Writing and Asian Studies. She focused her research on film, translation, and literature.
Edited by book review editor-in-chief, Ella Kelleher.