With his momentous “Secret Sky” performance, Porter Robinson bridged the gap between the American and Japanese EDM scenes.
It’s been six magical years since Porter Robinson’s Worlds album debuted in August of 2014. Ever since, Robinson’s unique sound, which is inspired by electro house and synth-pop, has captivated millions of fans from around the world—especially from the country of Japan.
In May 2020, Robinson’s virtual “Secret Sky” music festival aired to four million fans worldwide, all spewing with excitement for his debut virtual set. Robinson himself is a huge anime fan and has always been in love with Japanese culture, consistently integrating some sort of related symbol into his songs, visuals, album covers, and live performances. His love for Japanese culture stemmed from Nintendo and Pokémon, but he also grew up watching anime and listening to Japanese music. His respect and admiration of the culture directly reflect his own artisanship, leading him to compose pieces that bolster his fanbase tremendously in Japan.
Robinson’s appreciation and love for Japanese culture was and still is manifested through his virtual performance from “Secret Sky.” His one-of-a-kind set brought Japanese music fans closer not only to Robinson and his music, but also the EDM community at large.
Every visual component throughout Robinson’s performance glimmered with anime influences, all while being accompanied by Japanese lyrics that Robinson constructed to fit within his performance. Projected images of anime flickered on the wall behind Robinson, syncing in perfect harmony with his hit song “Sad Machine.” Suddenly, fans caught sight of aesthetics that have appeared in the popular anime show Chobits, a Japanese television show that has been around for more than fifteen years. The anime visuals are paired with Robinson’s remix of “Let Me Be with You,” a single by the J-Pop band Round Table.
This is where Robinson really began exploring and experimenting with Japanese culture within his sound. Instantly, the comment section blew up with users writing in the Japanese language. The entire song goes superbly with Robinson’s set. The translation of its lyrics hearken to the desire to be with someone so badly but being stifled due to external circumstances beyond their control. The entirety of Robinson’s set that played out afterwards really embodied that lovelorn feeling as well as that of trying to find oneself again after experiencing challenging times. Round Table’s song fit perfectly in this manner.
Robinson then conjured a familiar rhythm as his seminal collaboration with French DJ Madeon, “Shelter,” began buzzing through the screens of delighted viewers from all around the world. “Shelter” has a literal anime music video, of course, which was projected behind Robinson.
Right after he performed “Shelter,” an upbeat and colorful melody came into focus as a singer started to croon in Japanese, acapella style. Robinson joined the singer in unison, performing the song “Hikari” by Pasocom Music Club, a Japanese electronic music group. Robinson seems to know all of the lyrics, proving him a fan of their work and a staunch supporter considering the addition to such a momentous performance. He also went on to drop another J-Pop track in Kero Kero Bonito’s “Trampoline.” While the song’s lyrical content is in English, it derives its sound from the popular sonics of contemporary J-Pop.
Throughout the rest of the performance, anime and Japanese cultural symbols dazzled on the screen behind Robinson in a bold showcase of his appreciation of Japanese culture.
While Robinson was displaying his creative power through his visuals and mixing prowess, the stream’s comment section was erupting with rhapsody from avid fans, who noted the different styles of music as well as how much Robinson’s music really meant to them. Many of the notes were in English, but there was also a barrage of comments that came across in the Japanese language.
Every translated comment seemed to dive deeper into the connectivity that Robinson and his music had to Japan. “I always feel listening to Porter’s music. The melody is beautiful and thin, and it is a bit painful… Do you like anime? Thank you for your interest in Japan!” one Japanese fan wrote. “Thank you for delivering the best live performance while it’s difficult to get out. I was so happy, sad, and cried. Thank you for your love of anime and video games,” wrote another.
The dichotomy between Robinson and Japanese culture also transcended the stream itself, actualizing in external areas such as Twitter. “It makes me so happy when @porterrobinson uses Japanese tracks in his Secret Sky performance – it reminds me of growing up in Japan,” one Twitter user exulted. “Ugh @porterrobinson incorporating Japanese songs into his set is a whole mood and so beautiful for Japanese culture,” wrote another.
These sentiments represent much more than just Japanese fans commenting on Robinson’s performance, though. They represent the connectivity his fans feel when watching him perform because he expresses their culture in a respectable and appreciative way. With myriad fans thanking Robinson for his incorporation of Japanese artists, he bridged the gap between the American and Japanese EDM scenes.