Oh this one isn’t easy. Usually when I see a Johnny’s band on the list, I’m 99 percent sure I’ll be writing a scathing review. Considering the pop-idol factory produces male idols first and music as a secondary concern, it’s not that ridiculous an expectation. So here we have KAT-TUN’s latest “Going!” I lick my reviewer’s lips and start thinking of synonyms for “bad.” Look at that superfluous exclamation point. I sharpen my critical teeth.
Then…turns out KAT-TUN’s latest isn’t horrible. “Going!” still ends up being kind of a mess – the busy-as-construction song twirls off in all sorts of directions and the singing gets grating. I’ll pretend the dreadful hair metal shout intro doesn’t exist. Yet this song, gulp, also manages to hit on a whole bunch of interesting pop ideas. The skittering beat stands out, as does the rush of 80s electronics and keyboards firing off. Basically, it’s a good approximation of a Perfume song and considering the amount of praise I throw in that band’s direction, I’d be a hypocrite if I brushed away “Going!” Just like that trio (or, like a Passion Pit determined to land on the R&B charts), KAT-TUN have made pure pop Fun Dip. Gotta give credit where it’s due, even to these dudes.
Kazuyoshi Saito “ずっと好きだった”
Whereas a lot of artists try to only take inspiration from the music of yesteryear, Kazuyoshi Saito decided “screw it” and just wrote a 1950’s rock song. It’s a nice enough tune that successfully captures the era it intends to recreate, but it also can’t help but feel like a song written for a Disneyland history exhibit. Everything about this single feels like a restoration project. Saito basically just reworked “Johnny B. Goode” ever so slightly – like a hundred artists before him – and gives the world this. The biggest complement I can give this track…one that sounds negative but I swear isn’t…is how quickly it finishes. You get some nice guitar work, a little singing and then the chorus. Saito never overstays his welcome, and gets out at just the right time.
Zebra Queen “NAMIDA～ココロアバイテ～”
Regardless of what you think about her, this past week has pretty much confirmed that Lady Gaga has the most influence of any pop star working today. First, M.I.A. – who bashed Gaga recently – went and released a nine-minute video of gingers being blown up that clearly attempts to tie it’s wagon to the “mini-epic music video” Gaga kicked into popularity. Now…Zebra Queen, Japan’s most shameless rip-off yet. It’s pointless to talk about “Zebra Queen” at all, not when this shit’s basically a direct-to-rental-stores version of Lady Gaga. This track manages to cop “Pokerface” AND “Bad Romance” in equal parts, and just watch the video. You have to be in straight denial not to admit the influence of a certain pants-avoiding pop star.
Worst of all, this isn’t even a good bootleg version of Lady Gaga! Though I’m pretty ambivalent to her music, I’m willing to admit Lady Gaga knows how to construct a catchy chorus. Zebra Queen does not, as this single’s big hook just sounds off. If you are going to pretend to be another artist, at least drop the money to sound as good as them.
Boy, did DOES excite me at first listen. I thought I’d get to follow up one “Japanese rip-off artist” blurb with another one. The baby animal moniker coupled with an intro best described as “vaguely British rock-like” got me thinking “hey, maybe DOES want to be like Foals!” Unfortunately, no such interesting developments occur, as DOES decide to let “バクチ・ダンサー” turn into a bland bit of J-Rock. Look, a group shouldn’t straight up mimic another, but taking a few cues from a good band wouldn’t hurt either.
The newest reason to fear pop ant hill AKB48 – they’ve realized the potential bank they can pull by creating side projects. Consisting of three members of AKB48’s “A” performers, No3b (pronounced “no sleeves” seriously) attempt to create a successful spin-off product of their main gig with “Lie.” Like Joanie Loves Chachi and The Cleveland Show, “Lie” mostly ends up being super similar to the original. No3b operate within the totally safe J-pop sound of AKB48, the type of tune you can hear blasting out of karaoke machines after just one listen. “Lie” does include semi-catchy ideas, like the tropical keyboard line and the subtle horns at the chorus. It also has one genuinely funny moment…most likely not intentional…where the three singers say the word “lie” a lot really fast. Save for these scattered moments, “Lie” sounds like something AKB48 would do, which would be totally “meh” J-pop. Except with No3b, we don’t even get the spectacle of 48 girls dancing around in schoolgirl uniforms.
I’ve already reviewed this track twice…search bar up on the right folks…and there are only so many ways I can say “this is big dumb pop done right.” But c’mon people…this is big dumb pop done right! Not to mention a subtle but huge leap forward for Perfume. Just listen to it.
Winner Of The Week – Let us ignore Perfume this week, as it just wouldn’t be fair for them to win this thing every single week. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to crown KAT-TUN the champion of this week. Because never did I ever expect to write those words down.