Try not to be hypnotized by this video. I think I’d be OK if YouTube stopped allowing new videos, because none will ever top the power of Al Bundy groovin’ to Major Lazer. Transcendent. Anywho, onto the J-Pop.
Despite having a run time of just six minutes, Ikimono-gakari’s “Arigato” feels like it drags on for much, much longer. I’m sure being a Disney-speckled (bells! violins!) J-Ballad (guitar solo!) goes a long way to making “Arigato” feel like a household chore, but that can’t be the sole reason…especially since the lead voice sounds good and even the predictable ballad features even manage to sound slightly less forced than on other, similar tracks. No, “Arigato” just goes about three-and-a-half minutes too long without mixing the formula up. I could watch the Machete trailer three entire times before this song ends, and get a whole lot more enjoyment out of the prior.
Johnny’s slipper-fetching pups KAT-TUN stunned the world last week by finishing first in this very features “Winner Of The Week” segment. So, here they are on Music Station for a second week in a row ready for an encore. Can they repeat this miracle of not being terrible? Can they…gasp…build off of that? How are they going to follow up last week’s performance.
With a god-damned medley. And not just any god-damned medley, but presumably a collection of KAT-TUN songs. Way to vaporize every bridge you recently built guys. What made “Going!” a cut above KAT-TUN’s usual schlock was how un-KAT-TUN it sounded…specifically, it sounded like Perfume. So, to go on and do a whole bunch of older songs that actually sound like KAT-TUN…no good.
And everything returns to normal in the universe.
Oh, so it’s gonna be one of those weeks isn’t it? Here we get another J-Ballad, but whereas Ikimono-gakari got docked for being way too long, this track gets hammered for just sounding like a completely generic ballad. Piano, violins, a good singer, a rising structure. Yawn yawn yawn.
Shikao Suga “サヨナラホームラン”
A pro-con list regarding Shikao Suga’s latest single.
– The simplistic keyboard line running through most of the song comes off as so simple it’s really refreshing. When it’s just that rinky-dink keyboard and Suga singing, the track hits on a real simple pleasure. It reminds me of The Research, if you’d like to go Googling.
– Dude’s got a nice enough voice.
– Cool video!
– Not a ballad.
– Way too many needless additions. All this song really needs is vocals, bass and keyboard. Yet Suga manages to sag the whole joint down by throwing in various guitars and completely pointless orchestra surges into the mix. It overshadows all of the track’s best points, and saps it of any real feeling.
– This sounds only a few steps away from “Bad Day.” And being within a Minesweeper-three of Daniel Powter spells bad times.
To sum it up: middle-of-the-road alternapop which manages to hit on a few good ideas but also does its very best to drown out said pleasantries. If Japan every gets an Alvin And The Chipmunks film all their own, expect this on the high-pitched soundtrack
Shoko Nakagawa “RAY OF LIGHT”
Pointing out Shoko Nakagawa’s affinity for otaku culture and anime seems like an easy way to snark off, a simple way to dismiss her from the start. Yet I theorize that her appreciation of anime is what makes the not-Madonna-related “RAY OF LIGHT” a cut above a lot of J-Pop at the moment. See, “RAY OF LIGHT” serves as the ending theme to the show Fullmetal Alchemist at the moment – the track’s biggest weakness would be how obviously it sounds like an anime credit song. I reckon Nakagawa’s reported passion for manga and other geeky pursuits forced her to step her game up for “RAY OF LIGHT” or face the scorn of thousands of burned otaku. She finds a way to step this entire track up in a way I’m kinda unsure about, but she just makes it better.
It’s a bit of a critical risk to focus on a vague “feeling” – especially with the excellent production just sitting right there. “RAY OF LIGHT” grabs ballad-ish elements (your piano, your violin, your guitar solo) and speeds the whole affair up ever so slightly. And though I could still do without the show-off guitar bits, everything comes together to form a very nice backdrop for Nakagawa to sing. Oh, and sing she does. Again, it’s tough to pin down, but she just ebbs really well with the music on “RAY OF LIGHT” and absolutely nails the chorus, making it forceful but not too over-the-top. This would be tops just in the category of anime theme music, but manages to also be flat-out fine pop.
Hip-hop. Ballad. Somehow worse than everything that preceded it. Even KAT-TUN.
Winner Of The Week – Gotta be “RAY OF LIGHT” even if it soundtracks a cartoon. In a week loaded with weak balladry, it’s the one song with a bit of a pulse and a more pronounced emotional hit.