Looking for some good television before the South Africa-Mexico game kicks off the 2010 World Cup? Music Station airs three hours before the match starts, so you could pregame to the week’s finest J-Pop singles. Wait, what am I saying…if you do that you’d have no reason to read this article!!! Rent a DVD or something.
Miliyah “Last Love”
Upon the first few listens to “Last Love,” I prepared to rehash the same line I’ve been writing regarding J-ballads for the past year – Miliyah’s voice sounds great, I have no idea what she’s saying, the music sounds like every other J-ballad ever written, why do they keep making these things? Then something funny happened…I paid attention to the video and suddenly felt sad. Partially because Miliyah’s eyes look particularly puppy-dog sad, but also because the clip deals in what I read as a farewell to childhood. I think that’s what the bunny and pony mean. I admit it’s a stretch as the only word I understand is “Christmas,” but if “Last Love” focuses on growing up over a breakup…boring…I have to give it some credit. Maybe her eyes just really got to me. Or her voice…which does deserve some big ups.
Whatever it’s about, “Last Love” still manages to cram in way to many inappropriate instruments. Listen for the hints of hip-hop production and something that sounds dangerously close to funk guitar. Usually ballads just pile on strings to hit emotional pay dirt, but Miliya’s latest throws in sounds that just confuse.
Kaela Kimura “Ring A Ding Dong”
I’ve got high hopes for this one…which is why it pains me so much to only find the 30-second commercial version above. Kimura’s “You Bet!” remains one of the top five Japanese songs of the year so far, so seeing what direction the never-standing-still artist goes on “Ring A Ding Dong” should be interested. The 30 seconds above hint that she’s decided to go in the direction of sounding like a telephone. A weird sort of advertising move…the song appears in an ad for a cell phone company…”Ring A Ding Dong” opens with those exact words, delivered in a way reminiscent of CGI menace Crazy Frog. Before you hit “stop,” though, a great beat shuffles in and, as this snippet ends, an intriguing assortment of Christmas-tinged (!?) electronics pop in. The moment the full track hits the web, I’ll be over it. Consider this a rain check.
Cocco gets points for including some pump-up chanting at the beginning of this track and for also working in some taiko drums. She also boasts great vocal abilities, her voice often quivering and sorta resembling the lead singer of The Cranberries. Tracks gets docked points for having some really creepy dude talking prior to the chorus. It might be a subliminal message, and it kinda disturbs me. A strong track minus that one guy, which manages to include taiko drumming and chanting without feeling like a novelty.
A search for “TOKIO ―遥か―” brings up some videos of a gay rights march in Tokyo and a pro-marijuana march in Tokyo. I see no video by this Johnny’s group anywhere. If you find it please let me know.
UPDATE: Just saw TOKIO perform this live on Music Station. “Boring” isn’t the best word to break out when writing about music…but this song really sounded boring. I needed to open up a cola just to keep from napping.
Honey L Days “まなざし”
I’m having a hard time trying to find an American equivalent for Japanese bands like Honey L Days, which basically make inoffensive-but-bland pop while holding guitars. The Fray come close, but they’ve put out a few excellent songs. “Modern rock” like Hinder hits way to hetero-hard, and they’d never include strings in any of their songs. Still, Honey L Days and their ilk rock slightly harder than Jack Johnson or John Mayer. Despite being terribly boring, these groups manage to be boring in such a way they actually sound unique. Like the Run DMC of the color gray.
I can come up with only one domain with which Honey L Days could be thrown into, and that domain exists on ABC Family Channel. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the college-based dramady Greek before, but if not…it’s one of those shows you watch ironically at first to feel all cool about yourself, keep watching, and suddenly realize “shit, this is really really good.” The music featured on the show, on the other hand, isn’t. Picture a bunch of bands trying to be Kings Of Leon, but a trillion times less interesting. There’s your soundtrack. The most famous band to appear on this show…and the one most comparable to Honey L Days and other such acts…would be Chicago lameos Plain White T’s. They’ve got guitars…but nothing resembling aggression or interest. See, our cultures aren’t so different after all.
原 由子 “京都物語”
This song must be from the 1970s, because no contemporary artist would have the nerves to make something like this nowadays. Songs like this combine the traditional Japanese pop form of enka with more “mainstream” noises, which explains why this song has a disco edge. It’s the type of song made so people can sing it at karaoke the next week. Assuming this is in fact old, let’s leave it in the past.
Winner Of The Week – Oh if only Kaela Kimura’s latest could be listened to online. Since it can’t, winner goes to the pretty enjoyable Cocco track.