WEAVER “僕らの永遠～何度生まれ変わっても、手を繋ぎたいだけの愛だから～ “
First, props to WEAVER for giving their new single a name so long it couldn’t fit on a Butterfinger wrapper. That takes some balls. Unfortunately, that testicular fortitude doesn’t surface anywhere on the actual song. This single…not gonna copy/paste the title…seems custom made for feel-good radio stations moms tune into and Japanese gyms trying to inspire husky patrons into shedding a few pounds via canned soaring pop. The video implies WEAVER’s unique gift to the J-Pop world is the prominent placement of piano in their music. Sadly, the trio never stretch that sound beyond the same repeating melody. The lead singer certainly can deliver a solid vocal performance, but it’s not enough to turn this track into anything more than cheese.
Kanjani 8 “LIFE ～目の前の向こうへ～”
“I could skip this song, citing the piss-poor audio quality of the above clip. Yet even listening to a version of this track most likely recorded off a car radio onto a tape recorder, I hear everything I need to. Just forget the words “Kanjani Eight” whatever that is and replace them with “Johnny’s Pop Maker Machine.” This long-titled slab of weenie pop could only really shine during commercial breaks on QVC or soundtracking the end of a particularly limp cartoon. AKB48 may not be great, but they at least make memorable stuff. The hook for this boy band is they hail from the Kansai region, meaning they should sound “louder” and “funny.” Fire whoever taught them how to be those things. Kanjani Eight could be any other Johnny’s outfit except any other Johnny’s outfit wouldn’t be saddled with this dud. Geez, the terrible sound above is the best thing going for this…”
I wrote these words LAST WEEK when this dopey Johnny’s number popped up, and listening one more time to Kanjani Eight’s new single I can’t think of anything else to add. Sometimes writing this feature can be stupid easy.
Tokyo Jihen “天国へようこそ”
Ringo Shiina takes her James-Bond-diva act to its logical conclusion…she and her band Tokyo Jihen went and made a song that could be ripped straight out of a lounge scene during the Sean Connery era. Shiina doesn’t play it completely straight, though, and her band subtly make this song more Inland Empire than The Spy Who Loved Me. Peep the electronic squiggles flaring near the edges, or the guitar that sounds slightly out-of-tune.
In the end though, it’s Shiina who makes this one of the best singles featured on Music Station this year. She sings in husky English that squirms and writhes with every change in pace. When the band reaches the song’s exploding climax, she joins them in letting it all go. Best of all, her decision to sing in English means a schlub like me can understand. “天国へようこそ” translates to “Welcome To Heaven,” but Shiina’s not talking about any divine delights on Earth. She’s actually coming to terms with being dead and all the thoughts that come with it (“because I’ve just wasted my life away/all of it”). After the rush of realization, the song descends into a mess of guitar scuzz and eventually electro freak outs sounding like dentist drills. Realizing one’s life has ended would probably be a pretty traumatic experience.
Instead of tackling “VOICE” again, let’s instead celebrate the one undeniable aspect of Perfume’s latest…its video. Don’t read that as a slight…the trio’s music videos often manage to be just as fresh as their music. Especially when compared to the “here’s another artist walking around pretending to sing” fare most J-Poppers plop out. “VOICE” experiments with Michel Gondry DIY-style, focusing on Perfume going on a journey and playing Human Tetris. It’s a decidedly fun clip, one of the best of the year.
BIG BANG “BEAUTIFUL HANGOVER”
A certain sub-sect of Japan goes crazy over all entertainment from Korea. Magazines exist focusing solely on Korean TV and music, television stations sometimes show blocks of Korean programming. A friend who works in the classical concert business says shows featuring a Korean artist sell out every time. One of the biggest South Korean culture ambassadors around are BIG BANG, a boy band who sing half the time and rap the other times. They seem to be pretty big in Japan.
I’m not shocked after listening to “BEAUTIFUL HANGOVER,” the dumbly titled new single from the group. This stuff sounds absolutely refreshing compared to the schlock Johnny’s puts out. Whereas his boy bands often get saddled with ho-hum backing music ordered out of a J-Pop catalog, BIG BANG hook a club-friendly…or at least club-aping…beat. It’s not revolutionary, but it at least seems like a whole lot more time went to the production than, say, Kanjani Eight. Still plenty to hate here…the The-Dream wannabe “heys,” that pop-rap flow that the UN should really do something about…but also a nice change of pace from the usual boy band of the week in Japan. Ya think a Korean version of Music Station would be slightly easier to swallow?
Remember the WEAVER track up above? Get rid of the piano and make a few minor changes. You now have this song.
Winner Of The Week – Tokyo Jihen big time.