Halloween! But before ya go load up on candy, you gotta listen to some J-Pop.
Ai Featuring 加藤ミリヤ “Stronger”
Ai attempts to split the difference between Mariah Carey girlfriend-empowerment pep pop and Ne-Yo’s futuristic R&B that sounds…well, catchy but kinda obvious. The hover-car side of this track seems less innovative and more paper-clipped on, an attempt to make an otherwise standard R&B track stand out. Predictably, Auto-Tune gets thrown around like water balloons at summer camp, hitting whatever and ultimately soaking everything, even if it most certainly shouldn’t be. Plus the “around town with the flow” robo-trickery just grates.
It’s especially all wasted because at it’s core, “Stronger” minus all the android chunks comes off as a very well-crafted R&B pop joint. It’s hardly groundbreaking – everything about it can be traced to countless other female singers like the aforementioned Carey or Mary J. Blige – but it’s high points are incredibly catchy and Ai boasts a voice capable of making the whole shabang work (though…Auto-Tune flies all over here, but whatever, the clear parts sound good). Ignore the Robocop additions – “Stronger” is a fine bit of movin-on pop (though the lyrics…seem to not be about leaving but rather being strong in a relationship? Ehhh, someone with Japanese knowledge tackle that) once you strip all the metal away.
A medley. Sorry. Let’s get to the heavy-hitter this week.
The last few times I’ve written about J-Pop anthill AKB48 I’ve focused mostly on how the folks marketing them play with the group’s sex appeal. What I’ve failed to mention frequently in those pieces was the gentle reminder that the majority of this group’s music sounds absolutely terrible. Their last single, “Heavy Rotation,” came off as a glorified jingle, all group sing-a-longs with as much charm as a Wal-Mart training session, and most of their more energetic tracks before that weren’t much better. Their ballads…well, were J-Pop ballads.
Newest single “Beginner” finds AKB48 busting out the rarest of rare styles for them – the “heavier” sound. The world, eager to gobble up anything these girls are associated with, last heard this musical side of the group on the vaguely-hip-hoppin “River” with it’s tribal-lite beat and bootcamp shouting. “Beginner” shoots for darker territory with it’s haunted-house beat, and that’s about as intriguing as this single gets – rappers like Gucci Mane and Lil’ B also deal in similar ugly sounds, but usually bring a bit of swag to them and make them special. AKB48 proceed to take a semi-interesting idea and turn it into an AKB48 all-together-now kinda reminiscent of Arashi’s “Monster” but without any of the charm. Different beat, same bland pop.
Which brings us to what might be the single worst musical decision of 2010 in any song, in any country. Now, maybe the version of the song I listened to was ripped from a promotional video, so when at the 2:20 mark when the music drops out and the only noise audible is A WOMAN SCREAMING FOR WAY TOO LONG it could just be going along with some storyline in the group’s video. One YouTube commenter seems pretty certain it’s the sound of an AKB48er getting her hand cut off so could be true. But if on the off chance this is part of the single itself…and I’ll make a post saying something positive about AKB48 if it isn’t…this is the stupidest moment in a pop song in a long-ass time. I mean…one, it’s an absolutely terrible sound and two, it works as such a great commentary on the song itself the people behind this had to have known how dumb it would be to include it. Just baffling.
A pretty wimpy dose of J-Rock that shines at being inoffensive…but after that AKB48 track, this sounds like rebirth.
NEWS “Fighting Man”
Already wrote about this one a couple Station To Stations back, and listening to it again hasn’t changed my opinion one bit. But now there is an official video clip to go with it! Wanna see NEWS mug for the camera? Rejoice!
Porno Graffitti “君は100％”
Can’t find this…unless it’s an opening to an anime sang by a female group three years ago? Welp, this edition turned into a pretty sparse post praising Ai and laying into AKB48. Who’d a thunk it?
Winner Of The Week – Considering it was a race between three horses, one of which had a leg sliced off and wouldn’t stop screaming, it shouldn’t be shocking to see Ai’s “Stronger” take the top spot this week. Don’t read it as a “best of the worst” thing though…it’s a pretty good song even with all the techno-babble metaphors I vomited up.