Station To Station: Music Station For November 19, 2010 Featuring Perfume, KARA And Taylor Swift

Man, Obama looks so uncomfortable surrounded by all those weird-ass robots. Dude did get to try out the Charles Xavier chair though so I’m sure that was cool.

KAT-TUN “CHANGE UR WORLD”

It’s almost time to buy a new page-a-day calendar, and as the 2010 editions brace for trash day my biggest surprise in Japanese music this year remains KAT-TUN’s hail mary of a song “Going!” Given the Johnny’s puppets past…and, as it turned out, future…record, the odds of them actually being associated with a song not made for the sole purpose of selling glossy photos seemed slimmed. Yet out of the pop factory emerged “Going!” a very much not-terrible KAT-TUN song boasting a shiny electro-groove that could actually pass as enjoyable. Far from a pop masterpiece, but given the artist behind it, some celebration seemed to be in order.

What continues to make “Going!” an odd triumph is KAT-TUN’s decision to keep releasing music that reminds the world just how big a fluke that single was. The spelling impaired “CHANGE UR WORLD” comes across as a typical-form Johnny’s pop song that’s as easy to assemble as a beanbag chair, this particular model trying to be “rocking” thanks to some aggressive-for-J-Pop guitar work. The song thumps obliviously ahead, giving the KAT-TUN dudes enough space to sing over the slog. It’s merely boring until they break out what could either be construed as funny voices or “mean” voices depending on personal interpretation. To give them credit…they keep finding ways to make “Going!” sound like some outer-space shit.

KARA “Jumping”

As the South Korean girl-group invasion of Japan continues making massive inroads the question becomes…who ya got, KARA or Girls’ Generation? Well, you think that would be the question at least the media would lob up. Around these parts, the real inquiry should be…who would choose KARA? Look, neither group are pullin’ a Destiny’s Child here but Girls’ Generation at least have “Gee,” an absolutely dizzying hyper-pop joint. KARA have, as Wikipedia reminds me, “the butt dance.”

And as expected, new KARA Japanese single “Jumping” features plenty of lower-half (and upper!) thrusting, tied to a song featuring more good ideas than well executed ones. Credit KARA, though, for not even messing around with anything if it doesn’t have the same energy as a fitness center ad – “Jumping” never boasts a dull moment. It also happens to have a lot of uninspiring ones. The placement of the backing vocals does wonders to the overall tune, while those big electro-ripples tearing through the song at various intervals scream “missed opportunity” for making this single more interesting…ignoring the fact a certain State-side smash hit already did something like that. Not a bad song but also one failing to stand out in any way as long as you don’t factor dance moves into the actual musical punch.

Kobukuro “流星”

This week’s Music Station selection of songs deserves some props for keeping the number of lame J-ballads down. Sadly, they let this one get through the cracks. If you’ve heard one meandering slow track, you’ve heard this one as well. Next!

Taylor Swift “Mine”

For an artist who pretty much does one thing really well, Taylor Swift can be a surprisingly divisive music figure. In an odd twist, she suffers from the same problem Kanye West (who she’ll forever be linked with thanks to MTV’s decision not to just give Beyonce the damn trophy) – her image gets unfairly factored into many discussions about her music. She’s being perceived totally differently than Kanye – Swift won’t be having a toast for the douchebags and assholes anytime soon – but still sometimes being critically hammered (and, it should be noted, at times praised) for being that girl who sings exclusively about being a teenager and being in love and being a teenager in love, all set to a nice country twang. The general sameness of her music coupled with lyrical themes worn out like an old-timey picture (not to mention her “awwww shucks” underdog persona on display at every award show she attends, one that’s become especially grating as she becomes a big enough star to, ya know, come to Japan in the first place) makes her an easy target for criticism well before you even give her latest CD a spin. Which just isn’t right.

When you actually listen to the music…what a thought!…most of these unrelated grumbles go away. Swift does one thing very well, and that one thing is penning catchy, surprisingly deep pop songs capable of jumping from pop to country radio with ease. “Mine,” lead single from her new album Speak Now, comes from the same broth responsible for “You Belong With Me” as evidenced by the very familiar chug (though slightly slowed down here) and irresistible chorus featuring the line every critic champions about a “careless man’s careful daughter.” Classic Taylor Swift…which also means the lyrics tell a surprisingly complicated story and ultimately ends up her strongest skill. And “Mine” isn’t even treading water – thematically, Swift actually explores the world of growing up, a nice change of pace. “Mine” ends up as another example of why Swift deserves to be accepting all those awards in the first place…I just wish she’d drop the schtick.

AAA “PARADISE”

Wow, this one’s loud, annoying and doesn’t waste time being those first two things. Turn the volume way down on this one.

Boring J-Pop tarted up in Euro-electro pop makeup. The squelching electronics coupled with the ear-wrecking “singing” in the opening seconds stand as “PARADISE’s” worst instances, but nothing down the line manages to redeem it either.

Perfume “ねぇ”

Geez, the bros manning the “remove all Perfume videos from YouTube” division are bringing their best. Enjoy the above clip.

I’ve already written about this track, so lets instead talk about “ねぇ” and its B-side “FAKE IT.” Commenter Yukirat disagreed with my take on “FAKE IT,” and a little browsing through the online Perfume fan community confirms her claim that fans are sorta really digging this song. First, good for them glad people dig it and all…but I’m still not biting. Especially after listening to “ねぇ” more. Taken back to back, the two songs sort of become weird twins, the sort who look mostly the same but do some fundamental things differently. “ねぇ” comes off as the more “safe” pop hit, but fits in a little strangeness via the chopped-up vocal flurry preceding the first proper verse. “FAKE IT,” meanwhile, embraces this cut-copy-play to a higher level, building the entire backing music on a similar (though using samples instead of Perfume’s actual voices) glitch-tastic sound. I’ll cop – I just can’t get past “FAKE IT’s” loud, annoying electro-squelches. “ねぇ” doesn’t let the non-pop elements hurt the song as a whole, while “FAKE IT” just sounds grating at times. Sorry Perfume-lovin’ gang!

Winner Of The Week – Taylor Swift beats Perfume out just barely.

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