Station To Station: Music Station For February 18, 2011 Featuring AKB48, Galileo Galilei And Tegomass

It’s always a very special Music Station when AKB48 come around, so let’s get right into this star-studded edition of Station To Station.

Jin Akanishi “Yellow Gold Eternal”

OK, the track above only goes by “Eternal” but I’m just going to assume it’s the same. Only missing two words! That and I think the song he will perform on the show is actually a sort of medley. So to fill up space, I’m just reviewing “Eternal.”

Simply brushing off Jin Akanishi’s solo work because he was one of the walkin’ talkin’ mannequins in KAT-TUN at one point isn’t all that fair. Despite spending a large chunk of time serving as a virtual 8X10 glossy, he also worked under the moniker LANDS to release some surprisingly great J-Pop tied to the film Bandage. So now Akanishi has gone out on his own, no fellow Johnny’s members or movie tie-ins, just his own name. What does the kid decide to do now that he’s struck out alone? Pretty much stick to the tired-and-true industry standard of releasing a syrupy ballad. It doesn’t launch all the Disney World fireworks off like J-Ballads tend to do, mostly sticking to just Akanishi’s voice and some piano, though the folks behind “Eternal” couldn’t help but put some strings and soft beat affects (?) into the track later on. So I guess credit should go to Akanishi for embracing some sparseness…but at the same time, it still comes off as so dull, so factory-line fresh even that compliment isn’t really deserved. Compare “Eternal” to a track getting a lot of pub online this week, Adele’s “Someone Like You,” and see how the latter truly embraces minimalism, not needing even the smallest cinematic flourish to convey strong emotion. The fan video for “Eternal” featured above actually does a good job showing what the song lacks…it’s nothing but footage of Akanishi performing or talking, immensely boring stuff. It’s a bit like the music…what exactly should I be feeling right now?

AKB48 “桜の木になろう”

Nothing truly kicks off the start of spring like the arrival of “Sakura” songs from Japanese pop stars. “Sakura” – or cherry blossom trees for the folks not in the linguistic know – songs all generally sound the same, sappy ballads focusing on the major theme of the season. When the cherry blossoms bloom in April, students are also graduating on to new schools and adults moving to new jobs. It’s a time full of new beginnings but mostly of endings, friends being split up due to academics or just life in general. In Japan it’s total cliche but like all overused ideas terribly truthful. Cherry blossoms gonna’ get pretty then just go away.

Pop-guild AKB48 released, as far as I can tell, the first Sakura song of the year with “桜の木になろう.” AKB48 slow songs always strike me as bizarre creatures – as annoying as the typical dinner-theater hyper pop of the group could get on “Heavy Rotation” or “Aitakatta,” I also can’t picture the daughters of Akihabara performing anything else. “桜の木になろう” just sounds strange as a product of the AKB48 empire, a very typical ballad wherein everything that makes AKB48 unique (though also not good) gets tossed aside in favor of melodramatic overdose countless other J-Pop something-or-others release on a weekly basis. The only element of “桜の木になろう” hinting at this being from a group consisting of 48 members would be that sometimes a few members sing together at the same time. As much as I don’t like AKB48, I at least appreciate the fact they do something different albeit highly annoying most of the time. This just feels bland, like so many other Sakura songs past and to be. Of course, the Japanese music-buying community disagrees and shot this song to number one on its first day out.

Meanwhile, on the video front, a little restraint! No creepy voyeur overtures, though you do get a pair of schoolgirls staring at one another and rubbing faces.

Galileo Galilei “僕から君へ”

Have already written about this one. Still holds up a month later, and would probably get my inconsequential vote for best J-Rock song of the still-embryonic 2011.

Kobukuro “Blue Bird”

Hmmmmmmm I see a trend developing this week. Seems like every song so far save for Galileo Galilei’s could be safely filed away as “typical ballads.” Whereas AKB48 and Jin Akanishi provided emotional stirs for a young audience, Kobukuro’s “Blue Bird” aims at a slightly more mature audience who still appreciate a little schmaltz but also get their kicks from touches of lounge music. Yet despite some cosmetic differences “Blue Bird” isn’t radically different from “Eternal” or that Sakura song. Just another boring-as-white-chalk ballad moving enough units to be impossible to remove from a group’s repertoire.

Tegomass “Aoi Bench”

This one’s a few steps above ballad, falling more into the “whimsical folk-pop-anchored-by-a-Hobbit-flute song that could also double as a coffee jingle” category. It’s as toothless as much of the sugarless gum Johnny’s peddles to the Japanese public, all weak instrumentation and light-as-cotton-balls singing leading into…uhhhhh what sounds like an instrument from Middle Earth. Tegomass add a drop of intrigue when they start getting loud late in the above clip, but even that’s short lived. I think this song is actually about a bench and it’s about as exciting as you’d expect.

Winner Of The Week – The obvious loser being folks who hate ballads but subject themselves to them anyway. Winner obviously Galileo Galilei for not following the trend.

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