Before we get into the weekly music mayhem, one note. In the face of the catastrophes that hit Japan one week ago, a lot of J-Pop artists have stepped up and done all sorts of amazing stuff to help out the victims of these disasters. The likes of AKB48, GLAY and pretty much every Johnny’s production contributed in one way or another, and for that they should all be celebrated for being good human beings (or having a good PR team). Please keep that in the back of your head when reading a feature like this, one that routinely makes fun of these types because I think there music can be pretty bad. No personal judgments, but this focuses on music so any mean words you see below don’t reflect anything beyond the latest single. OK, that said…let’s get
(One other note: this week the Music Station site decided to not list what songs the artists will be performing. So I’m going with whatever the newest single by the musician is for reviewing purposes.)
NYC “Dream Egg”
Three weeks running and I’m out of new stuff to say about this beyond “this might be the worst J-Pop song I’ve heard all year.” It’s probably a generational issue…these guys are my personal Bieber…but to a cynical 20-something a goofy song + video combo leaves me longing for all the vague love songs the older Johnny’s bands pump out at an alarming rate. More pressing…what’s a “dream egg?” Like, does your dream hatch out of it? Can that possibly be FDA approved?
Last week we took a listen to CHEMISTRY’s first-ever single, and now we turn our attention to their new number “Merry-Go-Round.” Where have the duo ended up after all these years? Soundtracking Gundam, it looks like. What should be a laugh-for-a-minute fact actually ends up explaining why this single isn’t anything spectacular. Gone are any hints of R&B like on “PIECES OF A DREAM,” replaced by overly dramatic singing and a guitar solo. Only some electronic fuzz-ups in the background paint this as a CHEMISTRY song, and even those have to rub up against violins and pianos. “Merry-Go-Round” sounds explicitly like the sort of number made to play over anime ending credits, which unfortunately also means that’s the only time you should subject yourself to it.
Can’t find either her new single or the B-side. Let’s pretend this never happened.
Tackey & Tsubasa Trip And Treasure mini-album sampler/interview thing
The big roadblock to writing this article without knowing what song each artist will perform means I have no idea what jam Tackey & Tsubasa will perform off of their new mini-album Trip And Treasure. This forced me to YouTube the album title which led to the above “sampler,” which sounds like some sort of radio show possibly recorded off a radio playing in a Holiday Inn Express lobby somewhere. Poor audio quality, coupled with random jumps from song to song and a 10-minute running time (with skits uggggggh), makes this a bit of a slog.
Yet despite all these hurdles, I still feel confident declaring Tackey & Tsubasa the least interesting artist working in the Johnny’s stable today. They neither inspire interest like the agency’s top dogs (SMAP, Arashi, KAT-TUN sometimes) nor do they make me feel irrational hate (NYC, that Kansai-themed group, KAT-TUN sometimes). They just…exist. And none of the songs played during this distant broadcast make me feel anything. They are the Johnny’s sound condensed into it’s most non-threatening, vanilla form, as fun as science homework that doesn’t involve mixing funny colored liquids together. Something tells me they injected that ampersand in to give this some sort of character.
FUNKY MONKEY BABYS “RunWay Beat”
No full-length version of the song in question, but you can hear all you need to in the trailer for the film RunWay Beat, what appears to be an inspirational tale of high schoolers designing clothes.
Like Tackey & Tsubasa, FUNKY MONKEY BABYS rarely stray from their comfort zone. For them, that safe place is a weird juncture between hip-hop, balladry and pop as naively optimistic as a puppy. The theme for the film RunWay Beat stick pretty faithful to the formula, though to FMB’s credit they seem to be going a little light on the faux-rapping. Good for them, that’s easily the worst aspect of their music. Instead, we get a pretty inoffensive number moving a step faster than the group’s usual attempts at “reggae-fied” pop. It bounces along and features a so-so chorus that really doesn’t deserve any scorn. Nothing noteworthy, but entirely pleasant.
Fukui Mai “いくたびの櫻”
A pretty typical “sakura” song, albeit one helped a bit by very lovely vocal work courtesy of Fukui Mai. Doesn’t leave a huge impression but certainly doesn’t make me run for the “mute” button either.
Kazuya Yoshii “LOVE & PEACE”
Glad to see touches of Snow Patrol have found a home in Japan.
Winner Of The Week – FUNKY MONKEY BABYS for being surprisingly pleasant.