Before we dive into the music, quick AKB48 update. They still seem to be shattering records, now courtesy of that boring single they put out. Keep in mind, though, that one guy bought 5500 copies of it – if other AKB fanatics are even buying just a thousand copies, that’s still probably skewing it a bit.
Girls’ Generation “The Great Escape”
Girls’ Generation’s musical campaign into Japan reached a huge moment this week – on Wednesday, the South Korean group released their first full-length Japanese album into stores. The self-titled debut features a mix of older SNSD tracks done in Japanese (the Pussy Cat Dolls aping “Genie” and “Run Devil Run,” the still great “Gee”) and, more importantly, songs made specifically for Japan. It’s a big step forward for the group, going from repackaging Korean smash hits to actually creating songs meant to separate Yen from the consumer. The first single aimed specifically at this nation was the plodding “MR. TAXI,” a song worthy of praise for not sounding like run-of-the-mill J-Pop but worthy of scorn for being generally lame and using Auto-tune poorly.
“The Great Escape,” another Japan-original, succeeds where “MR. TAXI” flopped. Opening with the sharp-cries of what could be a dieing Nintendo, Girls’ Generation soon transitions into a bouncy melody that seemingly takes steps from Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall.” This isn’t the 70s, though, so this ends up being a much busier affair, chock-full of bleeting synths and wooshy noises. Yet buried underneath all of the clutter resides a beating pop heart, one exposed fully during the chorus. Not nearly as shiny as “Visual Dreams” or as head-turning as “Gee,” but an irresistible bit of pop showmanship all the same.
To heap a lil’ more praise on “The Great Escape” – give credit to whoever decided to take a risk by making a Japan-only single sound nothing like Japanese pop music. Again, this has way more in common with American and European pop rather than any of the “safe” (read: boring) hunks of melodrama clogging up the Oricon charts.
Recently someone asked me why I put myself through the pain of this feature on a weekly basis. Great question! I responded with some sorta Flinstone-esque “somebody has to do it,” but deep inside I believe it’s important to keep at least one ear pointed toward the J-Pop mainstream, as good stuff sometimes slips through and deserves praise. If you wanted to easily counter my claim and prove the futility of this project, you could easily forward me JUJU’s latest song as a reminder that “hey, all of this actually sounds the same, and it stinks!” This one’s a usual case of plodding balladry, joined by a cliche music video about aging. Did you know everyone gets older??!! Look, I want to see The Tree Of Life as badly as anyone else, but the way J-Pop videos approach the subject of inevitable death always seems so cheesy. Though to the clip’s credit, it held my attention far more than the song.
A month from now remind me of this and maybe I’ll reconsider what I do.
Hey! Say! JUMP “OVER”
OK, on second thought, ship me over this single because I’d rather have a thousand years of sappy ballads than more generic Johnny’s tracks like this. If you’ve heard one Hey! Say! JUMP single in the past, chances are good you’ve basically heard this one (recorded live, it sounds like from the cheers). One positive though – they are nice enough to announce “it’s over” when the song finishes, so you at least know when it’s safe to return to the room. How courteous!
(I swear this feature is worth it guys!)
Arisa Mizuki “あなたが笑えば”
Ya know, for all the negativity I pour out here at Station To Station, I must admit I honestly feel disappointed when I can’t find a song. So is the case with Arisa Mizuki’s latest, which doesn’t appear to be online except maybe for a brief clip at her official site. Though I don’t know which of the three clips it actually is. I honestly feel let down ya’ll.
YUI “HELLO ～Paradise Kiss～”
Sorry only a little bit, but more than the above.
Man I’m seeing ads for this darn movie everywhere. TV, at Lawson, in other posters slapped around the area. I’ve even had at least two people post this trailer to their Facebook accompanied by text like “WHAAAA I WANNA SEE THIS.” The accompanying song by YUI manages to sound approachable – the verses shuffle back and forth courtesy of a minimalist guitar line and some simple thumping, giving YUI plenty of room to do her light crooning. The chorus…as introduced by the middle part of the movie preview…lets loose a bit but it’s less of a sprint and more like a light jog. Tough to tell more from such a small sample, but what’s there rises a bit higher than typical movie soundtrack fodder.