Vancouver Canucks fans appear to be the AKB48 geeks of the hockey world, caring about something that isn’t really all that important to an insane degree. I’d love to see the otaku turn Akihabara into a smoldering apocalypse. Anyway, before we dive into this week’s feature, spend some time with Ian Martin‘s and James Hadfield‘s reviews of the new AKB48 album. Great reads, although if you are anything like me they sorta just make me want to hear the damn thing MORE than before. Maybe I’m broken though.
KARA “Go Go Summer!”
Now this one is really tricky to decode. KARA open their latest single – one unabashedly aiming to be THE SUMMER JAM OF JAPAN 2011 EDITION – with a slowly unfolding singing bit hiding a telephone conversation (or 911 dispatch?) before exploding into color. “Go Go Summer!” transforms into a Euro-pop club headache, four-on-the-floor beats grinding against glowstick synths. It’s the sort of song that would be easy to rally behind as an example of Western pop trumping Japan’s version – until the song goes a bit deeper in and everything sort of blends together into what one could call typical J-Pop if they felt daring. They even shoehorn a dumb guitar solo. What could have been a nice albeit unmemorable bit of pop gets turned into sonic gruel.
Yet, this still sounds a whole lot better than much of the really popular stuff in Japan today? I’m with Hadfield in blaming AKB48 for turning Japanese pop music into something babyish and, above all else, extra shitty. Hell, even Perfume tried to be AKB and dear god why? KARA’s newest single isn’t anything spectacular, but compared to everything else floating around…well, count me in.
KinKi Kids “Time”
For a split second this sounded like Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, but then didn’t.
I…don’t get this at all. I’ll give KinKi Kids credit for trying out a clanky digital beat, but sometimes experimentation alone isn’t enough to save a song. On “Time,” they treat the stuttering beat like anything else some guy would hand over to them and sing over it super boringly, soaking their voices in some Auto-tune and cramming some strings on top of everything because that equals emotion. Somewhere within this mess lies an interesting idea, but KinKi Kids ultimately take what could have been an interesting twist and acted like a couple of junior-high-school students messing around with I Am T-Pain.
Wait, this is kinda old? Whatever.
Oh man, the first minute of this track sounds so good. These guys embrace “Asian” sounds and let them play out like it’s the Tokugawa Period on iPod, with a little rap-shouting eventually bubbling over the top. It’s slow and inviting, a weird curveball of noise that’s probably making me look like an Edward Said case study. Then – they drop pretty much all of that to bounce around and wave towels. Vaguely reggae shouting masks mostly muckheaded energy, and geez some of these dudes shout obnoxiously loudly. I’ll give these bros credit, they fill all seven minutes with music, including a slow section that quickly changes its mind and lunges for the towel one more time for a final manic blast. This song basically attempts to condense an entire summer into a few minutes, and they manage to sneak a few nifty sounds across, but like the actual summer itself the track is marred by the sonic equivalent of sunburn and that headache you get when you eat ice cream too fast.
Somewhere, the owner of a Gold’s Gym wanders through the dim halls of his establishment, head hung low. For years he’s been sliding either a Kelly Clarkson album or maybe the new CD from Jet into the gym’s audio system everyday, the assortment of roided-up goons and wrinkly retired people getting a little extra motivational push to do just one more bicep curl courtesy of such vaguely energetic and/or inspiring pop. Yet recently they’ve been coming to the owner – “geez man, I’ve heard ‘Extraordinary‘ 20 times in the past week, ya need some new tunes.” He wipes his brow – all he has are these The Fray albums. Those won’t last.
Then…a discovery. While Googling for “generic pump up music to play in a gym,” he finds a Japanese artist with what might be the perfect bit of feel-good pop to soundtrack some housewife at the rowing station. Thanks Superfly, you’ve made the people blasting music into gyms sleep a little easier tonight.
Go to the ten-minute mark to get the song.
Miwa’s only a few degrees from being the subject of that weird gym story I wrote above, and her music hardly comes off as groundbreaking despite solid sales. Yet despite coming close to falling into all sorts of pop traps, I have to admit I kinda have a soft spot for her music. Yes, “441” will one day serve as the opening music for a dumb drama or melodramatic teen movie, but the thing just bounces along sweetly, Miwa milking the youthfulness of her voice for all it’s worth. Despite being a college student, she’s really figured out how to do this upbeat pop-rock “aunthenticness” thing well.
Winner Of The Week – Gonna go with Miwa over KARA.