Big things happening around these parts in the near future, so this will be a relatively quick edition…with picture complete with Japanese buzzword!
Here’s an artist who exist in the unoffensive middle, someone who never releases anything terrible but also has failed to release anything great. At her best, aiko makes pleasant music, while at her worst she makes completely forgettable stuff – not in a “this sucks, get away from me” way but rather “oh, I did listen to that.” “Kuchibiru” falls into the prior, a track with a pinch of funk – check the bubbly keyboards, which feature the sort of sound Tori Y Moi would kill to achieve – that isn’t going to leave any deep marks, but is also a light treat that pleases more than most aiko songs.
So how about that single by Kanjani8? Let’s not talk about it.
Instead, let’s talk about this great footwork and juke compilation featuring some of the most bonkers songs outta Japan this year.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu “Tsukematsukeru”
1. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s debut album Pamyu Pamyu Revolution only gets better with time – it’s right behind that MiChi album for the title of best pop album of the year, a colorful collection of songs anchored by the huge singles but boosted up by the playful track in-between. This is a fun album, but also a pretty daring one – nothing in J-Pop right now sounds like this, and that’s pretty big – which deserves your attention.
2. This single remains my least favorite of Kyary’s major releases thus far. To some degree, it’s just “Candy Candy” in a chrysalis, both boasting a twinkling giddiness leading up to the big catchy chorus. “Candy Candy,” though, just ends up more memorable to me. I’m also still a bit unnerved about the fact the song is a celebration of fake eyelashes, which wouldn’t be a problem if Kyary didn’t have her own line of the things, turning this into a subtle commercial. I’m not sure this SHOULD bother me…but it does. I’m glad her album ended up being great, because when I first heard this song I thought the rainbow wheels came off her bandwagon.
3. The video, though, is still great.
Kou Shibasaki “ANOTHER: WORLD”
Very quietly, Kou Shibasaki is killing it in 2012. She’s responsible for one of the most sneakily enjoyable J-Pop singles of the year thus far, the elastic-ball that is “Strength.” Now she hits us with “ANOTHER: WORLD” which, horrible capitalization aside, is another solid number. Here, she’s wiped the smile off her face in favor of a facial expression a bit more dramatic – “WORLD” aims for the dramatic, but thankfully never becomes a drag. For the first 3/4ths of the song, Shibasaki can thank whoever put the sounds together – opening with a rush of backwards-sounds, “WORLD” then jets into math-y rock territory bolstered by a fair smattering of electronics. Shibasaki’s singing fits in well – more serious than on “Strength,” but never trying to stretch itself too thin – but the real uhhh strength of the song comes from the small sonic details.
For the song’s final act, though, Shibasaki does borrow an idea from “Strength.” That song featured a jarring moment in the middle where the skippy melody suddenly stopped, with what sounded like a part of an entirely new song playing for a few seconds before sharply turning back to the original tune. “WORLD” adopts a similar splintering effect, but takes it further, the producers behind this song taking samples of Shibasaki’s voice and twisting them into a series of mutating sounds that doesn’t sound too far removed from what Seiho does. From there the song flips out and nearly becomes something new – until everything rights itself for the home stretch. It might not be a new trick, but it still works wonders on “WORLD.”
Couples, prepare to have to put this aural donut onto your anniversary mixtape. Bonus groans for that Hallmark card of a video.
BENI “Ti Amo”
The above is a cover version of a song by EXILE. Comparison time! Check out the original below:
The biggest difference is that BENI chose to do her version in English, which almost makes her version of “Ti Amo” sound completely alien from the EXILE take. Her version is also a bit more busy – whereas the original makes a lot of space for the two singers in EXILE to work their voices, BENI’s version snaps and crackles (and, uhhhh, violins) a little bit more. She does include the best sonic touch of the original, which is the Spanish guitar playing, so props to her for that (though, with a song called “Ti Amo,” I think you sorta have to have it?). Ultimately, both versions are good albeit unspectacular – for EXILE, “Ti Amo” is one of their best songs, one wisely using space to create something approaching intimacy. BENI’s take, meanwhile, sounds more dynamic and immediately catchy.
Winner Of The Week – Kou Shibasaki