How the world divined for me to stumble across the above image the same week Linkin Park are penciled in to play on Music Station, I will never know. Yet I have, and there it is…the members of Linkin Park turned into ponies. I don’t even know. See the original here.
KAT-TUN “To The Limit”
More like “To The Limit…of good taste.” It is bad.
No what isn’t bad? That new Avec Avec EP that came out last night. I’ve given it a few more plays today, and I really like the more overt pop vibe he decided to embrace on this release. His bubbly blasts of colorful noise end up sounding just as nice with a proper singer on top, without losing any of the Toontown charm displayed on earlier releases.
Keisuke Kuwata Special Medley
Fun fact: I visited the college Keisuke Kuwata went to recently!
(Look, I really think Kuwata is a cool guy and one of the more important J-Pop people of the past three decades, but there is only so much I can write about a special medley.)
Girls’ Generation “Paparazzi”
The video for Girls’ Generations’ latest single could dominate this space completely. It is, first, a lovely clip to just watch, three really lovely backdrops fit into the video’s six-minute play time – jumping from modern-day ritz, throwback city streets (which Occupied Territories says reminds him of Edward Hopper, and I think he’s onto something) and futuristic disco room (the part where they wear those pink gloves). Coupled with the use of “Singing In The Rain” – which could probably lead to an even lengthier discussion – the clip for “Paparazzi” is worth at least one essay all its own.
Yet we are here for the song, and it offers plenty to talk about too. Like a lot of K-Pop, “Paparazzi” draws sonic inspiration from Euro-pop music, but whereas similarly influenced American singles turn into repetition exercises, this song features all sorts of shifts during its run. Listen how it goes from the sort of cheese-whizzed Euro-house plinks more suited for this before turning glitzy come the chorus. Around the 4:20 mark, it segues into something that could have come from another song entirely. Yet for all these changes…subtle and otherwise…”Paparazzi” remains catchy (they had me at “ooh-la-la”), one of Girls’ Generations’ strongest in a while.
Atsuko Maeda “Kimi Wa Boku Da”
It was big news when Atsuko Maeda decided to leave AKB48 in order to start a solo career, yet now that she’s releasing her own music it has become clear…she still is plugged into the AKB sound system, albeit her singles, like the above, coming off as way more tolerable than most of the music released by the flagship act. That’s because Maeda…and this goes for any member of AKB recording alone…gets her voice isolated on her own work, whereas every AKB48 song has a bleeting chorus of people coming together to sing every single word of the track, a sonic decision that is just overbearing. “Kimi Wa Boku Da” still boasts the living-room-quality instrumentation (alternatively, and more accurately, “karaoke-box-ready”) of AKB, but by featuring only one voice…it ends up being pretty harmless and even nice in a few spots. I’ve seen a lot of reasons given for people hating AKB48 – overexposure, creepy vibes, that time they wanted you to make a baby with them – but Maeda’s latest solo single shows the main reason I don’t like them by showing what could be – AKB is sonically just too much, while Maeda is middle of the road.
Linkin Park “Burn It Down”
In an alternate universe, I am a huge Linkin Park fan. Unfortunately for the people at Warner Music, they botched this opportunity to convert my 13-year-old brain when they made “One Step Closer” the band’s first single off of Hybrid Theory instead of “Crawling.” The latter was the sort of song designed for a teen just entering the angsty phase of his life, overly dramatic in a really vague way while also hitting all the buzz words an adolescent wishes they could have scribbled onto their LiveJournal first (when Chester Bennington shouts “SOOOOOO INSECURRRRRRRRRRRE,” that’s like melodramatic teendom at its best). Even better, “Crawling” had the one sound in all of Linkin Park’s discography that I’ll still go to bat for – those chilly keyboards, which sound genius when your 13 (and sounded alien on the radio…like, Korn doesn’t do this!) and still stick out when you are a far-better-off 24 year old. Had this been my first taste of Linkin Park, I’d have fucking ran with it.
But nope, they went with the knuckleheaded “One Step Closer,” a song practically wearing the same wife-beater and tilted baseball cap Fred Durst laid claim to. Just watch the video. Back in junior high school, this turned me off because 1. this was the sort of stuff the kids who would ask me what the capital of Thailand was before proceeding to punch me in the crotch and 2. even as a teen addicted with the WWF, I could tell Fred Durst was an asshole from a mile away (Woodstock ’99 helped a lot). This, along with finding Radiohead to fill that awkward vastness of teenage me, turned Linkin Park into something always arm’s length away from me, and as I got older it just became that band that wanted to be U2 and soundtracked every Transformers movie and who had once been loved by some of my college friends so I made fun of them about it…even though, hey, easily could have been me had “One Step Closer” not popped up in my life.
“Burn It Down” is the first time I’ve really checked in with the band since high school…when you couldn’t escape their music on the radio…and it’s interesting seeing how much they’ve changed. Whereas stuff like “Crawling” and “Numb” were made to be scrawled in the white space of an AP U.S. History textbook, “Burn It Down” is shooting for stadium status, the beat designed to gets fists a-pumping and the chorus demanding to be sung by an amphitheaters-worth of people. Linkin Park still deal in the emotional vagueness I remember from my younger days, but this also sounds far less…dare I say, “emo,” “emo” here being a lazy fill-in word for whatever word best captures the cynicism and self-loathing of adolescence best. It seems way safer…and just sort of boring. Probably for the best I didn’t hitch my wagon to these guys, because this would definitely be a big disappointment.
Winner Of The Week – Girls’ Generation