Tag Archives: akb48

Station To Station: Music Station For May 25, 2012 Featuring Noel Gallagher, GLAY And AKB48

Tokyo currently has “Skytree” fever, as the metropolis’ welcomed the world’s second-largest structure this week. Take it from someone who watches the news while running on the treadmill at my gym – the Skytree is inescapable, with TV shows doing features about the outside, inside, gift shops, food options and nearby train station (just to name a few). I guess I need to see this thing at some point, huh?

Ieiri Leo “SHINE”

WATCH HERE

One of the new faces of 2012, Ieiri Leo’s career thus far has been unspectacular, more of a story-driven artist (at 17, she’s still in high school) rather than one putting out good music. Trick is, she does just enough to make you see potential down the road, hoping that this still-teen learns how to utilize those skills in more creative ways down the road rather than do the same thing over and over again. In Leo’s case, she has a solid voice, one reminiscent of Kaela Kimura and one capable of turning an otherwise so-so debut single like “Sabrina” into something peppy. Her sophomore single, “SHINE,” sees the production attempting to catch up to the potential found in her voice – the verses try to build to something, complete with flakes of her singing and bursts of violins. Problem is, the chorus doesn’t deliver on all this detail, too safe to really take “SHINE” to the next level. Bit of a letdown, but this kid has time to figure everything out.

AKB48 “Manatsu No Sounds Good!”

WATCH HERE

Man, forget the song entirely…and, hell, this latest single from AKB48 actually somehow sounds a little better than their usual Akihabara bait, probably because those synth horns remind me a little bit of the Evangelion theme song. Whatever though, because the video in that above link is bananas. It’s bizarre and discombobulating and also sorta genius in a rambling idiot kind of way. I can’t stop watching it.

Basic plot: so some high-school students (AKB) stumble across…some women (AKB) who seemingly fell from the sky. At least that’s what I think happened, as the video focuses on what appear to be meteors or glowing orbs in the sky. Some of the AKB people glow, the students run towards them and then…they start vomiting up their souls, maybe? One girl tries to give another CPR, which is pretty clever given that whole kissing scandal that broke out earlier this year. Lot of shit happens, just watch the link. And then they all start dancing on a beach in white bikinis like the previously shown terror didn’t happen.

I take it AKB48 are taking notes from Momoiro Clover Z (“give no fucks about how insane your music video is”) except at least Momoiro Clover Z’s clips stay consistent within their nutty worlds (space pirates…all the time!). This just doesn’t make sense but also somehow is clever…I don’t even know, just watch it.

GLAY “Bible”

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Google “GLAY Bible” and this is the first Bible verse…and first hit period…that comes up, probably because of the “clay” part. Way more interesting trying to dissect the Good Book than dwell on this jump-rope rock song.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “Dream On”

IT’S SYMBOLISM GET IT

Doofy battle-of-the-sexes video aside, this song sounds pretty unremarkable. The High Flying Birds project has actually resulted in some decent moments…which is more than can be said for the other post-Oasis project from the Gallagher family, Beady Eye…but the drudgery of “Dream On” isn’t one of them, a chore of a listen that offers false hope via horns.

Ken Hirai “Kokuhaku”

Only a short clip, but not really inspiring me to find more. Yawn.

Winner Of The Week – Musically, Ieiri Leo. Overall, that AKB48 video.

Controlled Karaoke: AKB48 Take Part In Anti-Suicide Campaign

Most of the time, when I write about AKB48 I’m preparing to sling hate gunk at them over something or other. My history with the group has been overwhelmingly negative, and I would be a liar if I said that sometimes I got excited to write something about the latest messed-up trend they’ve taken part in.

I think it’s only fair I take the time to point out AKB48 doing something really good. The group has started to appear in public service announcements for a campaign against suicide. This comes after a big to-do early this month about the same campaign using the catchphrase “Declare yourself part of GKB47!” As you can expect, this has resulted in a lot of obvious jokes – along the lines of “why would they use AKB48, their music makes me want to kill myself” – but I really do applaud the group (or whoever coerced them into it) for taking part in this. Suicide is a massive problem in Japan – personally, it makes me very uncomfortable that so many here are suffering and it seems like they have to bear this alone – and any measure to stop people from hurting themselves in anyway is more than honorable. It’s especially good that AKB decided to take part in this because they might even reach kids in junior high and high school…a demographic where they do have many fans.

Good work AKB48 and/or the group’s management, this is a very admirable decision.

Station To Station: Music Station For February 17 2012 Featuring AKB48, The Bawdies And V6

No time for intros, let us get into this.

AKB48 “Give Me Five!”

WATCH A 34-MINUTE VIDEO HERE (OR SKIP TO 26:31 FOR THE SONG)

At long last AKB48 have done what once seemed impossible – they have contributed something good to the music world. This “Give Me Five!” stands as the group’s best single to date and their most important addition to musical discourse ever. The actual sound of “Give Me Five!” isn’t the reason for this of course – the actual sonic experience of “Give Me Five!” isn’t much different from the usual audio candy caning the group inflicts on the world, all dumb horn blasts and guitar chugging. No, this single stands as AKB’s crowning achievement to date because it serves as the ultimate counterpoint to any “authenticity in music” debate, a pop Golden Gun capable of killing stupid conversation in its tracks.

Lots of people complain about how music today “isn’t authentic,” how it isn’t like “the good ol’ days” which is code for an era of (mostly white) rock ‘n’ roll bands, how everything today “is manufactured” or how performers “aren’t really artists” mannnnnn. This was on full display during last weekend’s Grammy Awards when people took to Twitter and other online commenting alleys and harped about how bad music today, what with its Exorcist-themed numbers and Bonny Bears. Despite featuring appearances by the likes of Paul McCartney and the Beach Boys, this year’s award show – not to mention the recent Super Bowl halftime show – served as another convenient excuse for those who cream themselves at the site of a factory-faded Rolling Stones’ t-shirt at Target to complain about “music today.”

Yet here’s the ultimate counterpoint. The marketing and music video for AKB48’s latest focuses on the members holding guitars and playing the drums and being a band, to the extent that you could get free AKB guitar picks at JR Shinjuku station. Note the word “marketing” – that is what this is, a shrewd move by the string-pullers above the band to simultaneously give super fans the equivalent of a new action figure while also trying to win over naysayers via “authenticity.” I’ve already seen people on Twitter saying “at least they are trying to play guitar now,” ignoring the fact the noises coming out of my speakers sounds as putrid as ever.

So next time somebody tells you rap isn’t real music or whines about how computers aren’t bass guitars, point them to “Give Me Five!,” a lovely reminder that music is entertainment and always has been no matter what instrument (or lack of) the person held. Then remember the actual music should be the only aspect of a song or album focused on, which is why this single blows. Then listen to Perfume or something.

The Bawdies “Rock Me Baby

THE BAWDIES – ROCK ME BABY PV (FULL) from Masa on Vimeo.

Funny that following the above rant, The Bawdies end up being the next band featured. They also reinforce the above point pretty well – The Bawdies aren’t good just because they look the part of a bygone era of rock music, all guitar pop and matching suits. They are a decent group because they make good songs using 50’s and 60’s rock as a guide. If one is to level a complaint at The Bawdies, is that they sometimes rely on this blueprint too much – “Rock Me Baby” sounds like practically every other single they’ve released before and, though that isn’t a bad thing (they do this act pretty well!), everything they put out is starting to blur together. Still, a nice slice of throwback rock. Ultimately, your opinion of The Bawdies will probably be shaped by the lead howling – I like it, but plenty of folks don’t.

Naoto Inti Raymi “君に逢いたかった”

UGGGGGGGGGH this guys is from Mie Prefecture, where I used to live. Shame that lovely country area has to be saddled with someone responsible for such glimmering dreck as the above song. I won’t allow it though! Here are some famous people from Mie who are cool in my book:

– Matsuo Bashō, dude wrote haikus!
– Ranpo Edogawa, this guy wrote lots of mystery stories!
– Yasujirō Ozu, one of Japan’s greatest directors! He made Tokyo Story which is an amazing work of cinema.
– Nishino Kana! I like her!
– Jesse Ruins, originally from Mie! Pop-Office too, I think.
Uhhhh ninjas?

FUNKY MONKEY BABYS “この世界に生まれたわけ”

WATCH HERE

FUNKY MONKEY BABYS are complete hucksters, the J-Pop equivalent of the politician who tells folksy stories to distract from the fact they are blowing up Middle Eastern villages. Nearly every song the release comes sparkled in unflappable optimism, all twinkling sounds and triumphant choruses. The accompanying music videos focus on upbeat life moments, like playing with your kids or getting married. The world of FUNKY MONKEY BABYS is one giant ice cream cake with a Hallmark card on top. They are grating every single time. I’ve said it before but I reiterate – for all their faults, I would much rather listen to AKB48 than FUNKY MONKEY BABYS.

V6 “Bari Bari Buddy!”

So, how about that “Bari Bari Buddy!”? It is bad.

Know what isn’t bad? Rayons! Especially when Predawn tackles the vocals – then they are downright beautiful, like on the gorgeous “Halfway.” Chilly minimalism leading to a flower-breaking-through-the-snow climax. Listen below.

Winner Of The Week – The Bawdies

Controlled Karaoke: CNN Interviews Yasushi Akimoto, Who You Might Know Better As The Dude Who Invented AKB48

This 50-something year old knows what teenage girls are going through today

This 50-something year old knows what teenage girls are going through today

CNN recently interviewed Yasushi Akimoto, the guy who came up with the AKB48 concept and basically ruined everything. They just put up a transcript of the interview in English, which is worth reading. The biggest reveal of this chat is that Akimoto loves cliche comparisons – AKB48 is like “cheerleading or lacrosse” (huh?) unless it is like managing a “baseball or football team.” Also – food comparisons!

Yet beyond that, the interview features a few memorable bits. CNN asks him about the group’s lyrics which are sometimes sexually suggestive, but Akimoto claims this is just being realistic about what teenagers go through nowadays. When asked about whether the AKB formula could work in the West, he says it could although in the next sentence he says “It might turn out to be totally different” which actually implies it would only work because it was SO different from what actually happens in the West it…would work? Also, I’m just going to lift the final question and answer wholesale because it is just insane all around.

“COREN: This is a major business for you, but for Japan, it means so much more. Your girls have become ambassadors for the country. And when the earthquake/tsunami hit, they went on to become representatives for the relief organization, whether it be for the Red Cross or raising money with MTV. What is your vision for AKB48 moving forward?

AKIMOTO (through translator): Japan is in pain, and AKB48 wants to spread energy to everyone, first and foremost. And, of course, we would like to continue our support activities. Among other things, I would like to send a message with AKB, that you can make your dreams come true. I would like to deliver this message, and not only to Japan, but also to people all over the world. Dreams do come true. But how it is realized might be more or less than what you had expected.”

CNN, great journalism with the slobbering! Akimoto, glad you want to save the world by making heaps of cash!

Go read it, interesting and horrible all at once.

Controlled Karaoke: Mayor Of Aso City Sings AKB48’s “Flying Get,” Foolishly Lets Someone Record It

You know how sometimes you go to a party or some other laid-back social gathering and there is some dude/dudette who makes a funny joke or maybe talks in a silly voice for a second and it kills? Like, everyone burst out laughing and loves it. Then said person decides “hey, I like this attention!” and decides to repeat the joke/schtick for the rest of the night. And soon enough, the laughter has been replaced with silent annoyance because that person really should stop talking like that, geez. Know how that happens?

Here is the mayor of Aso City singing AKB48’s “Flying Get” to a bunch of folk at a Coming Of Age Day event. Watch as what could have been a nice little gag (haha a person with serious responsibilities is singing a song made for 12-year-old girls) turns into a bizarre grab at attention via a man who either secretly has the AKB baby-making app or went overboard studying for a joke.

I’d call for impeachment, but that’s just me.

(Thanks to Neojaponisme for posting this on their Twitter)

Station To Station: Music Station For Debember 9 Featuring AKB48, Kis-My-Ft2 And SMAP

If you follow our Twitter (which you should!) or our recently minted Tumblr (which you should!), you have probably seen the above video. It’s basically propaganda for Korean food…with a song by great K-Pop group Wonder Girls. I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures” but I feel a twinge of shame admitting “K-Food Party” is the song I’ve listened to the most in the past week, considering it is an ad for kimchi (which is delicious!). If nothing else, please jump to the 2:33 mark to hear the rapping member of Wonder Girls just make the clip with the following:

1. the way she raises her eyebrows when she sings “I gots to eat good.”

2. “I’m K-swaggin’ it,” doomed to be the words I get engraved on my back in Comic Sans when I decide to get a drunken tattoo.

3. the implication I am some how angry at K-Food. I love it, I love it!

I fear none of the following Japanese pop songs will wow me the same way this apple-filled tune did.

AKB48 “上からマリコ”

GO HERE FOR LIKE FOUR DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE STUPID LONG VIDEO

Member Shinoda Mariko won the rights to be the main attraction of this, AKB48’s 24th single, by winning the group’s annual rock-paper-scissors tournament a few months ago. This storyline…look her name is in the title, and she plays the role of giantess on the cover art…conveniently distracts from the fact that the actual music sounds virtually the same as the music that appeared on most of the 23 previous singles, complete with gratuitous guitar solo. By now, it has been well established the actual music of AKB48 plays but one role in their success, the draw of individual members and their storylines (see, Mariko’s run to get to this point) doing just as much.

All that said…I kinda like the actual video for this song. I wish I had the HTML skills to make the font for that sentence really small but…I kinda enjoyed the story (basically, the group’s rock-paper-scissors tournament played out in a high school) and even the portion featuring the song was fun in a ridiculous way. I’ve reached the point where the insanity of AKB48 makes these clips kinda fun – like, how the shots during the actual tournament go from these sorta dramatic matches (featuring members of the group dressed as…nuns?) to them dancing around like idiots. Next time you see me, smack me in the jaw.

Kis-My-Ft2 “We Never Give Up”

Ahhhhhh, the ol’ Johnny’s tease strikes again. After a corny DRAMATIC GUITAR opening, Kis-My-Ft2’s latest properly starts up and…sounds pretty good??? Yep – the group’s all-together-now singing actually works over a really bare backdrop, the chanting of the chorus being kind of silly but in a surprisingly listenable way. Then come the dollar-bin techno flourishes and for a bit, Kis-My-Ft2 stay on the path. Then the stomping and shouting go away and it turns into typical Johnny’s pulp, this time stabbed with the sort of sounds you hear in all those European music videos featuring a CGI animals singing kids songs. Like this piece of work. The chorus still works better than the verses, but the recycle bin electronics hurt it. The best song I have ever heard these guys do, but not exactly worthy of much beyond this paragraph.

SMAP “僕の半分”

Another Johnny’s song that doesn’t sound like typical Johnny’s crap, but whereas Kis-My-Ft2 teased with something potentially interesting, SMAP just deliver this rudderless acoustic joint. Other than watching members of SMAP dancing awkwardly in the above clip, there is really nothing of interest…either to love or hate…present here. Just an archaic pop group doing what they do.

Emi Takei “恋スルキモチ”

Only a short clip above, but the ballad-like nature leads me to believe this isn’t a bad thing. Only thing worth noting – Emi Takei sounds vaguely like the lead singer of the really great band Asobi Seksu, a factoid that makes me want to listen to Asobi Seksu! Instead of the above video, go listen to their song “Perfectly Crystal,” one of my favorite tracks of the year. Dreamy but never languid!

Flumpool “Present”

Yawn, did you know you can take the letters in Flumpool and rearrange them to spell “Lump Fool?” It’s true! That’s how I feel.

Because that song left so much to be desired, let’s hand out an award for the year, this one for the best performance on Music Station. It’s a landslide win for Sakanaction, who made their first appearance on the show count courtesy of this performance. I love how electronic it is. Needless to say, not the bit of praise I’m going to throw this band’s way this month.

BoA “Milestone”

The original Korean crossover into Japan, BoA now exists in this weird limbo as the new Korean wave sweeps over Japan. Her sound, for the most part, has always seemed more in line with what J-Pop is all about – a lot of ballads with a few curveballs thrown in for added measure. The latest crop of K-Poppers, at least initially, played by their own rules and introduced the sounds they used to wow their native country to Japan. Now, BoA “returns” with a single that doesn’t find her trying to imitate any of Korea’s new generation…no mid-verse rapping, no Diplo-inspired beats…but rather sticking to what she knows. “Milestone” is a ballad, but a surprisingly good one because of her decision to stick to minimalist sounds, at least early on. It’s just her and some simple piano, a lonely sound that works well with her hushed singing. The chorus adds some cliche strings, turning “Milestone” into a bland workout for a bit, but she quickly revisits the starkness. It’s flawed, but overall “Milestone” is a good bit of simplicity from BoA.

Winner Of The Week – BoA

Controlled Karaoke: AKB48 Starts ISP Provider, Launches A Bunch Of Creepy Stuff Including An “AKBaby” App Oh God Stop The World I Want To Get Off

Before we proceed let’s make one point very clear…AKB48 and the management around them are geniuses. The entire hook of AKB48…”idols you can meet” with an underlying fantasy of creating a “personal” connection with whichever member you fancy… is brilliant from the perspective of bringing in customers willing to stick it out with the group. The group has emphasized this strange personal side excellently, what with the various handshake events and the creepy voyeuristic bend newer videos have taken (“Heavy Rotation’s” peeping through a keyhole bit jumps out). It’s creepy, it’s a little disturbing and it should go into some sort of marketing hall of fame…they’ve managed to feed a certain type of hardcore fan a total illusion just perfect that they will buy whatever they are commanded to. AKB48 are the Michael Vick of the J-Pop marketing world, making us rethink how to go about doing this.

So…I think they just went and pushed to the zaniest extreme yet. AKB48 are starting an Internet Service Provider business. No, really. Asiajin has a good summary of what the plan is. The stuff that follows is more disturbing, but honestly the ISP bit ends up being the most genuinely surprising thing about this.

So how they market this new service you, fair reader, are surely thinking. Well…with the above image, which features member Yuko Oshima holding a baby suckling away on her breast. The tagline – “will you make a baby with me?” My initial reaction:

Besides being able to become an official AKB48 fan club member and the opportunity to buy an e-mail address featuring your favorite member’s sub domain, getting on this deal also nets you the “AKBaby” application which isn’t anything groundbreaking…lord knows how many banner ads I’ve seen in the past month advertising a similar “service”…but pretty creepy! It allows you to choose an AKB48 member and see what your child would look by merging a photo of you with her. Just…amazing.

Naturally, I’m still convinced (convincing myself?) this is a joke. The strongest evidence I have for this is the photo they chose for the “you” section of the AKBaby explanation, a rather hefty-looking fellow which seemingly plays into every otaku stereotype conjured up by the Internet. I mean…AKB48 wouldn’t sorta laugh in the face of their fans would they? Or..maybe they are so convinced this will sell regardless of how they portray their fans they just ran with it? I don’t know what’s real anymore.

Bonus points to the first person to write a thinkpiece about this connecting to Japan’s birthrate problem!